The Spectator at war

The Spectator at war: A well-behaved press

15 August 2014

‘War and the press’, from The Spectator, 15 August 1914:

When Mr Churchill paid a high compliment in the House of Commons to the British newspapers he said no more than was deserved. The newspapers are now under control by law, and we need not specially praise them for a reticence and a public spirit which are exacted of them. At the same time, there has obviously been no attempt whatever by them to dodge the letter of the law, or to give themselves the benefit of the doubt in ambiguous circumstances – a benefit which might aid a newspaper greatly in competition with its rivals. The chief merit of the newspapers, however, was their conduct during what Mr. Churchill called the precautionary period, before war was declared. Then there was no fear of statutory penalties, yet the entire Press voluntarily observed a silence that was one of the most remarkable things we can remember. If we had not experienced it, we could have not believed that such secretiveness in a country like ours – which multiplies the hundreds tongues of rumour – would have been possible. We heard much of Japanese reticence during the Russo-Japanese War, but it is not now seen to have been more remarkable than our own. The words “Expeditionary Force” ceased to exist for every British newspaper.


What is the explanation of the faithful service which the newspapers have rendered to their country? It is simply that at last Ministers have been sensible enough to take the Press into their confidence, tell editors what was being done, and ask them to mention no subject on which publicity which injure the plans of the War Office and the Admiralty. The result was a complete success we have witnessed. If any member of the Government was more responsible than another for this piece of great practical wisdom, it was, we believe, Mr. Winston Churchill. He was himself a special correspondent in South African War, and consequently formed an opinion of the essential decency of editors which seems to have been beyond the grasp of his predecessors. When one comes to think of it, it is strange that the situation should have been misread for so many years. One would think that it would have been patent to anyone who took the trouble to examine the facts that even the less reputable newspapers commit errors, not because they want to be unpatriotic, but because the temptation to outrun their rivals in the race for news is too strong for them. It is absurd to suppose that papers which print leading articles in and out of season imploring the Government of the day to strengthen the Navy, or increase the Army, or rearm the Artillery, are really unpatriotic at heart. Yet there has been a long succession of Ministers, Admirals and Generals who seem to think, not only that this supposition might fairly be made, but that it might advantageously be acted upon. The fact is that the two motives that inspire the conduct of a newspaper – the desire to serve the country, and the commercial desire to serve itself – are in continual conflict. Fossilized administrators at the Admiralty and the War Office have in the past recognized the latter desire, but overlooked the first.  Yet all the time, as we have ventured to point out before now, it was quite easy to conserve the first and cure the second by the simple device of trusting newspapers and putting them on their honour. Tell a self-respecting man a secret and accept his pledge not to repeat it, and he would feel disgraced forever if it appeared in his newspaper. That is only human nature. The whole dangerous area – the area of injurious competition among newspapers in telling war secrets – can be ruled out by pledging all the proprietors and editors simultaneously. The only point ever in doubt was whether the editors and proprietors would be willing to be appealed to or pledge for the precautionary period. That doubt disposed of, the success of the plan was certain. Delane used to say, indeed, that one of the things he chiefly dreaded was that people might tell him political secrets. When he was weak enough to listen to secrets he was instantly muzzled. He could make no use of it. “Yet,” as he said, “I probably should have heard it in any case without any obligations of secrecy.” One is inclined to doubt now whether soldiers, sailors, or politicians in high positions in the past who did not recognize that the Press, as an enormous existing power for good or ill, or to be used in the right way (lest it should itself decide to behave in the wrong way) were fit to guide their country through a great crisis. The knowledge of human nature was insufficient. We may be thankful that the times have changed, and that such persons are not now in control. The Press have been given its opportunity of self-suppression, and have used it nobly.

