Inside Glimpses of German Propaganda
An Authoritative Story of Underground Activities in the United States
AGNES C. LAUT
I DON’T know how closely Canada has followed the New York World’s exposure of the se• cret workings of the German propaganda in the United States; but if you remember that the World is one of the great organs of the Democratic party, and add to that fact President Wilson’s address to the Daughters of the American Revolution on the supreme test having come as to whether people of foreign birth in the United States owe allegiance to the land of their birth or the land with which they have cast their lot— you do not need to be seer or prophet to know what is happening.
The hyphenated German-American is planning to force the war as a 1916 issue in Uncle Sam’s elections; and the Democratic party is heading him off ; and the German propaganda is adding to its long list of blunders and deviltries the climax of a folly that will do more good to the cause of the Allies than anything else that could have been devised. And Mr. Bryan —where is he? Snap judgment on the surface might infer that he is wearing the fool’s cap and acting the part of the clown ; but American political manoeuvres are fearfully and wonderfully wise, “accidentally on purpose.” There is more than a strong probability that Mr. Bryan is acting as a whipper-in of the twenty million German-Americans in the country for the Democratic party.
The World’s exposures made a nine days’ sensation. Yet the World’s exposures were as a zephyr is to a tornado compared to what is being suppressed and may yet come, if the German propaganda forces the President to throw open to the public, what is now being smothered and stifled and secreted in the State Department. Federal Secret Service men and Federal attorneys in every leading port in the United States have instructions to wear a Maxim silencer and motor muffler as to German activities—for the present. Please note the qualifying phrase—for the present. There are a lot of reasons why President Wilson does not want his hand forced. The first reason is political, of course. Dumba played politics behind Wilson’s back with Bryan; and Dumba was fired forthwith without ceremony. Yet everybody knows Dumba’s little game with munition factories was innocent compared to some other big games going on sub rosa just now. Why then doesn’t the
President rip the lid off, and let the public see?
P OLITICS first—elections are coming on ; and victory is with the Democrats before the vote, if they do not blunder meanwhile. Wilson is going to let the other fellow play his hand first; but if, when Congress opens, the German propagandists play the cards they are now bluffing, the President will promptly call the bluff—that is all! Lansing will unleash all the Secret Service and Federal attorneys. The World’s exposures were a mere fire-cracker compared to the bomb under cover, if Wilson’s hand is forced. Wilson’s tactics are to use only ten per cent, of the power in his hand and to hold the ninety per cent, in reserve; and who shall say that up to the present his game has not been wiser than that of the fireeaters?
That is the first reason the lid has not been ripped off German propaganda— pure politics; the fact that the Middle West is almost solidly German-American.
A ND now for the second reason. There is a point here which Canadians misunderstand as to the American view; and I want to put it clear. I know Britons who swear there shall never be peace till Berlin is in the hands of the Allies. British correspondents have written back from the field that they could never sleep without bad dreams till they saw Berlin and Cologne lying devastated as Artois and Rheims; till they saw Prussia prone as Belgium. I know of a young Scotch correspondent for a Chicago paper, who came back with such photographs of wounded Belgian women and children as could not be shown or printed. They are the kind of thing that explain why so many thousands of young Americans are rushing to enlist under the Allies, or to work with the Red Cross.
But the points missed in the argument for terrible revenge are—there is no class of men of American or British blood who could stoop to the crimes perpetrated against Belgians. Convicts might, but only a small proportion of them. The other point ignored is—the war has been as great a crime against the mass of the German people as against the Belgians. The war was not forced by the German people but in spite of them. It was carefully planned, prepared and sprung by just two classes of Germans—the military caste and the financiers, who hoped by a swift coup to capture Paris and exact a huge indemnity. Both hopes have been blasted with a bitterness to the Germans, which can never be appreciated by the outsider. When the war broke out, Ballin,
the head of the Hamburg-American, talking to a Chicago friend declared—“Whether we win or lose,
Germany, yes all Europe, is ruined for a hundred years.” If these are the sentiments of the man, now handling the transportation of the troops for the German Empire, one can guess the bitter views of the Socialists. Meantime, the war bill piles up, and piles up, and piles up. Germany has literally pyramided her issues of war loans without security. When the bill comes to be paid, either the waç loans must be repudiated, or the people assessed seventy per cent, of their incomes—as many nations in Europe were after the Thirty Years’ War—to pay the cost.
