AMERICAN isolationists, long in the saddle, are fighting to stave off the disaster, as they see it, of a swing in American public opinion back from the direction it began following in 1919. True, they won a major victory in preventing revision of the Neutrality Act at the last session of Congress. But on every hand they see evidences of a deep tide of American sympathy for the democracies and against the totalitarian Powers -- a tide which might lead us to give moral and material support to the democracies, engaged in a life and death struggle, or even to our eventually becoming their partners.
The isolationists attribute this reversal of public opinion to "insidious propaganda." Scarcely a day has passed in recent years without a solemn warning from some senator, congressman, editor or business leader against that propaganda. It is alleged to have been devised abroad and fostered here by disloyal or merely credulous American "internationalists" in order to enlist the American people in another "crusade" -- ostensibly to make the world safe for democracy but actually to pull British, French, Chinese, and various other chestnuts out of the fire.
Of course, the British, French, Chinese and others have wanted our support and have been doing their best to win it. Unquestionably they have used propaganda to persuade us to understand and sympathize with their point of view. Let us take the fact into full account. But it is only part of the picture. In order to understand fully what really is going on we must also have an accurate understanding of the nature and extent of the propaganda in favor of isolation. With a clear idea of the propagandist forces at work on both sides the ordinary citizen will have a better chance of discounting any improper influences of either and of making up his own mind on the merits of all the issues at stake.
First of all, exactly what is propaganda? The word means different things to different
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