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It is at a particularly appropriate time that President Conant has set forth at some length his opinions on the subject of propaganda. If ever there were an educational mission for Harvard it is in teaching her sons not to believe everything that everybody tells them. Today the nation is beset on all sides by people and interests of every shade and color, bent on selling them something--be it an idea for the economic salvation of the nation or a simple old-fashioned gold brick. The appeal to people's emotions is often so subtly made that decisions of momentous importance to the nation are governed by whim and whimsy, simply because clever propaganda deprives people of their power to reason and think.
One of the most deplorable evidences of the surrender to the methods of propaganda is the apathy with which the country greeted Senator Minton's proposal to restrict the freedom of newspapers to print what they regard as news. Fortunately the rest of the Senate took the Minton bill as a mere publicity stunt. But the able successor to Justice Black as inquisitor-general for the New Deal has followed up his censorship bill with a request for funds with which to investigate the owners of three prominent papers in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, simply because they have refused to Knuckle under to the Administration.
The implication is clear enough. Harvard men, if they are to take their place as leaders of the community of tomorrow, must be as able to size up the propaganda of newspapers, the propaganda put out by governments, and that put out by every sort of biased salesman. Governments will probably be more of a problem in the future, for the power of private publishers, wealthy though some of them are, is as nothing compared to the blasting force of the government, especially when the seats of power are held by men like Minton and Hague and Black, men whose ideas of government point to a Nazi form of state. In the complexity of modern life it is hard to winnow the chaff from the whet, and it is an important function for Harvard to teach her sons the art of thinking for themselves.
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