The German Octopus

Germany’s Propaganda in Allied Countries Must be Met and Defeated.

March 1 1918

The German Octopus

Germany’s Propaganda in Allied Countries Must be Met and Defeated.

March 1 1918

The German Octopus

Germany’s Propaganda in Allied Countries Must be Met and Defeated.

THE urgent necessity of counteracting the political propaganda with which Germany has been so sedulously honeycombing the Allied countries and the direful results of which have been seen in the Russian revolution and the Italian debacle is advocated by W. Morris Colles in The Nineteenth Century. He says in part:

It must here he stated, with all possible insistence, that its menace is deadly and urgent, and that, unless the several belligerents of the Entente organize their civil armies, with a single purpose, they will risk disasters which will threaten their own national integrity, and imperil the existence of the Alliance itself. Their armies and navies may, on the eve of victory, crowning a bravery which beggars all the records of chivalry, find themselves robbed of the fruits by the shameful folly of the peoples they are defending from horrors unspeakable and a future which would be a living death.

The case for a Supreme War Council, so auspiciously Inaugurated at Versailles—which it is needless to recapitulate here—applies

with even greater urgency, if this be conceivable, to that for a Supreme Civil Council.

As matters stand it is indubitable that the Allies have been worsted in civil strategy in every one of the scenes which have flashed across the stage on which this mighty drama is being acted before the gaze of a bewildered world. It is a humiliating reflection, for all of them alike, that a people whose pinchbeck pretensions to superiority in arms, in science, in the humanities, have one by one been proved by demonstration to be empty as the “cracking of thorns under a pot,” should have won a long succession of triumphs. There cannot, however, be any shadow of doubt as to the fact. Nor, if we are content to "wait and sec,” will there long be any great uncertainty as to the consequences. This is no time for beating about the bush nor for mincing one’s words. The facts cali, and call loudly, for bard thinking and plain statement If it can be shown that these calamities might have been or can be averted, it is not another occasion for simply seeking scapegoats whom we can drive into the wilderness of obscurity in order that they may expiate the sins of those who sit in the seats of the mighty. But, if the Allied people can really safeguard themselves against these manoeuvres, all questions as to the responsibility for past blunders may be left for settlement after the

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conclusion of peace. It is foolish to wash any more dirty linen in public.

German propaganda has, of course, always been at work in both the ante-bellum and postbellum epochs. Nor need these periods be very sharply distinguished. In both it was much more destructive than constructive. The writer has a vivid recollection of a proposition which reached a leader-writer on a leading morning daily newspaper in the year 1880, offering a substantial retainer conditional upon his securing the insertion in the journal in question of articles which would be supplied, from time to time, from a German source. The proposal was, of course, promptly communicated to the proprietors and incontinently rejected without thanks. The example is, doubtless, one of many.

The Government at last admits that a considerable number of very seditious organizations exists in the country, and are known to have been at work in many industrial centres, and especially in the South Wales coalfields, preaching peace and opposing conscription, for all the world as if their spokesmen were marionettes worked from the Wilhelmstrasse itself. All the while, too, German agents are known to be spending German money like water here in the despairing effort to bring upon England evils exactly analogous to those of the Bolshevik or Bolo pattern. It will be our own fault if we do not find a short way to combat these onslaughts and the efforts of those unworthy faineants who appear to regard with equanimity a future with our necks under the heel of the Hun.

It is, however, proof enough, and more than enough, of this necessity, at the moment, to indicate in rapid outline some of the ways in which the German octopus has got its tentacles round a few of its victims since the outbreak of war. Each is typical. Ex uno disce remues. Mathias Erzberger, who has throughout the war been in control of the propa ganda office of the German Admiralty in the Budapester Strasse, Berlin, one of the most active of the German Government Bureaux, and run under the fostering care of von Tirpitz, has reduced chicanery to a science.

It has been computed that £15,000,000 a year has been expended by Germany on propaganda during the war. All such estimates must, of course, be a mere matter of guesswork, and the point is not material save as affording some measure of comparison between the enemy and the Allied estimate of the value of this weapon.

Now there appeared in the newspapers in July the following obscure paragraph which, at the time, attracted little attention and passed without comment:

“Two large advertising and press agencies have been formed -one in Berlin and the other in Essen. They are backed by large capitalists, among whom is Krupps. The aim of these agencies is pan-German propaganda at home and abroad.”

The great armament firm at the time, as before and since, had its hands pretty full, and that it should have thought fit to add to its activities in this direction was not without a special significance. Krupps have, it is true, always recognized the power of the press. The Rheinische Westfalische Zeitung has long been the property of the firm, and

they are credited with a controlling voice in the Tägliche Rundschau, to say nothing óf at least half a dozen other German newspapers. For that matter it may be safely suggested that Essen owns or controls many journals in belligerent as well as in neutral countries.

