PROPAGANDA TO GERMANS
By JOHN WILLOUGHBY
As 1941 will be a year of destiny for us and our civilisation, it is imperative that we should forthwith make a highly critical survey of every offensive weapon. For only by the vigorous use of every offensive weapon can we wrest, and con- tinue to wrest, the initiative from the enemy. One of the mightiest of our offensive weapons is propaganda. If our propaganda work is well planned, well timed and vigilantly directed, it may shorten the war by many months. Similarly if propaganda Is ill-conceived or badly timed, and above all if it is directed In different and muddling ways by different Ministries and agencies, it may prove at best no more than a costly futility. Like any other offensive, propaganda needs a concerted plan, with the keen eye of a High Command on the immediate present, on the next moves, on the possible enemy counter- strokes both near and far, and on the future. Without vision and strategy, propaganda will at best be no more than a display of fireworks, full of noise and colour, achieving nothing.
Germany understands fully the value of propaganda, especially for Germans. It uses its characteristic standards of untruth, cajolery and intimidation, showing its pathetic belief in the old Germanic gods of treachery and violence. The German cause is evil, its propaganda methods are evil, but in the main the German propagandists are effective in their evil service of a bad cause. Devilry can be diabolically effective, while goodness remains complacently inactive. German propa- ganda to the German people fears nothing more than the truth. It therefore fears our propaganda, not for what it does —it is useful as a bogey like the legends of our Intelligence Service—but for what it might do. The Germans know well what a well-planned enemy propaganda might achieve among the vast apathetic masses of their own people. Among their own people they know well that they have to fear every good element, every good instinct, every belief in civilised tradition, and every movement of the mind that might foster inde- pendence, initiative, decency, honour or justice.
Behind a Chinese wall, cut off from the civilised world, live the millions of Germans who must ultimately be won back from their wild political imaginings, from their horrible standards of public life and from their international methods of violence and treachery. It is useless at present to attempt any change of mind in the Party Leaders or in the limited millions of con- vinced Nazis, who are indeed as mad as dancing dervishes proclaiming a Mahdi. But there remain the apathetic masses, and the many who remember finer and older standards than those of Hitler. There remain the hundreds of thousands who, at least sometimes, despise the Hitler way of violence. There remain the many dissatisfied German workmen, the older officers in the armed forces who remember some standards of honour, and the many who, when the shouting has died, wonder how Germany can ever win the war. There are others, too, but we have said enough.
What is our propaganda to Germany doing? Mainly fumbling. It is divided between different Ministries, it is directed by those who have little or no knowledge of Germany ; it is led by those who, like our diplomats and returned diplo- mats, have just literally no knowledge of the art of propaganda, and—this is to their credit—even less of the delicate craft of preparing national uprisings. Of course there are a number of subordinates with extensive knowledge of Germany, but inspired direction is entirely lacking. It is regrettable, also, that a good deal of cheapness and triviality have crept into our propaganda to the enemy. Our propaganda is rendered less, not more, effective thereby, and our prestige, on which so much depends, is lowered in the eyes of the world. These state- ments could be documented with a wealth of detailed criticism of our propaganda-efforts and of their surprising and sometimes woeful defects. There is no need to cheer and encourage Dr. Goebbels by citing them.
One word in addition. Much of our propaganda to Germany is just English thought done into German speech, and that is precisely what the average German cannot grasp. The German propagandists make the same fundamental mistake and we laugh at them, but for them it is forgiveable, as no German has ever yet understood the mind of other people. For us there is no excuse. We might do well to recall that while truth is one and indivisible, its appreciation depends upon two variable co- factors, the mind of the speaker and the mind of the recipient.
It is not too late to change this fumbling, and thus turn our propaganda into a great offensive weapon. We need forthwith a new Minister—a Minister of Enemy Propaganda who shall plan, time, and control the whole output to the enemy. Liaison with other Ministries would be an obvious necessity, and especially liaison with the Foreign Office. Many of the departmental chiefs for such a Ministry already exist scattered about in different Ministries and offices. They need to be brigaded, inspired and led into action.
Propaganda, moreover, should be retained for at least three years after the war ends. Its services will be urgently needed to prevent some German Government and a host of German propagandists (not all of them in Germany) from sabotaging the peace. Can we not hear them already? Once beaten, they will, as before, cringe and whine. They will say: "Poor Germany! We were deliberately kept in ignorance by Goebbels and his accomplices. . . . We were the victims of a savage Government. . . . Had we known the whole German people would have risen. .. . We were sick of the treatment of the poor Jews. . . . Why, now we know, we are as anti-Hitler as you English. . . . Why should we suffer—have we not suffered enough? Then if we suffer at all, it will ruin you, and that would be a pity. . . ." And so forth ad nauseam. To prevent such persistent activity—and insensitive persistence is a German characteristic! —we shall need the constant vigilance and equally constant intervention of an experienced and well- prepared Ministry of Propaganda. Reiterated falsehood always appears more credible than undefended truth. Facts have never yet spoken for themselves—how could they?—and truth has often been forgotten in the clamour of voices.
Meanwhile the war has to be won, and victory achieved. To speed the coming hour of our victorious armistice, few offensive weapons can compare either for power or for resultant devastation with propaganda, well-planned, well-timed and com- petently directed. But that requires a Minister of Propaganda and the enthusiastic support of the War Cabinet. Has the War Cabinet, in its great efforts and necessary concentration on .ethal weapons and on the war in the elements, perhaps for- ;itten, as a weapon of war, the shattering power of truth—the truth of fact, and the truth of the everlasting hilman principles? Let it think of that before it is too late.