The Poison Press
One of the problems which a democracy such as ours has to contend with, but which is wholly non-existent under a totalitarian system is that of the degree of free press which should be allowed in wartime. A large amount of popular criticism of the government and its officials is a sine qua non of popular criticism of the government, and we would be denying ourselves one of the most valuable features of the American inheritance if we restricted it beyond the immediate requirement of military censorship. But during an all-out war such as this one, we must distinguish between healthy, constructive criticism, and poisonous, Axis-Inspired propaganda. We are not engaged in a local tussle with across-the-border riffraff, nor is this a Caribbean intervention inspired by dollar diplomats. It is a world war in a completely literal sense, and we are losing it. The smug politicians in Washington who confidently assure us that we will take the offensive "late in 1942 or in the spring of 1943" and that we must wait until then, fail to realize that by 1943 our cause may be hopeless. Even if it were impossible to speed up production further, which has by no means been proved, there are other ways to take the offensive than by military action.
One place where we can launch an all-out attack on the enemy right now is in the United States. Steps have already been taken to clear the West Coast of Axis aliens, and the F. B. I. Presumably has its eye on possible saboteurs and spies elsewhere. But in a potentially disastrous attempt to preserve our civil liberties while fighting against nations which grant none, we are permitting the infection of subversive publications to spread and do its damage unchecked. In yesterday's "Christian Science Monitor" Roscoe Drumond wrote a lead story exposing 95 pro-Axis publications which are carrying the Berlin-Tokyo party line to millions of Americans. Magazines, mimeographed pamphlets, and newssheets published in almost every state are doing as much damage as if Goebbels were broadcasting every day to us on national hook-up. They all say essentially the same things. Roosevelt started the war. Churchill started the war. The Jew started the war. The Communists started the war. Father Coughlin's rabble rousing "Social justice" is still permitted to accuse the United States of invading Ireland, to put the blame for the war openly on the democracies, and hint that we are being bled by international bankers to further some nefarious cause.
Bluntly and blatantly they push their virulent propaganda under the very noses of the defense workers are farm laborers. They preach defeatism, racial hatred, and Anglophobism. Some even urge that we stop fighting right away and let the Axis keep what it has won. Others attempt to whitewash Axis aggressions in China and Europe by arguing that Anglo-American Jewish imperialism made them necessary.
The German and Japanese ministries of information may no longer be able to supply the pro Fascist publishers of these poison-sheets-with appropriate material for their columns, but such outside fodder is unnecessary. All that's needed is sympathy and admiration for an absolute government, hatred and contempt for democracy, a hysterical fear of Communism, a fanatical dread of "the Jewish octopus," a passionate antipathy toward Roosevelt or the British, or any combination of these elements. A large and responsive group of readers can easily be found. Unfortunately, the "unity" of the American people, a fourth of-July catchword which means exactly nothing can be sorely disarranged by the sort of subversive literature which the F. B. I. still allows to circulate. We can blindfold our eyes and follow the example of France, which was eaten away from the inside by termites unbeknownst to everyone until the German juggernaut pushed her over like alehouse of cards. Or else we can wake up to the fact that allowing these publications to continue is a mockery of the freedom of the press, a travesty of the principle of civil liberty. "Social Justice." "The Galilean," "America in Danger," "Publicity," "Fiery Cross," and all the anti-democracy, anti-win-the-war publications should be stopped immediately by the F. B. I. This would not be a violation of the first amendment, but a necessary and constitutional measure for proper prosecution of the war.