FEATURE ARTICLES

Suppressing the Truth

The Blind Attitude of Some Canadian Newspapers on War Problems

John Bayne Maclean April 1 1918
FEATURE ARTICLES

Suppressing the Truth

The Blind Attitude of Some Canadian Newspapers on War Problems

John Bayne Maclean April 1 1918

Suppressing the Truth

The Blind Attitude of Some Canadian Newspapers on War Problems

John Bayne Maclean

BITTER personal attacks upon me by two evening papers in Toronto have caused my last two articles to be discussed by many thousands who are not regular readers of this magazine.

Unfortunately these attacks and an interview, published only in part, give an entirely wrong impression of what I have been endeavoring to get into the minds of Canadians: That actual war conditions have been persistently misreported to us, the British people; that our general management of the war is wrong at the top, because we have allowed political and family influence to control and direct our relations with our Allies like Russia, and to control our perfectly magnificent armies and navies. This permitted men to be appointed to high places for which they were utterly unfitted and we have had incompetence; we have been supplying the enemy with things most essential to his carrying on of the war, and we have had the fearful Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, India and other mishaps which were so bad that friendly commissions appointed to whitewash the men at the top who were responsible could not suppress the awfulness of the facts.

They could not, as was hoped, throw the blame upon the lesser army chiefs or on the poor regimental officers and men. One of the papers condemning me now said in 1916 on the tragedy of Gallipoli: “Old Country papers do not minimize the extent of that failure. Ashmead Bartlett declares that Britain could have secured a great decision on the Western front if Britain had been prepared to risk in Flanders the 200,000 casualties that were squandered in Gallipoli without producing anything but a successful withdrawal from an impossible position”—a position in which we were put by Asquith and Churchill acting in direct opposition to the views expressed in writing of all the naval experts. Foi confirmation of this see official report of Mr. Asquith’s own committee.

IN this series of articles I have constantly kept the thought in mind that Canadians should know the truth, that knowing the truth they would insist upon such a reorganization of our Government and of the Imperial Government that would enable Borden and Lloyd George to have a free hand—which they have not had—to get about them the ablest men in the Empire “whose careers showed they had the capacity of doing things and getting things done”—who would be perfectly free from, and independent of, political or family influence. There are plenty of such men in the Empire and among the Allies—the kind of men the enemy is using. Given such men and our diplomacy, our naval and military forces could down the enemy every day in the week.

I think The Financial Post was the first paper in 1915 to advocate the appointment of Lloyd George to the Premiership. I confess I had been very much prejudiced against him. The impression I had gained

of him was of a picayune, vote-catching, radical, village politician. His appearance on one occasion that I saw him caused considerable comment. He was lunching with a red-hot Radical journalist, Dalziel, M.P., and the other guests were Lord Rothschild, and a friend of mine, a London-Canadian banker. But Lloyd George did such great work in handling «ir finances when the war broke out, and he did it so quickly; and his marvellous success in organizing and developing the production of munitions were things one could not get away from. These showed such tremendous and intelligent driving force, such a capacity for understanding situations, and for selecting the right men and quickly discarding failures—some very prominent ones were discarded—that no sane person, no matter how prejudiced, could fail to support him.

The Northcliffe press are given full credit for driving out Asquith. They deserve a lot of it, but an equally important factor were Premiers Borden and Hughes. The Gallipoli catastrophe was brought directly home to Asquith and Churchill. It so roused Australia that Hughes, after consultation with Borden, began the campaign in England which drove Asquith from power. But Asquith and the other pacifists still have such power that Lloyd George cannot do the best work for the Empire, cannot employ the men necessary to ensure complete victory. It is Canada’s duty, therefore, to know and study the situation and to support Sir Robert Borden in presenting in as forceful terms as did Hughes before with his co-operation the fact that our limit of patience has been reached with the do-nothings, who have hampered progress and dislocated the plans of Lloyd George and such great experts as he has been permitted to employ.

