German Corruption of the Foreign Press
THE German government realized long ago that the most reliable medium of influence in democratic countries is the press. To secure the support of the press, newspapers can be purchased; but that is a ruinously expensive method. Think of the millions that it would cost to acquire a number of organs of very wide circulation. Moreover, this method is not dependable, for it is a very difficult matter to keep secret for long the name of the purchaser of a great newspaper. It is, therefore, a mode of procedure which can be employed only provisionally, with a definite object in view, and for a limited period. It was a transaction of this sort that the Germans had in mind when they tried to buy certain French newspapers, such as Le Journal.
How much more reliable and more practical is the plan of creating an agency to secure a monopoly of advertising! This enterprise, after concentrating the greater part of all commercial advertising in its own hands, begins by placing advertisements in the newspapers on which it has its eye; then it takes over all their advertising by contract, on terms which relieve them altogether from the exertion of seeking advertisers. Having thus become the purveyor of their receipts, it has them in its clutches, and directs their management.
This plan is clearly revealed in a passage of a paper in the German review, Der Türmer, of February, 1915, in which the principle is set forth that ' inasmuch as the advertisements yield the major part of the receipts of a newspaper, it is usually the case that the contractors for the advertising have large influence over it.’
One can see what powerful political control can be exerted by a large concern having a monopoly of advertising, when that concern is in the hands of a foreign government; one can imagine how fully it can keep that government posted as to all matters political, industrial, commercial, and military; one divines what important services it can render to the commerce of its own country, — in this case, Germany, — by supplying its nationals with information as to the advertising done by the people among whom it is operating, and as to other matters, in order to advance the interests of its compatriots to the detriment of the producers of their adopted country.
This is not a mere hypothesis on our part: we shall see later that a German firm had succeeded in obtaining control of the advertising pages of ninetysix newspapers in one of the Allied countries — Italy — before the war. We shall show, furthermore, that by means of its contracts and the position it had secured, it had become so powerful that it still holds a monopoly of the advertising of eighty-one Italian publications at the present moment, in the midst of war!
Nothing is so valuable as facts, to carry conviction of the validity of opinions. In order, therefore, to enlighten the reader, we propose to tell here the story of the great German advertising agency of Haasenstein and Vogler, of Berlin.
A Swiss named Georg, established at Geneva as correspondent of a German advertising agency, had formed, in 1882, with two Germans, Haasenstein of Berlin and Vogler of Hamburg, an agency with headquarters at Geneva, under the firm name of Haasenstein and Vogler.
Haasenstein and Vogler having, in 1885, set up an agency in Berlin without a distinctive name, the latter took over such rights as its founders individually owned in the Geneva concern; but, in 1860, as the agency was desirous of extending its activities, chiefly in the Latin countries, — Italy and France, — it became necessary for the Berlin agency to disappear, so far as outward appearances went, from the Geneva concern. So it turned over its interests therein to Georg. He transferred them, some months later, to a new agency which he formed at Geneva, and which he still manages. The new concern retained the German name, with a board of directors which was absolutely in Georg’s hands.
Thanks to this series of cessions and transformations, it might be supposed that the agency was a Swiss affair, whereas in reality it was simply a continuation and development of the concern originally formed by a Swiss and two Germans.
Georg, who continued to act as the chief representative and confidential agent of the house of Haasenstein and Vogler of Berlin, had in his own name 1501 shares of 1000 marks, out of 2000 shares of capital in that concern; he kept them in his name till the middle of 1916. He was therefore the ‘kingpin ’ of both the German and the Swiss concerns; but he was also, as we shall see, the ‘ king-pin ’ of the Italian house of Haasenstein and Vogler, as well as of the French — or so designated — establishment founded later under the name of ‘European Advertising Agency.’
It was on December 10, 1902, that Georg launched the Italian agency, called Haasenstein and Vogler, in conjunction with his brother Henry Georg, also a Swiss citizen. The capital was fixed at a modest figure — an interesting fact to note: it was only 200,000 francs. How could so insignificant a sum suffice to carry on a business which amounted of late years to 15,000,000 francs ($3,000,000) annually?
