Roosevelt Myth - John T. Flynn

The Thought Police

1. OWI—Office of War Information

If there is one department of human struggle which the radical revolutionist understands and loves it is the war that is waged on the mass mind; the war that is carried on with poisons distilled in the mind to produce bias and hatred. It would be strange indeed if we did not find some of the practitioners of this dark art from New York and some of the off-scourings of Europe's battered revolutionary emigres numerously entrenched in that thoroughly un-American institution during the war which was known as the OWI—the Office of War Information.

It began with a thing called the Office of Facts and Figures. At the head of this Roosevelt put one of his dainty intellectual pets, Archibald MacLeish. MacLeish was the scion of a wealthy American family who in 1923 decided he would give his life to poetry and so "chucked it all," took his wife and children and went to France. He remained there until 1930 where he worked upon the ornate edges of journalism and wrote poetry. Here is a sample from what he considers his best poem—"America Was Promises":

"Who is the voyager on these coasts?

Who is the traveler in these waters

Expects the future as a shore; foresees

Like Indies to the west the ending—he

The rumor of the surf intends."

A man who writes poetry like that inevitably becomes a New Dealer, if not worse. In 1939 Roosevelt made him Librarian of Congress, where he proceeded to use the facilities of the Library for New Deal propaganda. In 1941 the Library "loaned" MacLeish back to the President to head the Office of Facts and Figures. He brought together a drove of writers and journalists whose souls were enlisted in the great crusade to bring on the Brave New World of the Future. It was in fact an agency for selling Roosevelt's Third New Deal and Roosevelt himself to the people under the guise of "maintaining public morale" and conducting "psychological warfare." It was costing $600,000 a year and managed to keep itself in hot water as it stumbled from blunder to blunder until it became a national nuisance and Roosevelt was forced to end it. He created as its successor the Office of War Information with Elmer Davis at its head. In the next two years, OWI spent $68,000,000 and had 5,561 agents scattered all over the world. In the First World War, George Creel had done the job—and an excellent one at that—with a staff of 500 and an appropriation of $2,500,000 a year.

One job of OWI was to sell America to various foreign peoples. Among its first adventures in this field was selling us to the people of North Africa. Its agents dropped things from planes on the North Africans, the purpose being to make those simple people love us. Among the winged messages of good will were a cake of soap inscribed "From your Friends, the Americans," a children's coloring book, a rubber stamp with ink pad attached, a picture book called "The Life of Franklin D. Roosevelt," a small package of seeds. The prize package was a pin button. On one side was an American flag. On the other side was a picture of Roosevelt—but not the Nordic FDR we knew. The picture was colored to make him look like an Arab. All this junk rained down in countless thousands on North Africa. Picking up the soap, the rubber stamp, the Life of Roosevelt and the pin with the Arabian Roosevelt, Arabs, Berbers and Senegelese were expected to take a wholly different view of war politics.

But OWI had other tasks than selling America to the Arabs. It was also busy selling Russia to the Americans. The chief of the Foreign Language Section of OWI was a young gentleman 28 years old who had spent his entire life on New York's East Side, who spoke no foreign language and yet had the decision on whether news should be released to Europe or not. Anybody who disagreed with his high admiration for our Soviet ally was labeled a fascist.

There was another child wonder—23 years old—who was the Russian expert of the OWI and who saw to it that nothing went out that was displeasing to the objectives of our noble ally—including grabbing Yugoslavia. OWI's broadcasts to Poland ended not with the Polish national anthem but with a song adopted by the Polish emigres in Moscow who were known as Stalin's "Committee of Liberation." The expert in charge of the Polish section was actually born in Poland, but left there and spent the rest of his life in France where he was notorious as a Communist. He fraternized with the Vichy government while Hitler and Stalin were pals, but when Hitler invaded Russia he came to America and quickly became OWI's expert in explaining American democracy to the people of Poland.

The deputy director of the Pacific and Far Eastern Area was a British subject until he got a government job in Washington in 1942. While running this important bureau for OWI, he wrote a play which was produced at Hunter College. Burton Rascoe, reviewing it, said: "Its most conspicuous purpose is to idealize the Red Army in China, to defame the Chungking government under Chiang Kai-shek and to ridicule the political, social and educational ideas of the vast majority of the American people."