C PACE will not permit me to explain ^ the objects underlying the attacks made upon me and the policy for which I am pleading and praying, and in which I am merely the mouthpiece of the military men and the big business men who know. Mr. Robinson-Trotzky, editor of the Toronto Telegram, is so worried at the moment with his own personal troubles that I will not add to them just now. Of the News I am informed that the attacks were handled personally by Mr. Smith, the editor, on instructions from the interests which have been financing that unfortunate paper with its variegated career. This is significant. The present manager of the News dare not publish the names and sources of all the money which has kept it afloat since the outbreak of the war. No wonder there is strong objection—but he does not give the real objection to the campaign I have carried on for shortening and winning the war. I know far more of the inside workings of this group, and who are at the back of it, than does Mr. Smith himself.

When the Toronto News many years ago was advocating that Canada should cut her connection with the British Em-

pire and its editor belonged to the annexationist party, a little group of loyal Canadians organized themselves to oppose that blind policy. This group of loyalists successfully prevented our drifting away, for in those days, as now, a great many were thoughtless and indifferent. A member of this group—one of the best informed men in this country on Imperial matters, because of his connections in England—sends some very definite facts confirming our statements on the neglect to place an embargo on cotton and closes his letter with these words:

“There should be o campaign to educate Canadian people as to the extreme seriousness of the situation which is not generally realized.”

I HAVE said I am merely the mouthpiece of men who know. Here are extracts from some representative letters received in the last few days:

A Middlesex, Ontario, subscriber, writes: “I asked my brother-in-law, who is an Engineer officer in France, what he would like me to send him. He answered, ‘MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE would be the most acceptable. I have never read articles that come nearer the truth, as I know it, than those written by Lt.-Colonel J. B. Maclean’.”

General Sir--in a letter enclosing

a subscription says that doubtless all our readers will agree with what we are publishing, but asks if there is not some way of getting these views into the minds of all Canadians.

Colonel -: “I have had the good

fortune to read two of your articles. The laziness you attribute to the British people is to my mind nothing more or less than self-assurance, courteous and pleasant, but always self-assurance, always underestimating the other man. From time away back this trait has been bred in our race until it is a fixture—and this war alone will, I hope, eradicate it. Balfour is an over-rated statesman—a dreamer too prone to take the easy side of an issue. You are perfectly correct,” etc.,

These letters are not marked fmvate and are on file in our office. No names are better known than the writers of the two letters above.

A Canadian on the staff in France, a young man whose family has been connected with one of the important industries of the country, who worked his way up from the ranks to the command of his unit; a man who is likely to make his mark in the public life of Canada, which he is planning to take up after the war, in the course of a letter, says:—

“I have read with a great deal of interest your various articles. I think your idea of waking up the people of Canada is a most admirable one, our press (Canadian) being almost criminally optimistic. There is far too much talk of what we are going to do after the war and not enough of how we are going to win the war.

“The situation on the Western front, to my mind, is extremely critical, as critical to-day almost as it was in the closing months of the

year 1914. Anything that you can do to make the people of Canada realize that they must conserve food, they must send men to the front, and they must have good, honest, administration in Canada is of the utmost importance.

“What strikes me particularly is the absolute disregard of the above-mentioned three essentials. . . . The public conscience in

Canada is, I am afraid, at a very low ebb and the people want to be told some home truths. They might as well begin to be prepared for it now, for when the troops return some of the present-day popular idols will be very rudely turned down.”

THE Toronto News has persistently and most unfairly and maliciously been trying to link me up with a group of spineless pacifists who don’t want to fight under any circumstances; with Bourassa, the Quebec editor, who does not want to fight unless the Germans land in Quebec; and with Sir Allen Aylesworth, the Liberal ex-Minister of Justice, who is willing to fight but opposes conscription.

Regular readers of The Financial Post and this magazine know my views, but for the information of new or occasional readers let me state that my whole campaign since the war began has been clearly, distinctly, and decidedly opposed to the policies of these men. I am on record as arguing for bigger armies, higher pay, higher pensions and better treatment of soldiers, and for conscription. We have attained these objects and to-day I am pleading for a better organization of our political, military and national resources for a propaganda of reform which shall ensure our winning the war.

