13 NOVEMBER 1942, Page 12



SIR,—A letter from Margery Reilly in your issue of November 6th describes a case of political fanaticism that, if it is at all common among school teachers, may endanger a civilisation that respects free speech and encourages variety. The young woman who refused to discuss Professor Hearnshaw's book, Germany the Aggressor, because she had made up her mind that all wars were caused by financiers, may, in Barrie's phrase, have been " young enough to know everything " ; but she may also have been the finished product of a process of propaganda that has for years been directed to making large numbers of people affirm beliefs instead of forming opinions. Five years ago, Mr. Winston Churchill warned us of this danger, as he warned us of others. At the opening of the Sunday Times Book Fair in 1937, he said:

" There is one aspect of publishing activity upon which I think we should cast a close scrutiny. I mean the deliberate publication of books of a uniform political tendency to an organised mass of readers. I do not care whether it is the Left or Right side of politics to which this process is directed. To have an elaborate process set up to feed a particular kind of leaf to a particular tribe of injurious caterpillars, incapable of taking any other nourishment, and who take their colour as well as their food from the foliage on which they crawl, is entirely contrary to the spirit of literature or the means of disseminating knowledge.

" Nothing can be worse than to introduce totalitarianism into the field of literature, and to try to breed in a single country races of men and women incapable of understanding one another. The glory of literature in any free country is its variety, and the most fertile means from which happiness may be derived in life is from variety. The issues in the world today are such that readers should be on their guard against any attempt to warp their intellects or to narrow or enfeeble their judgement by tendentious literature with facts increasingly coloured and statistics ever more carefully selected The ordinary man and woman in the age in which we move has to have a new vigilance and to be alive to new perils, to see that they are not being sucked in by propaganda."

An English mind fuddled with propaganda and capable only of intemperate political faith, is useless to its owner and often offensive to the community. Such minds can never teach the young idea how

to shoot: they can only cause it to warp or wither. JOHN GLOAG.