The OWI made blunder after blunder, many of them very costly. While our State and War Departments were trying to get defeated Italy out of the war, OWI beamed a broadcast to Italy smearing Badoglio and calling King Victor Emmanuel the "moronic little king." The State Department was indignant. Roosevelt had to administer a public reprimand to Elmer Davis.

The men, material, cable and wireless time used up by OWI were immense. It ran 350 daily radio programs and had a daily cable-wireless output of 100,000 words. It was the world's largest pamphlet and magazine publisher and a big movie producer, sending shorts to every country in the world. It sent out 3,500 transcribed recordings a month and turned out 50 movie shorts a year.

The content of most of this material was pure drivel. An American reporter made a study of the stuff sent to Australia. It was so voluminous that on a single day it tied up the army's signals for four hours at MacArthur's headquarters in the Pacific. In one day, for instance, it sent 37 separate items. One was a 625-word summary of a magazine article on "Three Conceptions of Modern Civilization," another on the meaning of the words "left" and "right" in American politics, another from a magazine article on "How to Obtain Lasting Peace," another about the opening of the New York City Symphony concerts. These were all sent to MacArthur's headquarters, then mimeographed and sent to 70 daily newspapers and about 400 weeklies in Australia. A check with the larger dailies showed that not a line of this stuff was used. Paper was too scarce to carry such flimsy padding.

All of this work was not just naive. OWI printed 2,500,000 pamphlets called "The Negro in the War," with pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt, the Negroes' friends, in preparation for the fourth-term campaign. It printed a handsome volume called "Handbook of the United States" and gave a British firm the right to publish it. This gave a history of America, with the story from Leif Ericson's discovery up to 1932 in four and one-half pages. The rest of the history was devoted to Roosevelt and his New Deal. This was in 1944 and a national election was coming and England was jammed with American soldiers who could vote.

It had a department that supplied the pulp paper magazines with directions and suggestions on how to slant mystery and love stories. Western story writers were told how to emphasize the heroism of our allies—you know which one. Writers were told to cast their soap operas with silent, dogged Britons, faithful Chinese and honest Latins. They must portray Japanese as having set out to seize our Western seaboard and the sly and treacherous characteristics of the Jap must be contrasted with the faithfulness of the Chinese. They suggested that Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu be turned into a Jap instead of a Chinese.

They supplied plots to the pulps. What was at the bottom of this one I do not know, but it is a sample:

"A seduced girl throws herself into some type of work, say physiotherapy, to forget. Working side by side with a crippled doctor, she learns to love him. After crisis in their task which she helps him meet, she discovers that although he knows all about her past, he loves her. Clinch and fade-out."

Actually, we had in this incredible institution a mixture of inconsequential nonsense, New Deal politics and Communist infiltration. Of course, Elmer Davis, Gardner Cowles and Robert Sherwood were not Communists. I do not know quite how much they were even New Dealers. Elmer Davis, at least, gave up a very profitable radio contract to work at one-fourth the pay, which could be said of few of his collaborators who were making more money than they had ever known in their lives, besides escaping military service. But as America moved toward the war there blossomed the most fantastic comradeship between flaming Red revolutionaries, foggy-eyed New Dealers and deep purple conservatives. The war brought them together in an incongruous brotherhood. They were united in the drive for American entry into the war, but for a variety of different and contradictory reasons.

But among these hostile elements the one group that was not foggy was the Communist group. Of them at least we can say they knew what they wanted. The mere New Dealers, as that term came to be understood, comprised those wandering, vague dreamers who held to a shadowy conviction that somehow the safety of humankind depended upon the creation of some sort of ill-defined but benevolent state that would end poverty, give everybody a job and an easy old age, and who supposed that this could be done because they had discovered that money grew in government buildings. The others were largely devoted lovers of or worshipers at the ancient altars of Anglo-Saxon world hegemony. But they could all unite in a weird conventicle—Anglo-Saxon imperialists, groping New Dealers and dogmatic Red bigots—under banners like those of the OWI, the OPA and the BEW. And here and there was a fellow acutely conscious of the German blood in his veins and eager to purge himself of the stain.

