. ' » 480 A PROPAGANDIST "VOLTE FACE* cause possessed therein the greatest power that one could possibly imagine. Wherever it may be, this fetish of the liberty of the press constitutes a mortal danger par excellence. Moreover, what is called the liberty of the press does not in the least mean that the press is free, but simply that certain potentates are at liberty to direct it as they wish, in support of their particular interests and, if need be, in opposition to the interests of the State. It is not easy, at the beginning, to explain all this to the journalists and to make them understand that, as members of a corporate entity, they had certain obligations to the community as a whole. And endless repetitions were necessary before I could make them see that, if the press failed to grasp this idea, it would end only in harming itself. Take the case of a town with, say, a dozen newspapers ; each one of them reports the various items in its own way, and in the end the reader can only come to the conclusion that he is dealing with a gang of opium-smokers. In this way the press gradually loses its influence on public opinion and all contact with the man in the street. The British press affords so excellent an example that it has become quite impossible to gauge British public opinion by reading the British newspapers. This has been carried to such a pass, that as often as not the press bears no relation whatsoever to the lines of thought of the people. That is exactly what happened in Vienna before 1914, in the time of Burgomeister Lueger. In spite of the fact that the entire Viennese press was in the hands of Jewry and in the pay of the Liberals, Lueger, the leader of the Christian Social Party, regularly obtained a handsome majority—a fact which showed all too clearly the hiatus existing between the press of Vienna and public opinion. As, in the military sphere, the aircraft has now become a combat weapon, so the press has become a similar weapon in the sphere of thought. We have frequently found ourselves compelled to reverse the engine and to change, in the course of a couple of days, the whole trend of imparted news, sometimes with a complete volte face. Such agility would have been quite impossible, if we had not had firmly in our grasp that extra-
RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM 481 ordinary instrument of power which we call the press—and known how to make use of it. A year before, when the Russo-German Pact was signed, we had the task of converting to a completely reverse opinion those whom we had originally made into fanatical opponents of Russia—a manœuvre that must have appeared to be a rare old muddle to the older National Socialists. Fortunately, the spirit of Party solidarity held firm, and our sudden about-turn was accepted by all without misgiving. Then, on 22nd June 1941, again: "About turn!" Out shot the order one fine morning without the slightest warning ! Success in an operation of this nature can only be achieved if you possess the press and know how to make tactical use of it. When you regard the rôle of the press from this angle, you will realise at once that the profession of the journalist now is very different from that of the journalist of yore. There was, indeed, a time when the profession of journalism was one without any real importance, for rarely had the individual journalist any opportunity to give proof of personal character. To-day, the journalist knows that he is no mere scribbler, but a man with the sacred mission of defending the highest interests of the State. This evolution has been in progress throughout the years following our taking power, and to-day the journalist is conscious of his responsibilities, and his profession appears to him in a new light. Viewed in this way, the rôle of the press must be guided by certain principles, which must be rigorously applied. For example, when there are problems, over which men of eminence are scratching their heads without being able to find the solution, it is unwise in the extreme to air them in public ; much better wait till the thing is settled. Before a military operation, no one would dream of communicating the orders to the troops, so that the rank and file could discuss them among themselves and express their opinion of the best way of carrying out the operation. To act in such a manner would be tantamount to a surrender of all sense of responsibility, all sense of authority, and a negation of all reason. In the same way, when a choice between two models of tanks is under consideration, it is not the rank and file who are asked to decide which shall be put into production.