Imágenes de páginas

clusively from English sources. Moreover, those newspapers which in the United States play a very important part, inasmuch as they are the fount of most of the new ideas by which the tone of the Press in influenced, were in a very considerable degree served from England. On the other hand, the wide field of cinematographic production was strongly influenced by the French film. In this way our enemies in the United States had, at the outbreak of war, a boundless and excellently prepared field for the propagation of their news, and the representation of their point of view, but more particularly for their attack on the German cause. In spite of this, however, they immediately inundated the Union with propagandist literature, particularly through the agents of the English shipping lines, who were scattered all over the country, and the well-known author and politician, Sir Gilbert Parker, sent from London tons of this matter to well-known American business men, professors and politicians.

On our side, it is true, and I should like to emphasize this to their credit, that on the outbreak of war the German-American newspapers took up our cause unhesitatingly and as one man. Further, they have, until America's entry into the war, honestly striven to win full justice for the American point of view, and to combat the unneutral leanings of the majority of the Americans and the slanderous attacks of our enemies. As, however, they are not accessible to the general public, who do not know German, and in particular scarcely ever come into the hands of the authoritative American political circles, their support remained more or less academic. Very valuable services were rendered to the German cause by the already-mentioned weekly paper Fatherland, which was printed in English; in view, however, of its reputation as a partisan journal, it naturally

could not exert so deep an influence as the local daily papers, which carried on the English propaganda without allowing it to become too conspicuous. For telegraphic communication from Germany to America we had to rely solely on the two German wireless stations at Sayville and Tuckerton, erected shortly before the outbreak of war, and we soon succeeded, subject to American censorship, in getting a regular Press-service, which was spread, not only over the whole of the United States, but was also passed on to South America and East Asia. But in the first place, in spite of repeated extension and strengthening, these two stations were quite inadequate; in the second place, the Press-service never succeeded in adapting itself thoroughly to American requirements. The same may be said of most of the German propaganda literature which reached America in fairly large quantities since the third month of the war, partly in German and partly in not always irreproachable English. This, like the Press telegrams, showed a complete lack of understanding of American national psychology. The American character, I should like to repeat here, is by no means so dry and calculating as the German picture of an American business man usually represents. The outstanding characteristic of the average American is rather a great, even though superficial, sentimentality. There is no news for which a way cannot be guaranteed through the whole country, if clothed in a sentimental form. Our enemies have exploited this circumstance with the greatest refinement in the case of the German invasion of "poor little Belgium," the shooting of the "heroic nurse," Edith Cavell, and other incidents. Those who had charge of the Berlin propaganda, on the other hand, made very little of such occurrences on the enemy side, e.g., the violation. of Greece, the bombing of the Corpus Christi procession

in Karlsruhe, etc. One thing that would have exerted a tremendous influence in America, if its publicity had been handled with only average skill, was the sufferings of our children, women and old people as a result of the British hunger blockade-that they have made no attempt to bring to the notice of the world.

On the other hand they put themselves to the greatest possible trouble to lay "The Truth About the War" before American public opinion. This, however, fell on unfavorable ground, for the American does not care to be instructed. He had no interest in learning the "truth" which the German Press communications and explanatory pamphlets were so anxious to impress upon him. The American likes to form his own opinions and so only requires facts. The possibility of exerting influence therefore lies rather in the choice of the facts and the way in which they are presented, than in logical and convincing argument. It is all the easier to influence him by the well-timed transmission of skilfully disposed facts, since his usually very limited general knowledge and his complete ignorance of European affairs deprive him of the simplest premises for a critical judgment of the facts presented to him from the enemy side. It is quite incredible what the American public will swallow in the way of lies if they are only repeated often enough and properly served up. It all turns on which side gets the news in first; for the first impression sticks. Corrections are generally vain, especially as they appear as a rule in small print and in inconspicuous places. When, for example, the American Press got the first news of the "destruction" of Rheims cathedral from London and in the English version, no German correction, however well-founded, would succeed in removing the first impression.

Particularly ineffective in their influence on American

public opinion-as may be said here in anticipationhave been the majority of our official Notes. In view of the subsequent ever-increasing interruption of the news service from Germany, they were the last and only means by which the German standpoint could be brought before the American people. Their effectiveness depended entirely on the impression that they made on American public opinion and not on the Washington Government; yet they were nearly always drawn up in Berlin in the form of juristic précis, propagandist but quite futile.

All these factors must be taken into consideration in attempting to estimate the success of our propaganda in the United States. They show that on the one hand the prevailing conditions of American public opinion were extraordinarily unfavorable to our propaganda, and that the support it received from home, with a few exceptions, was misguided.

Dr. Dernburg, then, had not a chance during the eight months of his activity in America of transforming her into a pro-German country, and it is certain that no one else could have done it in his place. But he succeeded to a great extent, and within a comparatively short time, in more or less crippling the enemy propaganda, and at least in gradually rendering ineffective the grossest misrepresentations of our enemies. By his own writings and other methods of spreading the truth, and particularly by the numerous brochures and books, which at his suggestion were written by American supporters of the German cause and distributed in thousands directly or indirectly by the Press Bureau with the help of a skilfully compiled address-book, he succeeded in exerting very considerable influence. By keeping in touch with American journalists and other influential persons he did much good work, particularly in the first months

of the war. His connection with Irish leaders laid the foundation for a co-operation which in the following year was of great importance to our position in the United States, and which, with a somewhat more intelligent backing by our Government departments at home, might have been more fruitful still.

One branch of our propaganda which was also initiated under Dr. Dernburg, but was chiefly developed after his departure, was the moving-picture propaganda, for which a very efficient company was floated by Privy Councillor Albert. At first it was intended to be an agency for the circulation of films from Germany. As, however, suitable material for the American market could not be obtained there, the "American Correspondent Film Co." decided to send its own agents to Germany and Austria with a view to making suitable films for their purpose. In this way several important filmdramas were produced which have had great success in hundreds of American cinemas. In spite of this the company had finally to be liquidated, chiefly owing to lack of support from the military authorities at home.

With the sinking of the Lusitania our propaganda of enlightenment in the United States substantially came to an end. Henceforward the principal aim of its activity, which, after Dr. Dernburg's departure, came under the direction of Privy Councillor Albert, was to keep the United States out of the war. Side by side with this, an attempt was made to influence public feeling against the export of arms and ammunition and against the Anglo-French loan, and to demonstrate the increasingly prejudiced effect wrought by England on American economic interests. In November, 1915, I urged, as I cabled at the time to Chancellor BethmannHollweg, the complete suppression of propaganda. The Press Bureau in New York continued under the direction

« AnteriorContinuar »