2. FCC—Federal Communications Commission

When the war began the government, recognizing the need for protecting our military operations from leaks through careless or uninformed press reporting, organized the Office of Censorship headed by Byron Price, an able official of the Associated Press. To this bureau was given the power to monitor all communications. It set up a censorship organization which all publishers and broadcasters voluntarily cooperated with. It worked admirably and Mr. Price won the unstinted approval of the press for his capable and tactful, yet firm, handling of this difficult problem. No other government agency had any authority whatever to engage in this activity. And it was never intended that anybody should have the power to attempt to interfere with the rights of citizens to discuss with freedom all political questions, subject only to the obligation not to divulge information that would aid the enemy or defeat our military operations.

Nevertheless, the OWI and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took upon themselves the power to carry on the most extensive propaganda among and the most dangerous interference with the foreign-language broadcasting stations. Of course the ordinary American official was hardly aware of the opportunities this kind of thing gave to those who had political or ideological axes to grind.

The FCC set up a bureau which it called the War Problems Division. There were probably 125 or more radio broadcasting stations which specialized in foreign-language programs to our foreign-born populations. They reached many millions of people. Of course, a war in Europe immediately creates very serious and delicate repercussions among those people here whose homelands are involved. Their position is generally very uncomfortable and often painful. The radio stations are bound to notice the war and the problems of the war here. It was important, of course, that these stations be closely watched to see that nothing subversive and nothing that would adversely affect the war effort was used. And for this purpose the Office of Censorship was admirably equipped and managed. But the FCC decided that it would take a hand, not merely in monitoring the stations but in literally directing and controlling them. The OWI similarly arrived at the same conclusion. It also set up a division for dealing with the problems of the foreign-born through radio.

The FCC's War Problems Division operated throughout the country but we will understand what they were doing if we limit the story to just a few stations. The Division took over control of the Commission office in New York, putting a young lawyer with very little experience in charge. This office, in collaboration with a bureau of the OWI, proceeded to go to work upon the New York stations. The OWI was represented by a gentleman named Lee Falk.

One of these stations in the metropolitan district was WHOM. It was owned by a gentleman obviously of complete loyalty and devotion to this country and its principles. Nevertheless the FCC and OWI guardians of "democracy" swarmed over his station. A broadcasting station operates under the direction and observation of a certain type of staff. There is a station manager, a program director, a censor, a monitor, announcers and commentators. If you can get control of most or all of these you are sitting pretty so far as controlling the content of the broadcasts is concerned.

Into this station, as program director, was introduced Mr. Giuseppe Lupis. Mr. Lupis first entered the United States in 1926 but left and did not return as a resident until 1937. He went to work for the OWI in 1942. He established a monthly magazine called Il Mondo for circulation among Italians. He made Mr. Carlo a Prato its editor. Mr. a Prato's first point of operation before coming here was Switzerland. He was put out of Switzerland for life because he was accused of being an agent of Maxim Litvinov. He got out of Marseilles on a Czech passport under the name of Milan Javota and arrived here in 1941. He quickly found himself editing an Italian propaganda paper and with a job in the OWI as chief Italian script writer.

How did these people get employment in the OWI and FCC so swiftly? There was a private organization called Short Wave Research, Inc. Its purpose was to corral refugees as they arrived and get them employment with the OWI and FCC. It was a non-profit organization, but that it did a large business in this traffic is evident from the fact that when it was liquidated it had $15,000 or $20,000 cash in its treasury, all made from charging fees of 10 percent to all aliens placed in these government agencies. The money was divided up among various war charities when it closed down. Lupis worked as a script writer for Short Wave Research for a while.

One Italian whose trade was bricklayer was hired as censor and monitor. Another Italian walked into the station five weeks after he got here without letters of recommendation and became a censor and at Christmas and Easter imposed his own peculiar notions in censoring religious programs.

While infiltrating the stations with these recently arrived refugees, others who did not meet the specifications of the guardians of our liberties were forced out. In one case an announcer named Stefano Luotto, an American citizen of good standing and unimpeachable loyalty, was forced off the station. He was charged with being a fascist by that singular process by which one who was anti-Communist was also a pro-fascist because he was against an antifascist Communist. Lupis urged his dismissal and a little Italian paper, La Parola, edited by a fellow named Valenti, peddled the smear. Luotto had Valenti arrested for criminal libel and after a long struggle the FCC had to admit there was not a scintilla of evidence against Luotto. This case was only one of a brace of instances which amounted to outright persecution.