Up to date four million men have lost their lives in the fight. Unofficially several of the commissioners on the international loan frankly expressed the opinion that it might take five years to get to Berlin. Multiply the four million lost lives by five—and what the American people ask is this—can it be worth that price?
“But,” says your Briton, “are we going to let the crime of Belgium pass unpunished?”
Unpunished? Let Fate hoot the words! Nothing passes unpunished in all the scheme of life. If the tenure of the military caste in Germany was insecure before the war, what will it be when fifteen or twenty billion dollars worth of debts to the German people are left unpaid, or when the people are taxed seventy per cent, of their incomes to pay? The military caste were on the edge of the abyss before the war; and after the war, they will dangle above it. Say the American people—“Let Germany who has sinned and will have to suffer for that sin administer the punishment to her ruling caste. The mills of the gods grind slowly but surely. Drive Germany back in on her own bounds and leave her to the gods!”
And so Wilson’s second reason for not exposing the inner workings of the German propaganda, unless forced to do so, is found in this viewpoint. America hopes for peace as soon as the fangs of Teutonic aggression have been drawn.
And yet, if the present workings of the German propaganda go ahead and proGerman versus pro-Ally is forced as the campaign issue for 1916, there is not the slightest doubt that Congress, which opens
in December, may force Wilson’s hand to expose the whole subterranean network of deviltries and intrigue and crime. Personally, I know that some of the Federal attorneys working on the cases, who are Wilson’s and Lansing’s closest advisers, are urging them to rip the lid off and as a means of putting a sudden stop on the underground working, to throw everything into a flare of publicity.
WTHAT sort of underground workings ' ' do I mean by this German propaganda? Necessarily, the facts given are fragmentary; for the only agency authorized to trace the thing up in the United States—namely, the Secret Service—has been very carefully muzzled. What I know I have stumbled on tracing up the story of war orders all over the country for an American publication. Sometimes I have been able to trace up the underground wire by swapping facts with the Secret Service. Other times, I have come to a blank wall where the State Department had ordered, “Hush.”
The beginning of the propaganda was last year—Culture with a K. Babies were bayoneted in Belgium and naked women pinioned to the ground with swords through their thighs for the sake of Culture with a K—to keep Slav barbarians from swamping Europe, to evangelize the world with German peace, prosperity, and happiness. This kind of thing literally deluged the American press—I mean the Culture with a K, not the pictures of babies in bayonets—from August of 1914 to the torpedoing of the Lusitania in the spring of 1915. This mendacious propaganda was, perhaps, to be expected. A cornered criminal usually defends himself; and the worst crimes of humanity have been committed in the name of love and religion. Only the German’s religion is the State, and his love the Fatherland; and when American correspondent after American correspondent came back with word that they had carefully searched for definite cases of atrocities and could not find proof of one, it was natural that the German-American loving his Fatherland, should deny the atrocities and take up the evangel of Culture with a A as an excuse for the war.
Were the American correspondents “subsidized?” No, but they were “personally conducted,” which was craftier.
When you are entertained royally by a perfect host and personally conducted to the firing line in his motor car, you don’t see the skeleton in the national family closet. Your host is not the man to commit atrocities, and while you are under his wing, you don’t see any. There is a noblesse oblige, when you have been the guest of a splendid nation. That is the sole explanation of multitudes of American correspondents sending back word there were no atrocities.
Not a little confusion, however, was created when these American correspondents came home. Belgian refugees were arriving. They were being treated in American hospitals for atrocities. Naturally, the cases did not go into the press. This was not another case of “subsidy.” It was the noblesse oblige of the newspaper men to women and girls, who had suffered unspeakable woes at the hand of drunken victors who represented Culture with a K; but it put a sudden silence on the “no atrocity” campaign. Then the Red Cross nurses began to send back reports. They were of a sort that sent young Americans across to enlist with the Allies. Long before the Lusitania was sunk, silent sentiment had grown to such white heat in the United States that if the press had been subsidized by all the gold of Germany it could not have dished up any more “no atrocity” talk.
