Propaganda you pay for – A closer look in January 1941

In recent years, there have been a lot of accusations that countries have been actively trying to influence America and her direction.

The idea that Russia or China could easily influence Americans through social media has become widely accepted. It’s especially prevalent during the periods before our elections. The difficulty of having a relatively free society with guarantees of rights and freedoms is that we can be taken advantage of by people with the will to do so.

This is by no means a new phenomenon.  A classic example came from January 1941 in the lead up to World War 2.

The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA), popularly dubbed the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and from 1969 onwards known as the House Committee on Internal Security, was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives. The HUAC was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having fascist or communist ties. When the House abolished the committee in 1975, its functions were transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.

In 1941, Conservative Texas Democrat Martin Dies Jr. served as chair of the Special Committee on Un-American Activities, predecessor to the permanent committee. He would serve for its entire seven-year duration. (1938-1944)

This excerpt comes from the January 5 1941 report to Congress where Dies’ committee identifies a large flaw in an old system that is allowing a flood of propaganda to be disseminated in the USA. Not only that, but the taxpayers apparently are unwittingly paying for it!

Dies Asks Congress to Halt Totalitarian Use of U. S. Mail

Free Propaganda Shipped Here by the Ton, Committee Reports

Propaganda organs of the totalitarian countries disseminated through, the United. States have been one of the principal objects of attack of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In one move designed to check the spread of this material, the Government instituted prosecutions in District Court against a Russian propaganda agency and five individuals for failing to comply with the foreign agent registration law.

The Dies Committee asked Congress yesterday to halt what it called distribution of ‘totalitarian propaganda” in the United States at the expense of American taxpayers. The recommendation was made in a supplemental report amplifying the committee s previous charges that Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan were taking advantage of the Universal Postal Union Convention to game free distribution of huge quantities of propaganda in this country. Under the terms of this convention, the committee said, the Post Office Department must bear the cost of distributing within the United States all literature received from abroad.

It proposed that Congress enact legislation restricting distribution of foreign literature when the process involves cost to the American taxpayers, and excluding from benefits of the union agreement “propaganda that is directed against the United States.”

The US Has No Such Department.

“Unlike the four totalitarian governments,” its report said, “the United States has no ‘department of propaganda’ which aims to influence the internal policies of Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan.

“The United States Government does not, therefore, use the mails for directing propaganda against these four governments. Consequently, the United States receives no reciprocal benefits under the workings of the Universal Postal Union.” Distribution of the report was the final act of the committee under the investigative authority it received from the last Congress. Officially the committee’s life expired Friday, but Chairman Dies said he would ask the new Congress to reconstitute it and grant it $1,000,000 for new inquiries into un-American activities.

Much Mailed in This Country.

The report said committee investigators determined that “thousands of tons of totalitarian propaganda” reach the United States by mail annually, with the largest shipments coming from Germany, Russia, Japan and Italy, in that order. It commented however, that the “overwhelming bulk” of Russia’s American-aimed propaganda was printed and mailed in this country.

The propaganda was said to be aimed at stirring up opposition to American defense efforts, inculcation of religious, racial and class hatred, creation of “national disunity,” extolling advantages of life under totalitarian rule, justification of totalitarian conquests and development of a “hatred toward certain non-totalitarian governments and peoples with whom we are on friendly terms.”

The committee quoted an unidentified customs service official as saying that propaganda from Germany via Russia and Japan had increased recently, and that one Japanese boat recently discharged nearly 400 sacks weighing 5 tons at an unidentified port. It added that the literature was addressed to “thousands of individuals, schools, colleges, institutions, business houses, etc.”

9 1/2 Tons in 12 Weeks.

The report said that it was not possible to determine exactly the volume of this mail, but that about 9 1/2 tons came from H. R. Hoffman in Germany in 12 weeks. Summing up Its report, the committee said: “It Is Impossible to make any kind of estimate of the costs of these services. But two things are obvious: The cost of distribution from the time such propaganda is taken off the boat until it reaches the addressee is borne by the taxpayers of the United States, and such cost, however large or small, is a wholly unjustifiable item in the American taxpayers’ bill.

As a matter of cold realism, the Universal Postal Union is today facilitating the totalitarian propaganda attack upon the United States in particular and upon all the free peoples in general.”

So what was the Universal Postal Union?

Before the establishment of the UPU, every pair of countries that exchanged mail had to negotiate a postal treaty with each other. In the absence of a treaty providing for direct delivery of letters, mail had to be forwarded through an intermediate country. Postal arrangements were complex and overlapping. In 1853, the United States had a postal treaty with Prussia, but some states in southern Germany were sending their US-bound mail through France instead. Since there was no postal treaty between the United States and France, the mail had to travel on a British or a Belgian ship. US Postmaster-General James Campbell doubted “whether … the arrangement can be safely continued,” but he saw hope in a postal treaty with Bremen that also covered the Austro-German Postal Union.

A treaty was signed finally in 1874 which established a set of rules for all of the participants. Including the United States.

The 1874 treaty provided for the originating country to keep all of the postage revenue, without compensating the destination country for delivery. The idea was that each letter would generate a reply, so the postal flows would be in balance. However, other classes of mail had imbalanced flows. In 1906, the Italian postal service was delivering 325,000 periodicals mailed from other countries to Italy, while Italian publishers were mailing no periodicals to other countries. The system also encouraged countries to remail through another country, forcing the intermediate postal service to bear the costs of transport to the final destination. Remailing was banned in 1924, but the UPU took no action on imbalanced flows until 1969.

Just so you know, the UPU still exists today. it is a United Nations specialized agency and the postal sector’s primary forum for international cooperation. The Universal Postal Union is a United Nations specialized agency and the postal sector’s primary forum for international cooperation. 

In 1941, the powers that were aligned to dominate the world (including Russia) had learned how to game the system.

Not only were they able to freely infiltrate the United States with Propaganda, but the United States was forced to pay for it.

The interesting thing is that we are still wide open to propaganda in our country.

Both the left and the right have knowingly or unwittingly helped to continue the spread of false information. Social Media is blatantly jamming the airwaves with biased propaganda every single hour of every single day. Fact checkers are no more factual than some of the stories they intend to quell. I would honestly advise that if you see the words “Fact Checked” you should automatically assume that someone somewhere wants you to believe their point of view and facts have nothing to do with what that is.

I don’t know where this will end up. I don’t honestly know if I will ever have faith in the government of in any of the sources of information we are routinely subjected to. There are a few days that I want to pull the plug on all of this stuff and just read stories from the past. But to be fair, who knows how true most of those stories were either?

Mister Mac

One thought on “Propaganda you pay for – A closer look in January 1941

  1. The internet and etc just makes their job easier. The best piece of advice I ever got I still apply to my life. Beleive nothing you hear, and only half of what you see. The first part is still applicable, the later half is up to three-quarters these days.

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