In what we have written we have not left out of mind the dangers of a too intimate relation between any public Service and the Press. We all know and despise the “advertising” officer, and we have all heard of that sort of official who feeds the journalist with valuable information on the understanding that the journalist shall crack up his patron’s theories in the Press. The process is scarcely distinguishable from blackmail. Now there is a Press Bureau in full blast, and though we think it has a useful and steadying influence at present – nothing could be more sober and well balanced than these journalistic productions of Mr. F. E. Smith – we trust it will never be allowed to become a precedent for any attempts on the part of a Government to confuse opinions and facts. It is all too easy for the Government to make use of such an institution as a Press Bureau if it wants to gain currency and popularity for certain ideas. In Germany the “official” Press and the continuance of the Bismarckian method of using the Press are, we can say without exaggeration, one of the chief supports of the vile diplomacy which has involved Europe in war. The Times informed its readers on Wednesday of a curious German manoeuvre which proves Bismarck’s methods to be as much alive as ever. It received from a German in close relations with the Emperor a letter expressing a profound surprise and pain at the thought that Englishmen should believe the Emperor capable of disturbing the peace of Europe. This letter was timed to be published on the day (August 3rd) on which Sir Edward Grey made his memorable statement in the House of Commons. The editor of the Times, finding that the assertions in the letter were at complete variance with what he knew to be the truth, decided not to publish it. On the night of August 3rd the Times received, by a pure accident, from the well-known German Official Press Agency (the Wolff Bureau) a telegram which was intended for an agent of that Bureau in London. The telegram informed the agent that the Times would be publishing a letter from a well-known German public man and instructed him to telegraph it word for word back to Germany. The author of the letter had evidently informed the Official Agency of what he had done, or the German Government had themselves prompted the letter. If it had been telegraphed back to Germany, it would have had the authority of having been printed in the Times, and would seem to Germans to have something of the value of independent evidence.

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  • Dean Jackson

    In one of the many senseless campaigns fought on the Western Front, the Cambrai campaign (20 November 1917 – 7 December 1917) witnessed more than 44,000 casualties, including 7,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South Africa dying for zero ground claimed. That 44,000 casualty figure should have been used instead for the more critical campaign against the Bolsheviks in Petrograd, resulting in the re-entry of Russia into the war, thereby sparing the exhausted Allies the prospect of facing (1) thirty German divisions previously deployed against Russia on the Eastern Front; (2) Austro-Hungarian divisions freed from the Russian Western Front; and (3) Ottoman divisions freed from the Caucasus Campaign. In fact, a 60,000 strong Allied military unit was already in Russia (the Ukraine) at the time–the Czechoslovak Legion–and could have been used to overthrow the Bolsheviks if the Allied powers so wished. Instead, the Czechoslovak Legion was sent on a 6,000 mile odyssey across Russia, its destination Vladivostok on the Pacific coast for passage back to Europe and the war, instead of sending the legion 700 miles due north to Petrograd and collapse the Bolshevik coup. The politicians of the West were doing all they could to (1) protect the fledgling Bolshevik regime in Petrograd; while (2) sabotaging every opportunity to immediately get Russia back into the war before the Bolshevik position had strengthened throughout Russia. Only when the position of the Bolsheviks was relatively secure would the Allied powers mount campaigns to supposedly overthrow the Bolsheviks (North Russia Intervention and Siberian Intervention), campaigns that were sure to fail due to the lackluster number of soldiers assigned to both missions (though the Japanese contingent of 70,000 soldiers deployed to the the Siberian Intervention is a minimum number one would expect from the combined American, British and French contingent, whose actual total complement registered an anemic 10,250 soldiers up against 600,000 Bolsheviks) and the remote locations for the soldiers’ landings–Archangel (British, French, Italian and American), Murmansk (British, French, Italian and American) and Vladivostok (American, British, French, Canadian, Italian, Polish, Chinese and Japanese)–far from the Bolshevik’s Command and Control center located in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), where too the Bolshevik’s leadership (Central Committee) is located.

    The following is a discovery I made in May regarding the fake collapse of the USSR, and what that fraudulent collapse proves about the institutions of the West…

    When Soviet citizens were liberated from up to 74 years of horrific Marxist oppression on December 26, 1991 there were ZERO celebrations throughout the USSR, proving (1) the ‘collapse’ of the USSR was a strategic ruse; and (2) the political parties of the West were already co-opted by Marxists,* otherwise the USSR (and East Bloc nations) couldn’t have gotten away with the ruse.