“I think at this stage the attitude of the public mind here was in all charity—• yes— there had been atrocities; but they were the atrocities of the individual drunken soldier and not of the nation. Then, irony of ironies—Fate confounds our dearest follies and delusions— the Lusitania was torpedoed. Atrocities became a national crime. The finest spun sophistries could not conceal the issue or confuse it.
German propaganda had meanwhile taken another switch. After the Lusitania sank, you didn’t hear so much about Culture with a K—Culture with a K got kicked off the arena.
The German-American was now yelling his head off about the crime—save the mark—of shipping munitions to the Allies. The billion-dollar war order contracts were “blood money.” Ostensibly, the submarine warfare was to prevent munitions going to the Allies. In reality, it was to compel the United States to pry
off the blockade, which England had established.
This era covered from April to July. The Welkin rang with “the crime of blood money.” How dare Uncle Sam pocket the profits of death? I said that the worst crimes of history had been committed in the name of love and religion. I might add that excuses for crime are usually fluent in reproaches against the victim. When you hear a man or a nation couch its fluent hypocrisies in terms of holy grief, look out for your pocket-book and a bludgeon in the dark. Having bayoneted babies, and outraged women, and sunk the Lusitania, the German propaganda now took on the aggrieved tone of the martyr. Uncle Sam, it was, who was the red-handed monster, wallowing in unholy blood money for munitions. The millions of relief going to Belgium were not mentioned.
I have often wondered why people attempt to put up a bluff ; for in the end, no one is bluffed but the bluffer. Germany really believed Uncle Sam was growing rich with blood money in munitions.
Now a little fact is a horrible thing to prick either the conscience or the inflated balloon of a bluffer. At the very time, Germany was making the welkin ring with protests against Uncle Sam for selling munitions to the Allies, Germany was buying in the United States to the utmost limit of its ability, picric acid, benzol, carbolic acid, chlorine, powder, explosives, copper disguised as toys, rubber hidden in cotton bales, poison gases by the ton, by the car load, by the ship load.
This was up to August.
TJOW did she get them across? If you knew the laxity of the British Secret Service in the United States up to August, you would realize that any fool could have put contraband across. Much was sent by Malmo, Sweden. In spite of British control of Gibraltar, much went in by way of Spain and Italy and Greece, On the American side, British cruisers were evaded by false ship minifests, by going two degrees off the course, by shipping via Argentina or Mexico.
Now Germany had as perfect a right to buy munitions in the United States as had the Allies. She had as perfect a right to get them across by hook or crook; but from a purely national point of view, she
erred by writing herself down in hypocrisy as well as infamy, by accusing Uncle Sam of committing a crime in selling munitions to the Allies. Why was it a crime to sell to the Allies and a virtue to sell to Germany?
About this time England wakened up and changed the personnel of her Secret Service in this country. Live men were sent out. Captain Gaunt, a naval attaché, was put in charge. The blockade tightened. It was a pretty even wager that not many munitions went out to Germany after Captain Gaunt took charge.
ALSO about this time, the German propaganda took on a bolder, more daring intriguing phase. You remember a crack-brained professor tried to kill Morgan, the agent for the Allies.
Gompers has acknowledged that at this time he was urged to bring about strikes among union men in the munition factories. Strikes began to occur all over the United States in munition factories. Guns were mysteriously damaged in the factories. There is a funny inside story of certain steel works here. Guns that passed test on the proving ground refused to act on Salisbury Plains. Motor trucks delivered at the docks in New York were found to have had their axles sawed across in an almost invisible place. They would run all right till loaded, then—smash ! Horses in Cleveland yards died from prussic acid poisoning. Bombs were found on munition ships and horse ships took fire out at sea. A munition train of thirty-nine car loads coming down the tracks of a Hudson mad was deliberately lost and delayed till the ship had sailed. A Secret Service agent told me that a yard hand was paid $1,000 for that piece of work. Longshoremen in Brooklyn, loading munition ships, went on strike.