Mr. Eugene L. Garey, chief counsel of the Congressional Select Committee Investigating the FCC, speaking of these conditions, said:

"From the record thus far made it appears that, in one foreign language broadcasting station in New York City, the program director, the announcer, the script writer, the censor, and the monitor of the Italian-language programs are all aliens or persons owing their positions to the Office of War Information, with the approval of the FCC.

"The situation thus portrayed is not peculiar to this single station, or to this one city. Information in our possession indicates that the same situation prevails generally in the foreign language stations throughout the country. Every such key position in each of the three radio stations presently under investigation are found to be similarly staffed. These staffs select the news, edit the script, and announce the program. The program, in turn, is censored by them, monitored by them, and is presented under the direction of a program director of similar character.

"From these apparently unrelated facts the picture must be further developed.

"OWI had the men and the material. It had the proper dye to color the news. It also had the desire to select and censor the news. What it lacked was the power, or perhaps more accurately stated, even the color of power, to carry their designs into effect. Hence the need to enlist the Federal Communications Commission in its purpose.

"True it is that the Federal Communications Commission had no such lawful power, but the Federal Communications Commission did have the power to license and hence the power to compel obedience to its directions. The record now shows their unlawful use of this power.

"Working together in a common purpose, the Federal Communications Commission and the Office of War Information have accomplished a result that compels pause—and presents the solemn question of Whither are we going?

"A division called the War Problems Division was created by the Federal Communications Commission, and a staff of attorneys began to function.

"This division was not a regulatory body. It was not formed to instruct, or supervise, or to correct. It was formed for the avowed purpose of unlawfully liquidating all of the radio personnel in the foreign-language field that did not meet with its favor. A real gestapo was created and a lawless enterprise was launched.

"It is suggested that we accept this unlawful situation as a benevolent expedient of the moment, but no such purpose as we find here disclosed, however benevolently cloaked, can justify the practices we find. All tyranny begins under the guise of benevolence.

"In a time of war we are asked to place trust in lately arrived aliens whose sole claim to trustworthiness is the assumption that because they have been unfaithful to past vows they will be faithful to their new ones.

"The voices of these aliens go into our homes, and the unwary are led to believe that they speak with authority and official approval. They even censor our Christmas and Easter religious programs, and tell us what music we may hear. The FCC is alarmed about whether we will react properly to news furnished by our national news agencies. Apparently we can still read the news in our press, but we can only hear what these aliens permit us to. What next medium of communication will receive the benevolent attention of these misguided zealots? Obviously, the press.

"These interpreters of our national policy—these slanters of our news—these destroyers of free speech—are alien in birth, alien in education, alien in training and in thought.

"And still these are the people who are permitted to mold our thoughts—to tell us what America's war aims and purposes are. These people are in position to color, to delete, or to slant, as they see fit, in accordance with their own peculiar alien views and ideologies.

"Persons are being accused of being pro-fascist, and that without proof and without trial. Persons suspected of being pro-fascist, and without proof, have been removed from the air and replaced by wearers of the Black Shirt. . . .

"If the radio can thus be controlled in August, 1943, there is nothing to prevent the same control from slanting our political news and nothing to prevent the coloring of our war aims and purposes when peace comes."

These lawless snoopers queried station staff members about their religious views and in one case wanted to know where they thought the Polish-Russian border should be fixed. Falk took the position that station owners should not do business with certain advertising agencies which he named. He carried a blacklist and attempted to enforce it. They investigated anybody and everybody connected with the stations and, of course, inevitably went to various smear organizations to traduce and destroy loyal Americans who did not suit their purposes.

In the presence of a government which had enlarged its power over the lives and the thoughts and opinions of citizens and which did not hesitate to use that power, the whole citizenry was intimidated. Editors, writers, commentators were intimidated. Men whose opinions did not conform to the reigning philosophy were driven from the air, from magazines and newspapers. While American citizens who were moved by a deep and unselfish devotion to the ideals of this Republic—however wrong-headed that may be in the light of the new modes of "freedom"—were forced into silence, the most blatant and disruptive revolutionary lovers of the systems of both fascism and Communism and that illegitimate offspring of both—Red fascism—were lording it over our minds.

All this was possible for one reason and one reason only—because the President of the United States countenanced these things, encouraged them and in many cases sponsored them, not because he was a Communist or fascist or held definitely to any political system, but because at the moment they contributed to his own ambitions.