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Gevonden documenten A.A. Milne en leugens over Duitsland

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BerichtGeplaatst: 24 Apr 2013 17:59    Onderwerp: Gevonden documenten A.A. Milne en leugens over Duitsland Reageer met quote

Agony of AA Milne, the reluctant wartime propagandist, and the 'lies' about German atrocities '

A collection of AA Milne poems saved from a skip show he served in an MI7 propaganda unit during the First World War and had grown frustrated at having to “lie about German atrocities”.

All evidence of the existence of MI7b, a little-known British military intelligence unit, was thought to have been destroyed, but documents recovered after nearly a century reveal that the Winnie the Pooh author was recruited as one of its writers.

One of the most revealing discoveries was a collection of poems written by Milne, a pacifist who prided himself on never having shot at the enemy, which reveal how conflicted he felt about having to “lie” about “Hun corpse factories.”

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(A.A. Milne was de auteur van Winnie the Pooh)
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BerichtGeplaatst: 26 Apr 2013 17:40    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

AA Milne may not have liked MI7, but propaganda played a vital wartime role
We should not condemn the great writers who joined the secret services – the alternative was to leave history to the liars

Propaganda is probably as old as government itself, and so we shouldn’t be too surprised to read that A A Milne, creator of the immortal Winnie-the-Pooh, was part of MI7B, a secret First World War propaganda outfit. He was by no means the only writer to wield his pen in war.

In those days the MI designation – with us still as MI5 and MI6 – referred to numbered departments in the War Office’s Directorate of Military Intelligence. Not all did secret work – straightforward mapping and recording the orbat (order of battle) of potential enemies were relatively public aspects.

MI5 was the directorate’s fifth department, responsible for security and counter-espionage. What we now know as the Security Service emerged from it, but the designation stuck. MI6 was the department that provided interpreters who helped with interviewing foreign refugees, which the Secret Service – better known now as SIS, the Secret Intelligence Service – found useful both as a source of information and as cover for its officers. Again, the name stuck.

Milne’s MI7B was established in 1916 to help counter the effects of mounting war losses, industrial discontent, peace activists and German propaganda abroad. In fact, this was really the bureaucratic incorporation of an existing propaganda outfit set up by the journalist and Liberal Party politician, Charles Masterman. Formally called the War Propaganda Bureau, it was better known to those on the inside track as the Wellington House operation. In a brilliant exercise in improvisation, Masterman made effective use of his pre-war literary and artistic contacts to counter German propaganda in the US. He secretly sponsored books by reputable academics to send to influential Americans, and recruited writers such John Buchan, HG Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Within a month of the outbreak of war, Masterman had commissioned a book by his novelist friend Ford Madox Ford (who was in fact half-German), which was published six months later as When Blood is their Argument (a quote from Henry V – “For how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is their argument”). This was not the crude German-bashing and flag-waving that seems to have made Milne unhappy, but a balanced and informed argument to the effect that the admirable German culture had been turned on its head by the ascendance of militarist Prussia.

Ford followed it with another propaganda book, Between St Dennis and St George, a more discursive work stressing the value of French culture in opposing Prussian militarism. Unsurprisingly, it was picked up and translated by the French government.

Masterman’s activities extended beyond such relatively esoteric propaganda, however. He did much to publicise the German atrocities in Belgium in late 1914 and early 1915. These, attested by refugees, contributed significantly to anti-German sentiment both here and abroad, though lurid stories of babies being bounced on bayonets proved counter-productive in the longer term. For much of the 20th century, tales of the Belgium atrocities were written off as exaggerations – overshadowed anyway by what came later in the Second World War – but recent research has shown that they happened. The shell-shocked refugees did not make them up.

Masterman also ensured that the German execution of nurse Edith Cavell on the spurious grounds of spying caused widespread outrage, evidence of which is her statue facing Trafalgar Square. His operation helped Kitchener mobilise the population, too, originating the famous poster of two children posing the awkward question to their father, “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?” It wasn’t only writers that were involved with Wellington House, but painters such as Paul Nash and Francis Dodd, too. Masterman also incurred the lasting enmity of successive Turkish governments by publicising the Armenian genocide.

Effective propagandising throughout much of the 20th century by totalitarian regimes – the Nazis, the Soviet Union and the Chinese communists – has of course given the practice a bad name. But before rushing to judgment on those who, in the eyes of their literary and artistic successors, might have compromised their integrity by arguing on our side, we should ask ourselves what we would do if we were facing an existential threat and believed our cause to be right.

Milne seems to have been involved in the cruder end of wartime propaganda, found it distasteful and later became a pacifist. What we call jingoism nearly always is unpleasant, but propaganda doesn’t need to be emotional rabble-rousing. It is, surely, legitimate to try to ensure that the truth will out – especially when the alternative is to leave history to the liars.

Ironically, the wartime propaganda efforts of Wellington House and MI7B were significant precursors of state patronage of the arts, evolving through Lord Beaverbrook’s late-First World War Ministry of Information into its more comprehensive Second World War descendant. Although we never nationalised our culture to the extent that the totalitarians did, we still take it as an article of received opinion that there should be state-funded organisations such as the Arts Council and the British Council.

Those who cry loudest against cuts in funding might also cry loudest against state propaganda, were they asked to do it. It’s almost enough to make Eeyore smile.

Alan Judd’s latest spy novel, 'Uncommon Enemy’, is published by Simon&Schuster
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