    ZERO celebrations, as the The Atlantic article inadvertently informs us…

    For more on this discovery see my blog…


    The West will form new political parties where candidates are vetted for Marxist ideology, the use of the polygraph to be an important tool for such vetting. Then the West can finally liberate the globe of vanguard Communism.


    * The failed socialist inspired and controlled pan-European revolutions that swept the continent in 1848(1) thought Marxists and socialists a powerful lesson, that lesson being they couldn’t win overtly,(2) so they adopted the tactic of infiltration of the West’s political parties/institutions. In the case of the United States…(continue reading at DNotice)…

    Now you know why not one political party in the West requested verification of the collapse of the USSR, and the media failed to alert your attention to this fact, including the “alternative” media. When determining whether the “former” USSR is complying with arms control treaties, what does the United States do to confirm compliance? Right, the United States sends into the “former” USSR investigative teams to VERIFY compliance, yet when it’s the fate of the West that’s at stake should the collapse of the USSR be a ruse, what does the United States do to confirm the collapse? Nothing!

    The fraudulent ‘collapse’ of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Marxists, which explains why verification of the ‘collapse’ was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”.

    It gets worse–the “freed” Soviets and West also never (1) de-Communized the Soviet Armed Forces of its Communist Party officer corps, which was 90% officered by Communist Party members; and (2) arrested/de-mobilized the 6-million vigilantes that assisted the Soviet Union’s Ministry of the Interior and police control the populations of the larger cities during the period of “Perestroika” (1986-1991)!

    There can be no collapse of the USSR (or East Bloc nations) without…

    Verification, De-Communization and De-mobilization.

    The West never verified the collapse of the USSR because no collapse occurred, since if a real collapse had occurred the West would have verified it, since the survival of the West depends on verification. Conversely, this proves that the political parties of the West were co-opted by Marxists long before the fraudulent collapse of the USSR, since the survival of the West depends on verification.

    The above means that the so-called “War on Terror” is an operation being carried out by the Marxist co-opted governments of the West in alliance with the USSR and other Communist nations, the purpose being to (1) destroy the prominence of the West in the eyes of the world, where the West is seen (i) invading nations without cause; (ii) causing chaos around the globe; and (iii) killing over one-million civilians and boasting of torture; (2) close off non-Russian supplies of oil for export, thereby increasing the price of oil, the higher price allowing oil exporting Russia to maintain economic stability while she modernizes and increases her military forces; (3) destroy the United States Armed Forces via the never-ending “War on Terror”; the ultimate purpose of the aforementioned to (4) bring about the demise of the United States in the world, opening up a political void to be filled by a new pan-national entity composed of Europe and Russia (replacing the European Union), a union “From the Atlantic to Vladivostok”; which will (5) see the end of NATO.

    Now you know how Bolshevik Russia survived in 1917; how the West “lost” China to the Communists in 1949; why the Eisenhower administration turned a deaf ear to the anti-Communist Hungarian uprising in 1956; why the Eisenhower administration in 1959 was indifferent to the Castro brothers’ Communist fidelity, actually used the CIA to overthrow the Batista government; why the Nixon administration abandoned Taiwan for Communist China, and signed treaties/provided economic aid to the USSR; why the Nixon administration refused to tell the American People that over 50% of North Vietnamese NVA regiments were actually Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers (attired in NVA uniforms, and proving that the Sino/Soviet Split was a ruse, as KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn told the West back in 1962), thereby (1) ensuring the Vietnam War would be lost; (2) destroying the prominence of the United States abroad and at home; (3) breeding distrust between the American people and their government; and (4) securing Communist victories in Southeast Asia. Working in the background within the political parties of the United States and Great Britain were Marxist agents doing their best to (1) ensure the survival of Communist nations when they popped up; and (2) sabotage any policies that would bring down a Communist nation. That’s why after the fake collapses of the East Bloc nations and USSR there was no mandatory Western verification process to ensure the Communists weren’t still in control.

  • trace9

    This would be a good read for anyone who perused the Telegraph’s Countdown to WW1!

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