Freedom For What?


By WALTER D. FULLER, President of The Curtis Publishing Company and President of the National Association of Manufacturers

Delivered before the National Editorial Association, Jacksonville, Florida, April 22, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 467-471

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: In these days of great national emergency, I prefer to greet you not as fellow publishers . . . not as fellow editors . . . but as guardians . . . guardians of a priceless heritage . . . the guardians of a free press of a free people.

An informed people is fundamental to a continuance of this Republic. Therefore nothing is so vital to the whole future of our country as the public opinion molded by a free American press.

I know of no exception—not even guns, tanks, ships or airplanes. The force of American public opinion can produce a cloud of airplanes, all the guns and ships we can possibly need to make America supreme in the air and on the land and sea.

Voluntary Cooperation Answer

An aroused public is the source of that greatest of all forces referred to by Woodrow Wilson as the "voluntary cooperation of a free people."

And that power is "on the march" in this land, for statisticians tell us that in nine months we have made more progress, working together as free men, than Hitler did in two and one-half years with his much-vaunted government dictated economy.

During recent weeks in connection with my duties as president of the National Association of Manufacturers, I have visited and talked with people in the key industrial cities throughout the East and South and into the Southwest. I have talked with people in many walks of life—individual people, active, ambitious people, engaged in making a living and advancing their welfare and the nation's welfare.

Soon the tour into other sections will be continued. Soon forty-one meetings will have gathered into regional councilsthe responsible industrialists of all the manufacturing areas of the country—some 24,000 people. The theme of these meetings is "Preparedness for Today and Tomorrow."

Industry All-Out for Defense

Should anyone have a doubt about the all-out eagerness of industrial management to do speedily and well what is asked for the country's defense, let that doubt die here and now.

American industry already has completed more than $3 billion of the first $12 billion of goods ordered. Productive facilities of American aircraft factories increased 28 per cent in the 59 days ending March 1. We are well on toward employing 1,000,000 persons in aircraft production.

The machine tool industry has expanded by 2,000 per cent over the depression low.

The two-ocean Navy will be ready two years ahead of schedule. Our newest battleships are coming off the ways a year ahead of program.

The first powder plant was built in Virginia in record-breaking time.

Steel production is at an all-time high.

Employment has increased more than 2 million persons and another 5 million will be reemployed within the next few months.

United States industry, according to a survey just completed by the National Association of Manufacturers can increase use of its existing facilities 20 per cent for defense production when the orders are ready.

There are no slackers in industry. I report that to you for our joint patriotic pride.

These contacts have produced a deep conviction, a conviction that the aspirations and the definitions of freedom—which is the mainspring of our defense interest—can be clarified and made vocal only through a free press.

"Freedom for What?"

The workings of American democracy depend upon an informed public opinion. Freedom of the press is an institution without which our democracy cannot live. More and better use of freedom is freedom's only defense.

And, yet, it is not enough to mouth terms like "freedom" and "democracy." In these days of trick presentations mere words are often a cloak for ambitious changes of basis forms. And so I pose the question—"What freedoms do we defend?" "Freedom for what?" Well, most obviously freedom from concentration camps, from a controlled press, from subjugated enterprise, from down-trodden humanity, from a dominated educational system—freedom from all goose-stepping of the minds of the people.

Most obviously, too, we stand for freedom for free discussion, for free investigation. We stand for the right of existence of the inspiration of learning. We stand to maintain the continued challenge of research, of discovery. We support invention as a free process of enterprise by which is brought about the highest degree of social betterment.

Remember, Hitler's dupes think they are fighting for freedom. Freedom for state socialism to impose its way on all the world.

Fascist Japan asks no more than "freedom" to exploit all the Far East—and as much adjacent territory as it can overrun.

And in our own country—the United States—we are being told by some spokesmen that democracy is no more or no less than the rule of the majority.

Protects the Minority

But the true glory of our Republic-form of democracy is that it is the one form of government ever contrived, that protects the rights of a minority. And remember that all advance—all desirable forward moves—start as a minority.

Is rule of majority for America to extinguish the rights of minority?

Is it to be the crippling, strangling rule of a bureaucracy which ignorantly thinks that our social and economic system is worn out, and that future security lies in equalitarian poverty?

Or, may it become, in time, not only absolute rule by a majority, but by a chosen few leaders of that majority? A despotism?

Yes—all these things can happen to us if a sleeping people permits it.

John Philpot Curran, the famous Irishman, once said: "It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rightsbecome a prey to the active." Who will keep the people vigilant of their rights? A freepress?

Assurance was given last week by the President in a letter to the American Society of Newspaper Editors that "there will be no government control of news unless it be of vital military information."

