The motive of Propaganda . . . concerned Religions, and also certain racial enthusiasms or political doctrines which, by their sincerity and readiness for sacrifice, had half the force of Religions.
Men found that the great papers (in their final phase) refused to talk about anything really important in Religion. They dared do nothing but repeat very discreetly the vaguest ethical platitudes. They hardly dared do even that. They took for granted a sort of invertebrate common opinion. They consented to be slightly coloured by the dominating religion of the country in which each paper happened to be printed—and there was an end of it.
Great bodies of men who cared intensely for a definite creed found that expression for it was lacking, even if this creed (as in France) were that of a very large majority in the State. The “organs of opinion” professed a genteel ignorance of that idea which was most widespread, most intense, and most formative. Nor could it be otherwise with a Capitalist enterprise whose directing motive was not conversion or even expression, but mere gain. There was nothing to distinguish a large daily paper owned by a Jew from one owned by an Agnostic or a Catholic. Necessity of expression compelled the creation of a Free Press in connection with this one motive of religion.
Men came across very little of this in England, because England was for long virtually homogeneous in religion, and that religion was not enthusiastic during the years in which the Free Press arose. But such a Free Press in defence of religion (the pioneer of all the Free Press) arose in Ireland and in France and elsewhere. It had at first no quarrel with the big official Capitalist Press. It took for granted the anodyne and meaningless remarks on Religion which appeared in the sawdust in the Official Press, but it asserted the necessity of specially emphasizing its particular point of view in its own columns: for religion affects all life.
This same motive of Propaganda later launched other papers in defence of enthusiasms other than strictly religious enthusiasms, and the most important of these was the enthusiasm for Collectivism—Socialism.
A generation ago and more, great numbers of men were persuaded that a solution for the whole complex of social injustice was to be found in what they called “nationalizing the means of production, distribution, and exchange.” That is, of course, in plain English, putting land, houses, and machinery, and stores of food and clothing into the hands of the politicians for control in use and for distribution in consumption.
This creed was held with passionate conviction by men of the highest ability in every country of Europe; and a Socialist Press began to arise, which was everywhere free, and soon in active opposition to the Official Press. Again (of a religious temper in their segregation, conviction and enthusiasm) there began to appear (when the oppressor was mild), the small papers defending the rights of oppressed nationalities.
Religion, then, and cognate enthusiasms were the first breeders of the Free Press. – from The Free Press (1918)
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