Krupps have “interests” manned by the picked men of the business world in almost every country. The owners of huge mining and coal concessions, they have their managers or agents in every centre or market of the raw materials required for armament and munitionment. They hold large patent and other rights in this country and they have their agents here in our midst, of whom many, we do not doubt, have not only escaped internment, but remain an active source of mischief. There is not a single Allied country which possesses a machinery capable of meeting that of Krupps on equal terms.

The true lesson of German propaganda is, however, better learnt from concrete examples than from abstract generalities. The Caporetto disaster is, at the moment, as we have said, a signal triumph. It is, if you examine the facts, so far as these have been permitted to become known, perfectly obvious that such a harvest would never have ripened but for a careful sowing of the seed in the ground. The Italian soldiery, or rather that section who ran away or laid down their arms —the truth of the whole story has yet to be fully established—and are now expiating their crime as slaves to their ruthless seducers, could not have been corrupted by a few old wives’ tales, nor deluded in any great numbers by the forged copies of the Corriere della Sera and the Giornale 4'I talia, with their flamboyant stories of Italian women and children being slaughtered by licentious French and brutal British troops. To read of French cavalry riding down and sabring helpless crowds in the streets of Milan could, too. have hardly excited anything but derision even amongst the most ignorant soldiers in the lalian army.

And what, it may be asked, were the Italian officers doing all the while this balderdash was being distributed broadcast under their noses? German mendacity, we know to our cost, has been too often ignored. The truth is that the Allied otflcial estimate of its powers for evil is all wrong. We ourselves brush aside a naked lie as simply contemptible, instead of cabling a crushing dementi.

If the case of the. Italian press usefully illustrates the enemy methods, Germany is practising exactly the same sort of subterfuge in France. It is no secret that Boloism is much more far-reaching than has been permitted to appear. The French Government is perfectly wide awake and has shown itself commendsbly capable of meeting the emergency. “Lysis” more than hints, however, that the same firm, suitably camouflaged, of course, are at work in England. We see no reason, on a priori grounds, to doubt the possibility of the suggestion. It does not, at first sight, appear to be quite clear how such a plan would work out. Any communiques which such an agency, however disguised, ordered to be inserted, would have to be very cleverly wrapped up. For it is unthinkable that any British journal would deliberately allow itself to be used by the enemy. The suggestion may, nevertheless, explain many cryptic paragraphs, often of neutral origin, or so called, which have appeared in the press.

astutely directed, whatever their seeming purpose, to stirring up strife among us. Are our own people, for »111 their courage, immune to so sinister a method of undermining their confidence? A working man reads in, it may be, his one and only journal, as it seems to him, buna fide doubts as to the wisdom of the war and specious pleas in favor of an early peace. Round the corner, too, he finds the agitator, primed with arguments to drive the lesson home. He has so far been left without warning and without inspiration from any of our leading men.

The case of poor, unhappy Russia stands on all fours with that of Italy, save that the consequences are, as it seems, there so terribly irremediable. Here, again, the Allies had plenty of notice as to what was afoot. There is scarcely a feature in the whole hideous spectacle that was not forecast in urgent messages from Petrograd. All were warned over and over again that the Russian masses were in a state of abysmal ignorunce, more especially as to British traditions in particular and the Allied wur aims in general. Sir George Buchanan has unquestionably discharged his official functions with undaunted courage during a period of stress and strain almost beyond human endurance. It was not in his unaided power to do more. But it cannot be contested that Germanism, heedless to disguise, had a perfectly free hand throughout the length and breadth of the Russian State. If you look at the foundations on which the Bolshevik conspiracy was built, you can see standing out an amazingly thorough organization working above as well as underground all the while. The seduction of such large musses of the soldiers and sailors and people to a point which made them ripe for civil war, murder and a Reign of Terror was not done in a day. Lenin's plot would have collapsed long ago but for its German backing, and so long as the Allies permit these machinations to be pursued, without even the burest pretence of a counteroffensive, the troubles of which we have already reaped the first-fruits will prevent the restoration of ordered Liberty in the place of unbridled Licence in AII-the-Russias. Germany has willed a Reign of Terror in Russia. Siberia, Esthonia, and even Kuban have declared themselves independent Republics, and they signalize this event by withdrawing all their troops from the Russian front. It does not call for any very great acumen to detect the villain of the piece.

In China, again, the enemy is keeping alive the ferment of revolution. Foiled in her specious coup d'etat, aimed at the restoration of the dynasty, she is now addressing herself to the congenial task of engineering recurring ministerial crises and driving home the wedge between the northern military leaders and the southern provinces, hoping thus to avert the danger of a strong coalition and foment disintegration, decay and revolution. Only the other day a Goverment official consulted by the writer as to the trend of enemy action remarked, “Oh, we needn’t worry about China.” It is the acme of luissezfaire. We need not, if you please, worry about this limitless reservoir of man-power, which the enemy has long marked down as his happy hunting-ground!