ONE group of German propagandists rented a cottage in the woods on the Hudson, opposite the U.S. arsenal and a spy sailing on a British ship slipped past Secret Service vigilance and went from England to the continent with drawings on his person of every Atlantic fort. Another propagandist gained access to West Point and Annapolis and Washington army and navy circles by showing photographs of himself with the Canadian Minister of Militia and invitations to houses of leading Montreal and Ottawa families. He posed as an inventor of military equipment and alleged he had made big sales to the Canadian authorities. This man habitually carries on his person two passports—one to China—one to Brazil; and he lives in one of three houses each opening to the other—very convenient for quick exit. He was very active at Glen Cove before the attempt on Morgan’s life. He was one of the men in the cottage, who made drawings of the Hudson ; and his every move has been shadowed by the Secret Service for months. Buffalo is one of his frequent resorts; for reasons which Canadians may guess for themselves.
Why do the Secret Service men not nab and expose him? because under the old neutrality laws of the United States, it is
very hard to get an indictment against such a man ; and because it is wiser sometimes to let a fool or a knave wind himself up in his own devices.
At the very time Uncle Sam was being told that it was “blood money” to sell rifles to the Allies, some of the condemned Krag rifles (355,000) in the Rock Island Arsenal were stolen and peddled round New York for sale to the warring nations. Wilson put his foot down on that. A Swedish woman whose initials begin with L was active in this.
T HAVE previously mentioned how “mystery” ships had loaded with fresh provisions in New York and Brooklyn harbors for some unknown vessels outside shore limits. At this very time, a German group, through a well-known German actress bought a long stretch of shore front in Maine. You remember how Montreal harbor was suddenly declared closed last August for a few days. Also, how the wireless station at Sayville was suddenly seized by U.S. authorities. I cannot give the source of my authority. Neither can I give details; but at this time, it is well known the German propagandists on this side were expecting four submarines. As far as I can gather, they did not come across; or if they did, they accomplished nothing; for Wilson had out-manoeuvred them at their game. Germany had modified her submarine warfare; and Dumba was told to go home, and go quick. Poor, old blundering Dumba! He was fumblefingered—that was all. There are nimbler fingers than his at work; and whether they will be exposed or not will be determined by the hand that the German propagandists play when Congress opens. I may add from very first-hand authority-— that the mine has been all ready laid below them. Whether the fuse is connected
to blow them up depends on their own play.
Another point—get it clear—they have not been “betrayed by British gold”—as they love to complain. They have been betrayed and are now being betrayed by a Judas in their own ranks, who came across voluntarily with offers of secret information and proofs. These proofs are now in the U.S. State Department’s hands. They are the terrible power which Wilson can wield if forced. It would be a surprise to some of these intriguing groups to learn that the secretary of their own organization is in many cases an agent of the U.S. Secret Service. I could tell a curious case of this going on right now in St. Louis and New York.
'T'HE latest effort of the German proI pagandists was to stop the big international loan to the allies. German depositors with the big banks not only protested. They threatened. This was chiefly in the Middle West. It was another example of the sheer fat-headed stupidity of the propagandists. While the Allies launched this loan, the Germans were launching another loan openly advertised by German bankers in the United States. It was all right to loan money to Germany. It was a crime to loan it to the Allies. Both loans have been enormously subscribed to all through the United States. I do not believe the subscriptions came from hyphenated sympathies. I firmly believe the motives were trade reasons. The Middle West has a big market for Middle West farm and factory products in Germany; so the Middle West subscribed to the German loan. The whole country has a two-billion-dollar-a-year market with the Allies ; so the whole country subscribed to the Allies’ loan.
Reference to the German propaganda would be incomplete without mention of the German truth societies. It is to be hoped the Goddess of Truth does not smile. She must needs be very staunch not to turn cynic just now. These truth societies are self-organized and self-constituted. I looked into one. I asked who the officers were. I was shown a young man, who said he had studied truth for many years, and an office boy and a stenographer. They were the officers. I asked how the truth sustained itself; for however airy and vague and tenuous a thing truth may have become since the war, office rents have to be paid. I was shown a list of individual subscribers paying in contributions at the rate of $100 to $75 a week, to combat the fearful falsehoods of the Allies. Verily—there is one born every minute; and any fool can catch them in a net. As an old mountaineer once said to me: “Don’t go up in the mountains to catch trout! Stay right in the valley and catch suckers!”
And what has all this German propaganda, floated at a cost of millions, accomplished?
Nothing: less than nothing.
It has sickened the very hearts of those who love the German people. It has alienated every neutral sympathizer in the country. It has almost forced President Wilson to play a hand that would be the finishing blow to German claims for sympathy in this country.