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Deimling's order of the day. To put it into the communiqué would be to break with the formula to which the public was accustomed, would be to transform it into a kind of pleading. It would seem to say: "How do you suppose we can resist?" There was reason to fear that the public would be distracted by this change of tone and would believe that everything was lost. I explained my reasons and suggested giving Deimling's text to the newspapers in the form of a separate
Opinion being divided, General Pellé went to ask General de Castlenau to come and decide finally. The General
arrived smiling, quiet and good humored, said a few pleasant words about this new kind of literary council of war, and looked at the texts. He chose the simpler one,
gave more weight to the first phrase, in
serted the words "as had been anticipated," which supply a reasurring quality, and was flatly against inserting von Deimling's order, but was for transmitting it to the press in a special note.. General Joffre that evening read the communiqué carefully and approved it.
Those two or three hundred words would be read all over the world in a few hours. They would paint a picture in men's minds of what was happening on the slopes of Verdun, and in front of that picture people would take heart or despair. The shopkeeper in Brest, the peasant in Lorraine, the deputy in the Palais Bourbon, the editor in Amsterdam or Minneapolis, had to be kept in hope, and yet prepared to accept possible defeat without throwing up his hands. They are told, therefore, that the loss of ground is no surprise to the French command. They are taught to regard the affair as serious, but not strange. Now, as a matter of fact, the French general staff was not fully prepared
for the German offensive. Supporting trenches had not been dug, alternative roads had not been built, barbed wire was lacking. But saying that would have aroused images in the heads of civilians that might well have turned a reverse into a disaster. The high command could be disappointed, and yet pull itself together. But the people at home and abroad, full of uncertainties, and with none of the professional man's singleness of purpose, might, on the basis of a complete story, have lost sight of the war in a mêlée of faction and counterfaction
about the competence of the officers. Instead, therefore, of letting the public act on all the facts which the generals knew, the authorities presented only certain facts, and these only in such a way as would be most certain to steady the people.
The editor of the French communiqué tells us that as the battle dragged out, his colleagues and he set out to neutralize the pertinacity of the Germans by continual insistence on their terrible losses. It is necessary to remember that at this time, and in fact until late in 1917, the orthodox view of the war for all the Allied peoples was that it would be decided by "attrition." Nobody believed in a war of movement. It was insisted that strategy did not matter, or diplomacy. It was simply a matter of killing Germans. The general public more or less believed the dogma, but it had constantly to be reminded of it in face of spectacular German
sacrifices, heaps of corpses, hecatombs. Likewise the wireless constantly used the statistics of the intelligence bureau at Verdun, whose chief, Major Cointet, had invented a method of calculating Ger
creation of a mental picture of endless Germans slaughtered on the hills about Verdun. By putting the dead Germans in the focus of the picture, and by omitting to mention the French
man losses which obviously produced dead, a very special view of the battle
marvelous results. Every fortnight the figures increased a hundred thousand or so. These 300,000, 400,000, 500,000
casualties put out, divided into daily, weekly, monthly losses, repeated in all sorts of ways, produced a striking effect. Our formulæ varied little: "according to prisoners the German losses in the course of the attack have been considerable!" . . . "It is proved that the losses"
"The enemy exhausted by his losses has not renewed the attack."
Certain formulæ, later abandoned because they had been overworked, were used each day: "Under our artillery and machine-gun fire". . . . "Mowed down by our artillery and machine-gun fire". ... Constant repetition impressed the neutrals and Germany itself, and helped to create a bloody background in spite of the denials from Nauen [the German wireless], which tried vainly to destroy the bad effect of this perpetual repeti
was built up. It was a view designed to neutralize the effects of German territorial advances and the impression of power which the persistence of the offensive was making. It was also a view that tended to make the public acquiesce in the demoralizing defensive strategy imposed upon the Allied armies. For the public, accustomed to the idea that war consists of great strategic movements, flank attacks, encirclings, and dramatic surrenders, had gradually to forget that picture in favor of the terrible idea that by matching lives the war would be won. Through its control over all news from the front, the general staff substituted a view of the facts that comported with this strategy.