After we had dispatched our first 30,000 I wrote and published: “Our duty is to support the British arms to the limit of our capacity” and that we should have “at least 100,000 more under training now.” In December, 1914, I urged Sir Robert Borden to make plans for 350,000 more troops. Perhaps my views are best summed up in the short editorial which I wrote and published in The Financial Post on November 7th, 1915:

“The progress of the war confirms the necessity, for which The Financial Post has been continually arguing, of having an army of 100,000 men constantly in training in Canada.

Every man capable of bearing arms, who is unemployed, should be enrolled. The military training will make better citizens of

“The Government’s objection is to the cost, which is a serious item. If the British Government and people had listened to Lord Roberts and prepared themselves on German lmes the war would have been over to-day. As itjs, at the present rate of progress it will go on for five or six years. The least expensive course and the only way to shorten the waste and massacre is for the Allies—of whom we are one—to put every possible man under arms at once. If we do not, we are almost certain to have the same number under arms eventually and a vastly greater wastage to life and industry.”

T WILL ask the editor to complete this month’s contribution to the campaign by quoting two articles recently published in The Financial Post dealing with the desire of certain Toronto editors to hide the facts about the war.

On February 23rd The Financial Post in a front page article said:—

The Toronto Telegram published an interview with Colonel Maclean that is neither accurate nor fair, and which we believe intentionally misrepresents his views. With this in their hands the editors appeal to the authorities to do something. Colonel Maclean

published hundreds of columns of information and suggestions in connection with his arguments and pleadings for a better understanding of present and probable war conditions and the urgent necessity of preparation therefor. Our readers are no doubt familiar with them, but if any one desires to follow the matter further the files, going back nearly three years and a' half, are at his disposal. Time and again during that period the Telegram appealed in big type to the Censor. Not once did the Censor ask even for an explanation. Time and again when the thought complained of had penetrated the consciousness of their editors, the Telegram presented, as something new, the exact policies it had condemned in the Post months before.

That our readers who are among the most important men and women in Canada approved is shown by the scores of letters received. We lost but one subscriber on account of our policy. He dropped out in October, 1914, because we advised our readers to prepare for a long war—a five or six-year war—when some uninformed politicians and newspapers like the Telegram were misleading us by saying it would be over by Christmas. In 1915 another subscriber threatened to discontinue unless we stopped advocating Lloyd George for Premier instead of Asquith. We did not, but our reader is still with us. Notwithstanding the depression in investments our renewals since the first of the year are 70% better than for the same period last year and new annual subscriptions have increased nearly 16%. These facts show how the big men of Canada feel towards a paper that has not. been afraid to tell the truth, no matter whom it hit. In fact it was the unanimous moral support constantly impressed upon us that encouraged us to give the news and advocate the policies that were first offered in our columns, then later adopted by the authorities here and in England, which unfortunately excited the jealous enmity and ill-will of and attacks from a few small-minded men on big papers. It is a fact that the men at the head of the smaller dailies and weeklies are far broader in their vision than many in the cities. Further the article complained of was put in the hands of over 80,000 of our other subscribers, representing perhaps 350,000 readers. There have been many compliments and only two complaints. And these readers are not concentrated but represent all Canada.

The Toronto Telegram for months attacked the Canadian manufacturers and the technical press for not doing something. It still continues to criticize them. It has never suggested what they could do. On the other hand it tried to put the technical press out of business, thus helping the enemy. During all this time the manufacturers and technical press editors were working quietly together for long hours helping the Allies defeat the Germans. The manufacturers of Canada were doing wonders when the Telegram editor was merely making noises which he believed was practical action. None but the technical editors were allowed to know the big things that were being done.

