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The Gentle Art of Propaganda

FACING EUROPE. By Frederick Bausman. The Century Company, New York. 1926. $3.00.


PROPAGANDA is defined by Professor Cornford in his "Microcosmographica Academica" as the art of completely deceiving one's friends without ever wholly deceiving one's enemies. And books which at this date canvas again and again the responsibility for the War, particularly the question of inter-allieddebts, may in most cases be justly suspect of propagandist aims, even though it be the misfortune, and not the intention of the author, if his propaganda deceives his friends rather than his enemies. Frederick Bausman purports to be the friend of the American people, as a loyal American himself. And yet if his book be believed by his friends the Americans, they risk even greater dangers abroad than those of which Mr. Bausman warns them.

There are professional historians who are at work to resift evidence of war responsibility as new documents come to light, but the most conscientious of them will admit that their conclusions are at best tentative, that no final judgment will be reached in their generation. When, therefore, a popular writer uses the professional historians like Fay for his authority and weaves a pattern from present day memoirs of war guilt to clothe the Allied Nations, it can hardly be a matter of concern to his reviewer. The material, say, from Page's letters, the House memoirs, and Grey's memoirs, will in combination land themselves to as many interpretations as there are readers. These interpretations will be based on emotion, not reason, and this is why some can call Page a traitor to his country, while others hail him as the truest representative of the best in American democracy.

But consider Mr. Bausman's thesis. The Allies engineered the war, which Germany did not seek, but rather tried to fend off, and the British by almost ingenious propaganda infected the pure American air so successfully that Wilson himself, suspicious as he was of the Allies' war aims, succumbed and led the United States to war. Mr. Bausman concludes that the delay of this action till 1917 was at least a negative blessing, as an earlier entry would have meant the triumph of Russian arms and Russian preponderance in Europe. Finally, when the Allies triumph with America's inestimable aid, they laugh at our idealism and plot to defraud us of our just debts. A propaganda of hate they spread against us on the continent. And in the future the United States must be prepared for complete debt evasion by the Allied Powers, and must dread a powerful and growing England.

Without venturing to attack Bausman's conclusions concerning warsguilt, it is sufficient to notice that his account of the entry of the United States into the war is based on the assumption that British propaganda alone accomplished it. Attention is directed more to violations of our neutrality by England than by Germany. There is no reference to German propaganda and sabotage, and no mention of the Zimmerman telegram. We appear as the dupe of the Allies.

Finally, the debt question is regarded entirely in the light of legality and morality, with scarcely a mention of economics, and as it is some of our ablest economists who are arguing for debt cancellation on purely economic grounds, Mr. Bausman's intricately woven garb of German innocence British duplicity, and American simplicity is a scant, almost indecent, covering for his main contentions.

Polemics seem the only answer for such a book, especially when Professor Barnes of Smith can label it as "trenchant, timely, and courageous." But, after all, it seems sufficient to warn its readers that here is presented only one side of an international question with very grave omissions of fact, that no valid judgment on the Great War will be pronounced until another generation, and finally that much of Mr. Bausman's argument has very little to do with the debt question, which is even more an economic subject than a legal one, but very much to do with fear and dislike of England. When an author can confidently anticipate the verdict of history in conferring upon four such dissimilar figrues as Hearst, Reed, Borah, and Coolidge, the rank of "statesmen," one may well pause to consider the weight of his judgment upon nations.

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