The general staff of an army in the field is so placed that within wide limits it can control what the public will perceive. It controls the selection of correspondents who go to the front, controls their movements at the front, reads and censors their messages from the front, and operates the wires. The Government behind the army, by its command of cables and passports, mails and customhouses and blockades, increases the control. It emphasizes it by legal power over publishers, over public meetings, and by its secret service. But in the case of an army the control is far from perfect. There is always the enemy's communiqué, which in these days of wireless cannot be kept away from neutrals. Above all, there is the talk of the soldiers, which blows
back from the front, and is spread about when they are on leave. An army is an unwieldy thing, and that is why the naval or the diplomatic censorship is almost always much more complete. Fewer people know what is going on, and their acts are more easily supervised.
Without some form of censorship, propaganda in the strict form of the word is impossible. In order to conduct a propaganda, there must be some barrier between the public and the event. Access to the real environment must be limited before any one can create a pseudo-environment that he thinks wise or desirable. For while people who have direct access can misconceive what they see, no one else can decide how they shall misconceive it, unless he can decide where they shall look, and at what. The military censorship is the simplest form of barrier, but by no means the most important, because it is known to exist, and is therefore in certain measure agreed to and discounted.
[Then there are many "areas of privacy" from which the public gets little, if any, information.]
At different times and for different subjects some men impose and other men accept a particular standard of secrecy. The frontier between what is concealed because publication is not, as the phrase goes, "compatible with the public interest" fades gradually into what is concealed because the facts are believed to be none of the public's business. The notion of what constitutes a person's private affairs is elastic. The amount of a man's fortune is considered a private affair, and careful provision is made in the
income-tax law to keep it as private as possible. The sale of a piece of land is not private, but the price may be. Salaries are generally treated as more private than wages, incomes as more private than inheritances. A person's credit-rating is given only a limited circulation. The profits of big corporations are more public than those of small firms. Certain kinds of conversation, between man and wife, lawyer and client, doctor and patient, priest and communicant, are more privileged than others. Directors' meetings are generally private; so are many political conferences. Most of what is said at a cabinet meeting, by an ambassador to the secretary of state, or at private interviews or dinner-tables is private. Many people regard the contract between employer and employee as private. There was a time when the affairs of all corporations were held to be as private as a man's theology is to-day. There was a time before that when his theology was held to be as public a matter as the color of his eyes. Infectious diseases were once as private as the processes of a man's digestion. The history of the notion of privacy would be an entertaining tale. Sometimes the notions violently conflict, as they did when the Bolsheviki published the secret treaties, when Mr. Hughes investigated the life insurance companies, or when somebodys' scandal exudes from the pages of our journal to the front pages of others.
Whether the reasons for privacy are good or bad, the barriers exist. Privacy is insisted upon at all kinds of places in the area of what is called public affairs. It is often very illuminating, therefore, to ask yourself how you got at the facts on which you
base your opinion. Who actually saw, heard, felt, counted, named the thing about which you have an opinion? Was it the man who told you or the man who told him or some one still further removed? And how much was he permitted to see? When he informs you that France thinks this and that, what part of France did he watch? How was he able to watch it? Where was he when he watched it? What Frenchmen was he permitted to talk to, what newspapers did he read, and where did they learn what they say? You can ask yourself these questions, but you can rarely answer them. They will remind you, however, of the distance which often separates your public opinion from the event with which it deals.
While censorship and privacy intercept much information at its source, a very much larger body of fact never reaches the whole public at all or only very slowly. For there are very distinct limits upon the circulation of ideas.
A rough estimate of the effort it takes to reach everybody can be had by considering the Government's propaganda during the war. Remembering that the war had run over two years and a half before America entered it, that millions upon millions of printed pages had been circulated and untold speeches had been delivered, let us turn to Mr. Creel's account of his fight "for the minds of men, for the conquest of their convictions," in order that "the gospel of Americanism" might be carried "to every corner of the globe."
