Seldes on propaganda during World War One

"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 poisonous propaganda...

...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.

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