That is the personal pledge of the President. But as the President pointed out in his letter, the real guardian of freedom of the press is the press itself. It is our responsibility to be ever vigilant to protect freedom from those close to high places in government who have attacked the press, who by their acts have shown they conspire to take us over.

The enemies of the press are many and they are at work in many and devious ways. You have seen their handwriting on the wall many times.

To those who challenge the right of a free press, I can give no better answer than to quote the final words of the President's letter: "I cannot better close this message than with the final assurance that those who disagree with what is being done, and with the manner in which it is being done, are free to use their freedom of speech."

Adherence to that assurance is all that the proponents d guardians of free speech ask. We must be vigilant of the misuse of basic freedoms. Religious freedom means more than the right to join any church. It means the right to refrain from joining as well as the right to join any church. Rights must not become the excuse for inquisition or coercion. The right to strike must not become the literal right to strike with clubs those who do not believe, or join as you do? Government-compelled membership in any organization is Fascism—the antithesis of labor freedom.

Newspapers, magazines and other forms of a free press must present light on the public record so the people can see and make up their minds intelligently as to what course is best for the nation.

A Job to Do

There is confusion today in public opinion. We do not have the full force of American thinking behind our tremendous defense program. No wonder there is such a crying need for truth and for the courage to tell the truth. You are specialists in the art of separating the truth from the weeds of propaganda which flourish on all sides today.

Currently, we need the corrective influence of public opinion on all phases of our national life. Some of the topics on which clarification is especially necessary are:

The tax situation. The public understands that defense will have to be paid for. There is still confusion as to when, and how. The outright taking of the entire incomes of the so-called rich would pay only a fraction of the domestic expenses of the government. Defense costs should be paid as far as possible as we go, lest the country's future be mortgaged into bankruptcy; and that can be done only by broadening of the tax base. Sound financing of the nation's defense will depend upon the public, and what the public decides will depend upon the information it gets from us.

The threat of inflation. Ten years of deficit financing have stuffed the banks with inflationary dynamite. The public does not realize that. Nor that a rising cost-price-cost-price spiral will touch that off. Although the public is not yet aware of the situation, manufacturing costs, both wages and materials, have risen faster than the prices of finished goods. This means that manufacturers themselves have absorbed a substantial part of the difference.

The truth about prices. Preparations are being made to spank industry for raising prices, despite the added cost of taxes imposed by government and the added labor costs encouraged by government. Leon Henderson has said that price limits will be enforced by "economic sanctions," which means by non-juridicial means. As he announced the plan, the press was to be asked to cooperate in destroying the business of any firm which arouses the displeasure of the new price-fixing board. I believe you will agree that light not heat is what is really needed here.

The strike facts. Various Washington spokesmen have told the public that strikes in defense industries do not amount to much. Have you noticed that the report of the British Ministry of Labour and National Service shows that industrial disputes in Great Britain for the whole year of 1940 caused a loss of 940,000 working days. By way of contrast, the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington has justreported a total of 1,000,000 man-days lost in America during the short month of February. British labor knows what American labor has not yet come to realize—that production is the first, and ultimately the last, line of defense in a time of war.

Enough time has already been lost in this country through strikes to build 480 heavy bombers, or twenty-four destroyers or a half million modern Garand rifles.

Perhaps the mothers and the fathers of the draftees will feel differently about how important strikes are when they see these figures.

Today it is produce or perish. The issue and the battle are production. But there are those among us who would—come what may—make the issue unionism and the battlefield America.

Remember the German plan is to conquer America without firing a shot, or landing a soldier. Conquest by indifference, by apathy and by dissension is what the Nazi program calls for here. That is the published version. They think it will be the easiest victory any nation ever won. They have said so.

It's the job of a free press to wake up America to the threat that lies back of national disunity.

Keep Ideals Alive

Without the fire of idealism our defense will lack the brilliance of our past national military achievements when we were inspired with the fullest understanding of the cause for which we fought. We can fight for our freedoms and lose them at the same time if there is not popular appreciation of the issues.

All that will be necessary for us to win and lose at the same time will be for the press of the nation to give up its hard-won freedoms and concur in the propaganda and antics of a supposedly new order.

Editors have a double responsibility.

Custodianship of the freedom of the press is singularly in your hands. The right to report; the right to analyze; the right to discuss; the right to print all of the news; the right to balance and to warn, to praise or to blame where either is due; the right to present both sides of any question—these rights can be kept alive only by their exercise.

But newspapers and magazines are more than pages filled, however alertly and honestly, with able print.

Newspapers Are Private Enterprise

Newspapers and magazines are also properties. Journalism is free enterprise. Thus, we are doubly under attack as "Tories of Journalism" and "Princes of Privilege."

An astute lot these people who seek to undermine the established order—for they, like Hitler, follow the tactic of divide and whip. Whip all the component parts of private enterprise separately and then all they have to do is conceal the body somewhere.

