Press Censorship During War
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese army attacked Pearl Harbor, shocking the entire United States.
The next day, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed the decision to declare war on Japan (with only one negative vote). This means that the United States fully involved in World War II, and the Pacific War kicked off.
When a man is chosen by the President to hold an important office, few are as melancholy as Byron Price. On December 19, Roosevelt promulgated Presidential Decree No. 8589, establishing the Wartime Information Review Bureau, and Price was appointed as the director, responsible for reviewing military news, mail, and telecommunications across the United States.
The United States, which has always advertised press freedom as its core value, also wants news censorship.
On the first day of the promulgation of Presidential Order No. 8589, Congress just approved the “War Powers Act”, declaring that the United States has entered a state of wartime emergency. President Roosevelt was granted many “dictatorships”, becoming the most powerful president in American history. Most heads of state. It was the largest expansion of government size and power in American history.
”Silent Accelerated Victory”
- the largest news censorship in American history Price, who was
born in the Associated Press, was the first and last director of the Bureau of Information Censorship. When the war ended on August 15, 1945, the bureau was abolished with the end of the wartime system. Price also received the highest honors of his life, first the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, and then President Truman awarded him the Medal of Excellence, the highest honor that a U.S. citizen can receive from a president.
”Silence Accelerates Victory,” that is the line in the center of the badge of the BRI staff. At its peak, there were 14,500 staff members of the Censorship Bureau, and they had the right to use the facilities and personnel of the Ministry of War and the Ministry of the Navy to carry out the review. The workload is quite arduous, with 350,000 telegrams being monitored every week.
In January 1942, the Information Censorship Bureau promulgated the “American Newspaper Wartime Code of Conduct” and the “American Broadcasting Wartime Code of Conduct”, which stipulated that all newspapers, magazines, books, printed materials, and radio stations are prohibited from disseminating information about the army, aircraft, ships, and soldiers. , weapons production, military installations, climate, and censorship of pictures and maps that might reveal military locations.
During World War II, the American press also criticized the wartime information censorship system. Some people pointed out that although it is military news censorship, the definition and regulations are too broad, and it is inevitable that it often goes beyond the scope of military information.
This kind of debate exists in all countries in a state of war in modern times, because news reports are all-encompassing. In an all-out war, the military is not only purely military, but also involves the mobilization of many aspects of economy, politics, culture, and society. The wartime press laws of any country can cover the whole phenomenon.
So Roosevelt authorized Price to conduct wartime information censorship “in his own discretion.” For example, during the course of the war, the U.S. military discovered that the release of weather conditions was likely to be conducive to the enemy’s offensive, and the Bureau of Information Inspection included the release of weather information within the scope of strict restrictions. However, the American press generally upheld the concept of “patriotism” during the war and fully cooperated with it. There was not a single case of fierce confrontation and conflict.
When Price left office, he expressed his deepest gratitude to his colleagues across the United States with trepidation: “You should, you deserve the sincere gratitude of this government. My colleagues and I accepted this unpleasant review task during wartime , but I really can’t express my gratitude to you.” The
U.S.’s wartime news control was on a voluntary basis to “force”
the U.S. to become the fastest paced country in the West in terms of press freedom, which is related to its geographical location and It is related to traditional thinking—long-term adhering to “isolationism” and staying away from Eurasian countries with frequent wars. Since the colonial era, the United States experienced wartime information restrictions after the War of Independence and the Civil War. However, institutionalized wartime information censorship also occurred after the United States participated in World War I.
However, the American wartime news censorship system in World War I was still based on the “voluntariness of the media”. It was “mandatory” during World War II, but under Price’s suggestion, Roosevelt agreed that he could still try to “voluntary” review.
Wartime “voluntary censorship” began before Pearl Harbor, when journalists began automatically withholding stories about Canada’s military actions after it declared war on Germany in 1939. During the Pacific War, the U.S. press had learned of the sinking of the “Lexington” several weeks in advance, but they waited until the U.S. Army’s Battle of Midway Island was announced before publishing the matter.
The Espionage Act and Collaboration with the Enemy Act promulgated by the United States during World War I continued to be used until World War II. The wartime system of World War II also included the attack and monitoring of pro-German organizations in the United States, and the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans.
Price did not return to the AP after retiring from the Bureau of Censorship Information, serving as vice president of the Motion Picture Association of America before retiring as Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1954. In 1962, due to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States and the Soviet Union were at war. The United States had a premonition that an all-out war or even a nuclear war with the Soviet Union might break out, so it began to prepare for the wartime system and issued a “call of duty” to Price again.
The 71-year-old Price reluctantly agreed to the country’s request. Fortunately, the all-out war between the United States and the Soviet Union was only a false alarm, and Price avoided an “unpleasant” mission in his later years.
Britain is an expert in news control and wartime propaganda. The
wartime system or emergency system originated in European countries. From the 17th century, Europe gradually formed modern nation-states. The entire historical process was accompanied by frequent civil and foreign wars. War emphasizes organization, mobilization, decision-making, and execution efficiency, so it requires the concentration of power and unity of will, and the wartime system came into being.
The birthplace of modern democratic constitutionalism – the United Kingdom is not only an exception, but also an expert in wartime systems. The importance that countries attach to wartime propaganda is inspired by the British case.
During World War I, Britain not only took the lead in using planes to deliver leaflets to the German positions, but also the pioneer of modern newspaper industry, Lord Beiyan, who controlled the largest newspaper group in British history (under the jurisdiction of “Daily Mirror”, “Daily Mail”, “The Times”) China Daily and many other famous newspapers) also prompted Britain to set up the “Department of Propaganda against the Enemy”, with Bei Yan as the director.
Beiyan’s wartime propaganda was full of tricks, such as publishing a false German trench newspaper “Autumn Leaves”, with a print volume of 300,000 copies, using seemingly neutral methods to provoke internal conflicts in Germany. The later German President Hindenburg during the Weimar period said that the enemy’s shells are not to be feared, but the most terrible thing is the news leaflet. Hitler also praised Britain’s wartime propaganda in “Mein Kampf” as an important means of defeating Germany.
Therefore, institutionalized wartime information censorship appeared in all the participating countries of the First World War, and Britain was the most complete and advanced. During World War II, after declaring war against Germany, Britain established a wartime system, elected a “wartime cabinet”, suspended elections, and granted a lot of privileges to the prime minister and cabinet, all of which served to win the war.
The wartime information censorship system includes two levels: one is internal and external information censorship, and the other is internal and external wartime propaganda. During the First World War, in order to win the war, countries even fabricated a large number of rumors to encourage national war sentiment internally and to shake the morale of the enemy’s nationals externally. Since then, the word “propaganda” has taken on a derogatory meaning in the Western context.