Two Toronto evening papers, the News and Telegram, are making vicious attacks upon Colonel Maclean and MACLEAN'S MAGAZINE and The Financial Post for publishing “material that might easily confuse weak-minded readers” regarding the war. They say they dare not reproduce the matter they complain of. They ought to know their readers better than we do, but we refuse to believe they have many such readers outside of their own editorial chairs. Knowing the history, experience and excitability of one of them, we understand. He boasted for years that he seldom went anywhere for fear of being influenced by new thoughts or men. It certainly would be dangerous for such a mind to encounter a condition that he believed could not exist. Perhaps we should regard such editors more as did Frederick Palmer, the Allied war correspondent, when he wrote “of the folly of proven experience tilting at an adamant state of mind.”

The whole question is this: Shall we of the British Empire be told the actual facts—the real truth; or shall the persons and powers responsible for our unpreparedness before, and mismanagement since, the war began continue to cover up their misdeeds by suppress-

ing the facts as they have been doing, or misrepresenting them as General Ian Hamilton recently pointed out they were doing?

Knowing how fearfully serious were conditions and how utterly indifferent were so many of our Imperial and Canadian leaders and the nation generally, Colonel Maclean took very strong grounds in the Financial Post from the outset on two points: ,

That his readers desired to know, were entitled to know, the truth, that they might do their very important parts in the present and prepare intelligently for the future.

That all important political, military, naval and other positions should be filled by the most capable experienced men of the Empire, the men whose careers showed they had a capacity for doing big things and getting big things done in a big way, not by political or family favorites.

We said that if the peoples of the Empire were told the whole truth they would insist upon things being done right.

We continually pointed out the need of an educational campaign here and at home. Not until last week was our policy vindicated when Northcliffe and Beaverbrook, two splendid men for the work, were appointed with a great corps of able helpers.

Long before any public man or newspaper hinted at it, when the first 30,000 were ready, we showed the necessity for and we urged the immediate organization of 100,000 more with plans for another 250,000.

Compare the resolution which was passed almost unanimously at a meeting attended by over 3,000 trade unionists at Glasgow recently with the cable from U.S. labor leaders. It shows not only the need for the propaganda of truth in Britain, but our readers will be amazed that there are any number of persons in the United Kingdom who are still so ignorant that they cannot see what will become of them should we lose the war. More appalling still is a cable saying that the Engineers’ trade union turned down the nation’s proposal by 121,017 to 27,470. The wording as adopted was:

“Having heard the case of the Government as stated by Sir Auckland Geddes, this meeting pledges itself to oppose to the very uttermost the Government in its call for more men. We insist on, and pledge ourselves to take action to enforce the declaration of an immediate armistice on all fronts, and declare that the expressed opinion of the workers of Glasgow from now on and, so far as this business is concerned, our attitude all the time and every time is to do nothing in support of carrying on the war, but to bring the war to a conclusion.”

On the other hand, in the States, they started long before war was declared, and have carried on since, a most intelligent campaign of education that brought the whole nation enthusiastically behind the President. Mr Gompers, President, on behalf of the American Federation of Labor, cabled Hon. Arthur Henderson, British labor leader:— “Please convey our fraternal greetings to the Inter-Allied Labor Conference and assure them that we arc pledged and will give our man power and at least half we have in wealth power in the struggle to secure for the world justice, freedom and democracy.”

As we have frequently pointed out there is need for propaganda work in Canada. Handicapped though he was, to an extent few people realize, Sir Robert Borden did excellent work —notwithstanding strenuous criticism by the Telegram. Now that he is making splendid progress, proving himself to be the most useful man we have always contended he was, he ought to put on his agenda, if he has not already got it there, a good national educational campaign, in conjunction with the United States and the Mother Country.

And on March 2:—

Shall Canadians be told the truth about the war that they may yet insist upon sane policies for winning; or must we go on sacrificing our sons, husbands, fathers and resources—piling up taxes that will keep this and the next generation in slavery—by blindly entrusting our affairs to the group of incom-

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petents who have brought us to our present extremely serious situation?