Mr. Creel had to assemble a machinery which included a division of news that issued more than six thousand
releases, seventy-five thousand fourminute men who delivered at least seven hundred and fifty-five thousand, one hundred and ninety speeches to an aggregate of over three hundred million people. Boy scouts delivered annotated copies of President Wilson's addresses to the householders of America. Fortnightly periodicals were sent to six hundred thousand teachers. Two hundred thousand lantern-slides were furnished for illustrated lectures. Fourteen hundred and thirty-eight different designs were turned out for posters, window cards, newspaper advertisements, cartoons, seals, and buttons. The chambers of commerce, the churches, fraternal societies, schools, and what not were used as channels of distribution. Yet Mr. Creel's effort, to which I have not begun to do justice, did not include Mr. McAdoo's stupendous organization for the Liberty Loans, Mr. Hoover's farreaching propaganda about food, or the campaigns of the Red Cross, the Y. M. C. A., Salvation Army, Knights of Columbus, Jewish Welfare Board, not to mention the independent work of patriotic societies, like the League to Enforce Peace, the League of Free Nations Association, the National Security League, or the activity of the publicity bureaus of the Allies and of the submerged nationalities.
Probably this is the largest and the most intensive effort to carry quickly a fairly uniform set of ideas to all the people of a nation. The older proselyting worked more slowly, perhaps more surely, but never so inclusively. Now if it required such extreme measures to reach everybody in time of supreme crisis, what must be the condition of the more normal channels to men's minds? The administration
was trying, and while the war continued it very largely succeeded, I believe, in creating something that might almost be called one public opinion all over America. But think of the dogged work, the complicated ingenuity, the money and the personnel that were required! Nothing like that exists in time of peace.
[Still another barrier to information is found in the fact that the boundaries of social groups and communities are sealed to all but a limited amount of information, or news in the ordinary sense.] There are whole sections, there are vast groups, Ghettoes, enclaves, and classes that hear only vaguely about much that is going on.
They live in grooves, are shut in among their own affairs, barred out of larger affairs, meet few people not of their own sort, read little. Travel and trade, the mails, the wires, and radio, railroads, highways, ships, motor-cars, and, in the coming generation, aëroplanes, are, of course, of the utmost influence on the circulation of ideas. Each of these affects the supply and the quality of information and opinion in a most intricate way. Each is itself affected by technical, by economic, by political conditions. Every time a government relaxes the passport ceremonies, the customs inspection, every time a new railway or a new port is opened, a new shipping line established, every time rates go up or down, the mails move faster or more slowly, the cables are uncensored and made less expensive, highways built, widened, or improved, the circulation of ideas is influenced. Tariff schedules and subsidies affect the direction of commercial enterprise,
and therefore the nature of human contacts. It may well happen, as it did, for example, in the case of Salem, Massachusetts, that a change in the art of shipbuilding will reduce a whole city from a center where international influences converge to a genteel provincial town.
It is certainly true that problems arising out of the means of communication are of the utmost importance, and one of the most constructive features of the program of the League of Nations has been the study given to railroad transit and access to the sea. The monopolizing of cables, ports, fuel stations, mountain passes, canals, straits, river-courses, terminals, market-places, means a good deal more than the enrichment of a group of business men or the prestige of a government. It means a barrier upon the exchange of news and opinion. But monopoly is not the only barrier. Cost and available supply are even greater ones, for if the cost of traveling or trading is prohibitive, if the demand for facilities exceeds the supply, the barriers exist even without monopoly.
Income is perhaps the most determining factor in every person's access to the world beyond his neighborhood. With money you can overcome almost every tangible obstacle of communication, you can travel, buy books and periodicals, and bring within the range of your attention almost any known fact of the world. The income of the individual man, the income of the community, determine the amount of communication that is possible. But their ideas determine how that income shall be spent, and that in turn affects in the long run the amount of income they will have. Thus there are lim