Now we all know that you cannot have an intellectually and morally free press unless it is economically free. Nobody knows it any better than the adroit defamers of the system.

A publication, however free from government regulation, cannot really and actually be free unless it is profitable. And we cannot remain economically free except in an economy of free enterprise.

A free press with its concurrent free speech and free political institutions, free religion, and free private enterprise are the three legs of the tripod upon which the whole structure of free democracy stands. If one is destroyed the whole must collapse.

But the relation between free press and free enterprise isthe most absolute.

High Standard of Living

One of the particularly American phases of our way of life is the insistent desire and provision for more things, better things for more people at lower prices. The maker of this is mass production and his accompanying handmaiden—advertising.

But advertising is bad, say the detractors of the system. No less an authority than Assistant Attorney General Thurman Arnold refers to advertising as "a modern refinement upon the method of circus barkers." He charges that tobacco companies, automobile manufacturers and others have created such a demand for their products by advertising that the retailer has got to carry them. The backfire on this governmental attack became so acute that Mr. Arnold issued an explanation that did not explain. It did not conceal the trail of intention to throttle the business system. It amounted to as much of a solace as Brutus apologizing to Caesar after the kill.

Of course, the Assistant Attorney General has no legal authority over advertising except the newly discovered blackjack of consent decrees by which, laws or no laws, corporations can be coerced to do the will of government.

Mind you, this is not simply an attack upon unethical practices in advertising. This is an out and out attempt to shut off the life blood of a free press by branding all advertising as anti-social and uneconomic.

It is advertising that provides the current for the flow of goods and keeps America's factories busy and its people employed. Americans everywhere should salute the press for what advertising has done in stimulating production in this country, so that in this time of emergency, we have the plant capacity and the manufacturing skill to produce our defense needs.

Theorists preach that a press cannot be free with paid advertising, they attempt to seize the consumers' movement for the ulterior purposes of attack on private enterprise.

They advocate that there should be an arbitrary discouragement tax upon American consumption so as to build an artificial backlog for post-emergency days. These defeatists want us deliberately to cut our standard of living below the actual needs of the defense program.

They ignore the fact that the needs and wants of 130,000,000 Americans accumulated in the last ten years are far greater than any artificial backlog could possibly be. They would close the faucet of consumption, the flow of better living for all-America when we need a high level of morale and as many of the comforts of living as these trying times permit.

Again, let us ask the question: "Freedom for what?"

Freedom for a lower standard of living—freedom to reach a secure poverty?

Maybe that is what the American people want. But if it is I have completely lost my perspective as to American ideals.

Attacks Weaken Press

Is this campaign of defamation of the press having an effect?

Fortune Magazine recently showed by a survey of popular trust in reporting that 22 per cent would believe a radio bulletin, and 11 per cent a newspaper item.

The significance is not in the difference between radio and newspaper, but in the fact that the general attitude of radio listeners is one of distrust in the radio and likewise the majority of newspaper readers distrust the newspapers in matters of dispute.

It means that a long campaign designed to smear freeprivate enterprise has produced as one result a widespread distrust of news reporting.

Surveys that show lack of confidence are surveys of cynicism. Skepticism may be healthy but cynicism is skepticism's occupational disease. Unfortunately cynicism votes.

Both newspapers and radio are "properties" before they are news services in the public mind. And property has been made suspect.

Journalism—whether newspaper, magazine, or radio—which furthered such smear campaigns befouled its own nest. Journalism's reputation suffered with that of all free enterprise.

It is time that journalism analyzed its position.

There must be eternally preserved the right of frank criticism, and when proper, the privilege of straight-forward, courageous and unwavering attack upon those men and measures that would destroy all rights and freedoms in the United States.

Personages so criticized do not like it. The first thing a dictator discovers is that a free press is a nuisance. He abolishes it.

Hitler has abolished 2,700 publications in Germany since 1933.

In their places have arisen Hitler's newspaper, Goering's newspaper, Goebbels' newspaper.

In Germany all news is funnelled out by the Reich.

The Deutsches Nachrichten Blatt—the news service of Germany—is government-owned. The German Radio Corporation is of course government operated; Mr. Goebbels picks the stars and prescribes the propaganda for German movies—for a dictator cannot trust any public opinion he has not monopolistically created himself.

There are no Virginio Gayda's leaking out the official viewpoint for our government—no particular newspapers like Pravda does for Moscow or the Popolo d'Roma does for Italy that speak officially for our government at Washington. There might be a few columnists who think they do, but I can recall only one who does. Controlled news and presssources are the first ear-marks of a regimented slave nation. "No Nation," says Carlyle, "is great unless it has a voice," and the voice of freedom in Germany has been reduced to vociferous but subservient Heils for the Fuehrer. God forbid that we free Americans are ever so intellectually enslaved.