Are Canadians generally to be allowed authoritative information that will cause them to give the necessary moral support that Sir Robert Borden and Lloyd George need to secure other capable leaders like the Geddes brothers, Northcliffe and Beaverbrook, who are urgently essential to ensure a complete victory?

Or are they to be kept in darkness because of a few weak-minded, excitable editors, who see ¿things through dark spectacles, whose world is in their back-yard, whose inspiration is an occasional excursion to the servant’s hall; or because old party hacks in Cabinet jobs fail to recognize their own incapacity; or because some big profiteers wish things to continue as they are?

It may be said Lloyd George has full power, but one of his most intimate friends writes that time and again he has had to give way on whathe considered very vital points to his colleagues and a misinformed public opinion, and in each case he has put himself on record.

This is the big problem before the people of Canada to-day. Colonel Maclean, through MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE, the Financial Post and elsewhere, presented the views of the big, strong, lusty, Canadians in the army and out of it who fear no foe, but who fight best when the odds against them are greatest, and who want the truth, the men of the Northern clime, the men who held the line when the poor, weak, Africans fled terror stricken before the first gas attack. There are Africans in Canada, in the press, as well as in the fence, who are frightened by the truth that they openly and by underhand channels appeal to the Censor, to the Secretary of State, to somebody to do something, to arrest Colonel Maclean, suppress the Financial Post and do everything necessary to keep the facts hidden. They misrepresent and deliberately lie in their desire to mislead.

They are the greatest friends Germany has had in this country. When Colonel Maclean was pleading in the Financial Post in 1914 for the immediate organization of a Canadian expeditionary force totaling 380,000 and arguing for conscription and saying our only hope lay in our navy being able to hold out long enough to enable the army to get ready for a five or six-year war, these ill-informed prophets quoted editorially Lord Emmett to show that there was no immediate necessity for bringing overseas forces, and the Toronto Telegram said, September 12th, 1914: “Let every Canadian be of good cheer. It is becoming more manifest every day that the great war will be one of months rather than of years, at least so far as the critical stage is concerned.” That same paper still further aided German propaganda when it lulled its readers into inactivity by belittling German preparations and conditions, and as late as last year it editorially presented with boisterous delight, as its very own, certain opinions, and when we publish these as news, not as views, the editor wants us suppressed.

They are beginning to talk out in England against the mismanagement by the clique of incompetent office holders. Sir Donald Maclean, described by Sir Robertson Nicol, in the British Weekly, as “one of the ablest and most trusted of Liberal members,” said in the House of Commons the other day the nation will gladly give authority for the large number of additional men asked for if it is reasonably convinced they are going to be rightly used. “That is the difficulty of the whole situation. . . . If we were dealing with malice we

would know where we were, but we are dealing with colossal stupidity.” And Sir W. R. Nicol, himself one of Lloyd George’s strongest supporters, knows perhaps better than most men how much the Prime Minister needs

the moral support of Borden and Canada in his fight against Germany and powerful incompetent influences at home.

Frank as we have been we refrain from quoting from his references to the rottenness of war conditions which lead him to say:—

“If things go on as they are going on now there is no prospect of any favorable termination of the war.”

There is perhaps no better informed man, with his life-long experience in European politics and hi-» thorough knowledge of the peoples, than Dr. Dillon, of the Daily Telegraph, London. The latest product from his pen is a complete endorsation of the Financial Post’s policy since the war began. He writes in the latest Fortnightly Review:—

“Russia, in her Manchurian campaign, was much better off than Japan for men and munitions. Yet she also lost the war because she was wanting in those very essentials in which the Coalition is deficient to-day—in leaders and in organizing capacity. The Allied peoples have indeed the will to win, but their Governments have failed to translate that will into efficacious acts. Failure, however, is not always censurable, and the rulers of the Entente States—all men of integrity and patriotism—cannot fairly be blamed for their intellectual limitations. And if they are not

only unacquainted with the master-facts of the problem, but are also unaware of their ignorance, they can hardly be condemned for neglecting to have recourse to those specialists who do know. It is their misfortune rather than their fault that they neither represent the present generation nor grasp its exceptional needs, but are types and spokesmen of what I would term the Ritzonian period of civilization.

