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Propaganda War in Europe: II

By Herbert P. Gleason

Both the aims and the recipients of American propaganda in Germany and Austria differ from those in France and Italy, where the State Department is concerned primarily with selling America and American good works in competition with Communists. The problem is far more complex in the occupied countries, where the U.S. is more involved with influencing a whole way of life toward democracy. The first element in this change must be respect. America has acheived this for its material accomplishments, but our propaganda has not demonstrated the worth and vitality of democratic--and more specifically, American--culture.

Enormous sums have been appropriated for the task, and anyone working with private information outfits can only be appalled at the extravagance of the operation. The State Department supports Information Centers throughout Germany and Austria, most of which have large libraries of books on American subjects. Periodically they send out truck loads of American books for distribution to smaller towns. Picture displays on the U.S., American teachers, artists, musicians, and lecturers tour the Centers. Last summer the Walden String Quartet, the Yale Glee Club, and Town Meeting of the Air were some of the performers.

The Occupation owns radio stations, newspapers, and magazines in both countries. In Austria the "Wiener Kurier," a picture tabloid, and in Germany the respectable "Neue Zeitung" undersell the national journals. The Government also supports in Germany a Life-like bi-weekly called "Heute" and a literary monthly "Der Monat."

This public relations organization, probably the largest in the world, is called the Information Services Division (Branch in Austria). In addition to its outlets it maintains sizable staffs of photographers to catch favorable happenings such as the arrival of CARE packages or Generals shaking hands with Burgemeisters.

But in spite of the outlay, the Information program has not overcome hostility toward the Occupation or the United States. The failure represents no lack of effort or want of size. Quality of personnel and production have weakened the undertaking. Unlike the French, who from the start have spent a large portion of their Occupation budget on the transmission of French culture through intellectuals, the U.S. has been concerned chiefly with justifying its policy, good and bad; preaching much more than practicing democracy; and displaying pictorially many more sky scrapers than symphony orchestras or universities. Incidental things, such as converting the one undamaged art museum in Munich into an officers club, have not convinced Germans of American intellectual interests. In short, the undertaking has lacked sophistication, and in a society which gives enormous respect to intellectuals their scorn carries great weight. Gradually, the ISD has come to realize that there is little value in planning propaganda for Germans and Austrians in terms of an American public.

Alonzo G. Grace, who has just resigned as Director of the Division of Education and Cultural Relations in Germany, recently said, "The United States is known in Europe, at least, as the land of CARE packages and material aid, efficiency, unlimited wealth, and may I add, irrepressible and unhibited tourists. I hope to see the day when we shall send to Europe our finest artists, scholars, symphony orchestras, university shows, choirs, etc. The Yale Glee Club and the Walden String Quartet were worth a hundred public discussions on the democratic ideal and culture."

There has been far too much talking about democracy in Germany and Austria by Americans in uniform. The more perceptive Germans and Austrians realize that armies are everywhere the same, but the mass of people, failing to find a difference between a democratic and a totalitarian army, give up the puzzle altogether. Quoting Grace again, "The most effective method of establishing a society based on the democratic ideal is to abandon the use of the term as such, and, by practice and precept, lead the German people to accept this ideal."

In this sense, private organizations working for cultural exchange have had far more success, a fact recognized by both the Army and the State Department. Unavoidably, government connection puts all work of the ISD at a disadvantage from the start. But further, private organizations have generally operated more understandingly and have attracted individuals of higher prestige and greater vision. Few of the personnel in the ISD have been able to convince the Germans or the Austrians that our victory resulted as much from the vitality of a way of life as from material superiority.

Continuation of propaganda methods which boast only density of barrage will not win respect in a hostile society. Only when the ISD attracts personnel who understand what constitutes democratic behavior and who can demonstrate it themselves will America earn dividends in its biggest publicity campaign.

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