We must be eternally vigilant in the exercise of our public trust as custodians of a free enterprise so that neither the hands nor the minds of our people are relaxed against the inroads on our freedoms.

I am sure that when you read the final report of the TNEC you found it, as I did, in some ways a surprising document. This is the committee which was commissioned to find out what is wrong with us—what has "undermined the foundation of both free enterprise and free Government in the United States."

This committee came forth on March 31 with the clear-cut declaration against continued government spending as the cure for our economic ills. It proposed, instead, that encouragement be given to free enterprise and to the use of private capital.

Here is what the report said:

"We cannot continue to rely upon Government expenditures, whether by way of contribution or loan to sustain enterprise and private employment unless we are willing to invite eventually some form of the authoritarian state."

And When Peace Comes

When world peace finally comes, as it will, American public opinion will decide whether we are going to solve ourdomestic problems—those problems which have been hanging over our heads since 1930. It will decide whether we shall continue dilly-dallying with a dangerous mixture of Fascism and Socialism in our Democracy or whether we will call forth again all the power and glory that lies in the real American way—the freedom of enterprise and the freedom of accomplishment.

If these all-important decisions flow freely from the untainted springs of a free American press everywhere we need have no fears about America's future. If not, we can expect, in this country, further infection from what the TNEC report the other day surprisingly declared are the "germs" of both Fascism and Socialism "apparent in our own economy," supporting the statement with reference to the Bituminous Coal Act which is branded as "Fascist," and the T.V.A. which comes under the head of Socialism.

Infecting a Republic

That is what has happened as we have infected Democracy with the germs of Fascism and Socialism. It is what will happen more and more in the future unless we purge ourselves of these poisons.

What we have done is put restrictions upon the freedom of accomplishment.

Freedom of accomplishment and freedom of the press are one and the same for neither can exist without the other. Together they stand as the foundation stones upon which all of American building in the last 100 years has been done. They stand, too, as the hope for a prosperous and happy future.

Freedom of accomplishment is freedom of enterprise—it is the freedom to engage in the business we want, to produce what the market requires and to sell where the market exists. It is the freedom to lift the American standard of living by initiative and ingenuity.

The way to protect the system of American initiative is by more initiative.

This is America. This is the land of initiative. Initiative has made us great—so great in fact that other people would like to take us over.

By initiative we will preserve and safeguard America for Americans and we will go forward to initiate such an era of security, opportunity and happiness as even we have never enjoyed.

More than ever before the responsibility of publishers and of editors today is to be vigilant. Preservation of our freedom depends upon that. It depends upon vigilance that comes before and not after an act is committed or legislation passed. And it depends to a large degree upon aggressiveness which will search out the facts in these critical times and turn the white light of publicity into the dark corners.

Mere reporting of events that transpire is only half the job. The responsibility of the American press in these critical times, when so many sincere and patriotic Americans are bewildered by world affairs, is to fully weigh the implications of all proposed legislation and to determine what is in the minds of the men behind the scenes in Washington.

Your association can perform a real constructive job through the efforts of your recently appointed committee to give attention to proposed legislation so that you may be fully informed as to its meaning, before, instead of after enactment. With the vitality and resources of the press on guard, the real freedoms of America can be protected.

It was Lincoln who said: "Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it."

Seeking Perfection Is Democracy

Ah! say the reformers; but there are bad publishers and those who misuse the freedom of the press; only those whothink as we do can be trusted with the freedom of the press.

Jolly lot, these make-over boys, always smearing and tainting the whole with the faults of the rare exception; since such a course serves their purposes so well.

True, publishers—like politicians—are imperfect. Imperfection characterizes the human race. Without imperfections life would lose its goals.

Democracies are imperfect; private enterprise is imperfect. But the big thing to remember is, that endowed with freedom the individual can be both the critic and the corrector of imperfections.

For, as Montesquieu so aptly said, "In a free nation, it matters not whether individuals reason well or ill, it is sufficient that they do reason."

Freedom is always a responsibility. You can measure freedom of the press only in tolerance of the people, not toleranceof government. Abuse that privilege and you well know you won't have it long.

Preserve a free press and you have saved America.

That is our job, gentlemen.

Our job, not as publishers or private enterprisers, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as free men.

"The laws of our country have given us the right," said Andrew Hamilton in the famous Zenger trial, "The right, the liberty of both exposing and opposing arbitrary power in these parts of the world at least, by speaking and writing the truth."

There is no greater duty vouchsafed to man than the upholding of that sacred principle of freedom.

Thus in our hands, as editors and publishers, are the issues of great good and great evil—the issue of life and death for our State of Freedom.