Author:Bernard, Andre

Commonplace Book


The newspaper reader finds it very difficult to get at the truth of any situation, through the great mass of conjecture and rumor and conflicting statements. Often he feels completely baffled and defeated. This is not the fault of the press it is just that the war is too big and moves too fast and the facts are not always available. The news is the privilege which the customer enjoys, but it is also the crossword puzzle which he alone must solve. One moment he experiences the full flush of victory, the next moment the chill of defeat. From two stories on the same page, sometimes from two paragraphs in the same story, he runs the whole gamut.

--E. B. WHITE, "The Newspaper Reader Finds It Very Difficult to Get at the Truth," 1942

Well yes, yesterday when the Swiss radio announced that the Americans had landed on the Marshall Islands and that these islands had belonged to Japan before the war I was so pleased. It was midnight and I was so pleased. As an American and as a Californian I was so pleased. I went up stairs and woke up Alice Toklas who was asleep, and I said we have landed the Americans have landed on the Marshall Islands, which before the war belonged to Japan and Alice Toklas opened one eye slightly and said, well then they are invaded, and slept gently again.

--GERTRUDE STEIN, Wars I Have Seen, 1945

When distant and unfamiliar and complex things are communicated to great masses of people, the truth suffers a considerable and often a radical distortion. The complex is made over into the simple, the hypothetical into the dogmatic, and the relative into an absolute.

--WALTER LIPPMANN, The Public Philosophy, 1955

The statement of the High Command, obviously forced upon it by Hitler himself--he often takes a hand in writing the official army communiques--deliberately perpetrates the lie that Germany has only decided to bomb London as a result of the British first bombing Berlin. And the German people will fall for this, as they fall for almost everything they're told nowadays. Certainly never before in modern times--since the press, and later the radio, made it theoretically possible for the mass of mankind to learn what was going on in the world--have a great people been so misled, so unscrupulously lied to, as the Germans under this regime.

--WILLIAM L. SHIRER, Berlin Diary, September 7, 1940

But in later times most events began to be kept secret and were denied to common knowledge, and even though it may happen that some matters are...

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