“The Ritzonian is one of an intellectually and morally middle-class crowd who loves indolence and luxury, loathes system, shuns effort, feels an insolent contempt for merit and labor, and fancies himself fitted to undertake a task of any magnitude. In the political sphere Ritzonianism is pettifoggery, improvisation, distrust of general principles, and negation of the law of casuality. It is a trait of the Ritzonian statesmen that they purvey flaccid purpose with stunted aims, which they seek to achieve by expedients and compromises. It was they who thought that in the ruthless struggle between intelligent organization and haphazard improvisation the latter must win in accordance with the doctrine of muddling through. Of that struggle they adopted a narrow, rootless conception and shaped their fitful action congruously with that. They scorned to question the men con-

versant with the countries, peoples, and Governments on whose behavior the success of our undertakings depended, and when information, advice, or warnings were volunteered, the authors were snubbed and their writings suppressed.”

Turning to the United States we get further endorsement. A British officer, recently on duty there, who has been following the silly attacks on the Financial Post by some weakminded editors, has been good enough to send us from his files an editorial from the New York Tribune, an ultra-British newspaper, which endorses our policy in every particular, as follows: —

“What we need—-what the whole country is coming to recognize we need—in the war council is men, if we may so phrase it, of the Cassatt and Carnegie and James J. Hill mould. We would even go so fa?, as to say men of the Harriman, J. P. Morgan and Marshall Field type—men of a peculiar combination of imagination and daring, men of the seeing eye and the doing hand. In brief, men of organizing, co-ordinating and executive genius.

“Can such men be found? Will the President, without thought of political consequences or party advantage, appoint such men ? Can he work with them and through them when they are found? We still believe that he can and we still believe that he will.

“We believe it notwithstanding the angry manner in which he retorts even upon men of his own party who presume to criticize the conduct of the war.

“We believe it in spite of Senator Chamberlain’s experience.

“We believe it because the alternative is fraught with such consequences that it might mean, in this fatal hour, a world disaster.

“One of America’s foremost newspapers, a staunch supporter of the President, said tersely the other day: ‘Every business man, every loyal American, ought to have over his desk a card bearing the words, “Germany is Winning This War”.’

“This fact is coming home to the American consciousness. It is coming to the realization of Congress.”

Finally let us quote Theodore Rdosevelt, who writes that in the United States since the war broke out “it has been incessantly insisted that it was unpatriotic under any consideration to tell an unpleasant truth or to point out a governmental shortcoming. The result has not been happy. . . . Let us

insist that the truth be told. The truth only harms weaklings. The American people wish the truth and can stand the truth."

If the people at home can stand the truth; if the people of the United States demand the truth and ask that the worst phases of the situation be presented to them every time they look up, then the spineless Canadians who fear the truth ought to be classified, as Professor MacNaughton, of McGill University, in a recent speech tersely said, as “men of weak hearts and feeble guts,” and be interned before they infect others.

As our present war plans have not got us anywhere why not let us now try the plans advocated by men whose experience shows they are at least worth considering. We were brutal in our treatment of such men as Lord Shaughnessy and Sir Herbert Holt when they told us what was wrong, what would happen if we continued on our stupid ways. Canadians are beginning to think for themselves and they are now beginning to talk about the sane advice given by such men.

In Canada our Premier has accomplished much, despite the load of incompetents a wrong political system compelled him to carry, and he has come through, extremely well, many delicate domestic situations, that his own party, much less the public, know nothing about. It is said he has been called to England to advise Lloyd George on plans for the further prosecution of the war. He will no doubt be asked as to Canadian opinion. If he will consult the men the Financial Post speaks for he will be told they desire the immediate calling in of the experts of the Empire, a reorganization, and then a fight to final victory with all Canada’s resources in men and money. And they have more to lose than any other class in Canada. They are the leaders in this country—the men who will have to organize the resources and provide the employment when the war ends.