■There is a curious sameness about German propaganda, but in "the unchanging East” that is almost an advantage. We do not doubt that the Deutsche Zeitung is still being presented to all the men who matter in China, as it has been for years. Such a trifle as a declaration of war would not be permitted to affect German activities materially. During the last few days we have had from Tientsin reports that, clearly under German inspiration the vernacular press is setting about categorical statements that “Japan is negotiating for a separate peace.” The next move will undoubtedly be the quotation from the Chinese press of this little story. Thus Germany hopes to discount Viscount Ishii’s exposure of her intrigue to close the “Open Door” in China which so narrowly failed of complete success. The Marquess of Lansdowne’s letter — of which it is well known German propagandists have made the most all Over the world, and not without a certain amount of success—is at the same time being used by Pekin journals as a proof of British decadence, which is not

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unnatural, and a presage of Britain’s downfall, which involves a non sequitur.

But the octopus is omnivorous. The French had the good luck to capture, lately, en bloc the German Mission to Abyssinia, where, “according to plan,” they had been fomenting the downfall of the dynasty. The menace of German influence, through a Pretender, to British, Italian, and French Somaliland is sufficiently obvious. In South America, again, for all its belligerency, Germany is busily at work, but now underground. In the Argentine they have managed to stave off the evil day, and, characteristically, in return fomented a railway strike. All tile same the Buenos Aires correspondent of The Times predicts that the Argentine will become the “Greece of South America.” Germany has, it is said, succeeded in making the maintenance of neutrality vital to President Irigoyen and the Radical Party. Here, too, clerical influence has, we are told, been cast in Germany’s

The story is the same, take what country you will. A semi-official statement from Athens, for instance, declares that German propagandists are busily at working shaking the morale of Greece on exactly the Russian and Italian lines. Spain. Norway, Sweden are also in the clutches of the octopus, although they vainly hope that the blessed word “neutrality” will prove their salvation. They forget the octopus never lets go its grip.

An Inter-Allied Propaganda under the control of a Supreme Civil Council, directed with vision, is, we believe, the true answer to the enemy challenge. It has already been far too long deferred. Its methods can only be settled by conjoint authority, and, obviously, lie outside the sphere of public discussion. In the same way, no doubt, its policy and practice at home are imperatively matters of domestic concern for each of the Allies. It is not possible for one Ally to step between another and its armies or its people, and it is not, perhaps, unnatural that one and all should prefer to keep their own counsel, although this may be a source of weakness.

One consideration, however, arises which is, in its application, common to all. It is the traditional method of the older diplomacy to surround itself, like the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, in a web of mystery. It would, perhaps, be unfair to suggest any parallel between its underlying motives and those which actuated Mokannu. The tradition of secrecy has, however, throughout the war been enforced without discrimination. So far as military necessities prevail it is, of course, inevitable, but it does not seem to possess the like cogency where we have to meet enemy civil action. All the Allies possess the most wonderful examples of enemy propaganda, and all, we believe, alike, with the single exception of the United States, with its virile vision, hide them away in their archives as sacrosanct and not for vulgar eyes. We ourselves possess collections, scattered through many departments, and never co-ordinated, which would throw a flood of light upon Germany’s manœuvres. But the fiat has gone forth from the wiseacres who control these precious proofs of German guile, and publication is not to take place "until long after the end of the war.” They will then, no doubt, provide amusing reading for posterity, but posterity instead of smiling at Germany’s foolishness is more likely to form its own conclusions as to the unwisdom of our neglect to use them at the time so that their influence could have been sterilized and their mendacities held up to the ridicule and reprobation of the civilized world. It is argued that to give them publicity is to comply with the enemy’s wish and enhance their effect. But is the Allied cause so poor of justification that it need fear exploded enemy teachings or preachings? We may not be able to compete on even terms in this orgy of infamy, but if it were pitilessly exposed in all its utter depravity we should at once inflict a crowning moral defeat upon the enemy.

A Cimmerian darkness is not the happiest atmosphere for a country at war. It can neither satisfy nor reassure. We have. Heaven knows, given our foes information enough and

to spare. We have indulged in a carnival of candor as to our national shortcomings. In a war of peoples it is, above all, vital, and at this, “the fateful hour of mankind,” it is our sacred duty to preserve the national balance. At the front our soldiers must be kept secure from being deluded by those songs of

victory which the enemy sing twice a day. At home our watchword should be “Trust the people.” This is not the moment for scolding and fault-finding. The masses have given proofs and to spare of a high courage. They have shown themselves strong to labor and to endure. The enemy will surely fail to shake their allegiance to the commonweal if we dispel the darkness by which it is being obscured. Darkness begets doubt, doubt despair. “Let there be light.”