May 14, 1999
It's a rare journalist who has the integrity to admit to being
duped by propaganda. George Seldes, one of America's most
respected journalists and new media critics, talks about
his experience covering World War I, the first time the
United States became involved in a European war:
"Of the first war years I will say just this: I made a total fool of
myself when I accepted as true the news reports from New York and Europe
which by their volume and repetition overwhelmed what little objective
intelligence I had...
...there was the Lusitania. All the Allied reports told of a "dastardly"
and "heinous" crime against civilians, but the German news bureau said the
ship carried munitions. Today the sworn statement of the former Collector
of the Port of New York, Dudley Field Malone, gives the exact character and
tonnage of these munitions, but in 1915 I played the Allied side. I used
all the stories of German atrocities including the Baltimore preacher's
"unimpeachable" account of the crucifixion of Canadian soldiers by the
enemy. In short, in common with about ninety per cent of the American
press, I had become a blind but willing agent of the powerful and finally
victorious Allied propaganda machine.
...It was not until December, 1918, when I came into Coblenz with the
American Army that I realized how fooled I had been by all those years of
...At that time we considered ourselves the most favored and on our return
we found ourselves the most envied of mortals, and the journals which
printed our stories boasted of the fact their own representatives had been
at the fighting front. I now realize that we were told nothing but
buncombe, that we were shown nothing of the realities of the war, that we
were, in short, merely part of the great Allied propaganda machine whose
purpose was to sustain morale at all costs and help drag unwilling America
into the slaughter.
...We all more or less lied about the war."
>From "One Man's Newspaper Game," Part 1, Chapter 1, in Freedom of the
Press, by George Seldes (Garden City, N.Y.: Garden City Publishing Co.,
Inc., 1937), p. 31-37. Original Copyright 1935, Bobbs-Merrill Company.
George later redeemed himself brilliantly:
Seldes was haunted his entire life by his failure to
report the facts about WW I in a timely way. In his defense,
when he and some fellow journalists were finally able to break
away from their handlers and actually see some of the reality
of the war, General Pershing personally threatened them with a
For more information see: http://www.brasscheck.com/seldes
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