We must conclude that a large capital is not essential to an undertaking of this sort. It is hard to believe it, when we analyze the way in which the agency was operated among our Latin allies, and especially when we remark that the secret of its success consisted in the advances, of varying proportions, which it consented to make on account of its contracts with the Italian newspapers, which were rarely supplied with adequate funds. The most probable explanation is that the money came from Germany, and that they placed their capital at so modest a figure only to avoid paying taxes to the Italian Treasury.
Once established, the concern installed branches in the principal Italian cities, and entrusted their management, in most cases, to Germans. For example: at Milan to Wunenburger (born at Kehl), and Otto Caspary (born at Elberfeld); at Rome, to George Stähle (born at Spendelbach, Wärttemburg); at Florence, to Frederic Gehres (born at Verse, Westphalia); at Genoa, to Wilhelm Obermäller (born at Karlsruhe), cashier, and Schipach, a German; at Naples, to Hugo Schulte, a Prussian, now in the German army.
But how did it negotiate with the papers, and by what sort of contracts did it set about enslaving them, in order to attain the end that we have described at the beginning of this paper? We may learn by certain excerpts from the contracts by which eighty-one Italian papers are still, at this very hour, bound to Haasenstein and Vogler of Milan, that is to say, of Berlin.
Article 5. — The management of the —, and, acting for it, M.—, shall have the absolute right of veto as to all advertisements which it may deem injurious or inopportune from the standpoint of morality or of the character of the paper. But it shall not be entitled to forbid the publication of any advertisement which has been previously inserted, or of any other of a like character.
The management of the — binds itself to prevent the publication, in the guise either of editorial matter or of correspondence, in the body of the paper, — and especially in the columns not devoted to advertisements, — of articles capable of impairing in any possible way the advertising value of the paper.
Thus the Haasenstein and Vogler agency has the power to forbid the insertion of anything which it deems inopportune or capable of impairing the advertising value of the paper, not only on the pages devoted to advertisements, but on the editorial pages properly so-called.
Nor is this all: it also claims the right to exclude any announcement which does not meet its views, without giving a reason, even if it is offered at the full rate:—
Article 9. — In all business negotiations, whether conducted directly with customers or through any third party, Haasenstein and Vogler shall be entitled to grant such reductions from the regular rates as they may deem necessary. Moreover, when such business comes through the intervention of correspondents themselves, branch houses, or agencies, said Haasenstein and A ogler may make such reductions as they may deem advisable, but in no case greater than 15 per cent.
Haasenstein and Vogler shall have the right to refuse advertisements coming from a rival agency, as well as those offered at a lower rate than that mentioned at the head of the paper, for which they do not deem it advisable, for special reasons, to make a reduction in rates.
They shall also be entitled to refuse advertisements at full rates, when they do not deem it advisable to accept them.
This is appropriation pure and simple : with this clause they can, at their pleasure, cut off all competition, foreign or native, of a rival product with the German product. Finally, let us quote this provision: —
Article 22.—The contracting parties agree to maintain the most absolute secrecy concerning the terms of this contract, as well as of all other agreements that may hereafter be entered into between them.
Secrecy, indeed! That follows as a matter of course in such hole-andcorner bargains! Poor Italians — proud as they are, how easily one can understand their disgust!
In the Nouvelle Revue of February 7, 1918, Jean Ajalbert wrote, in an article entitled: ’In Italy, a War-Journey: February-May, 1916,’ —
In the course of thirty years of friendly relations, German agents had insinuated themselves into editorial sanctums and printing offices. But they had more reliable methods. They had monopolized the advertising business by means of the socalled Swiss agency of Haasenstein and Vogler, which worked with feverish energy at the beginning of the war. The great newspapers were able to resist and hold their own; but a large number had to choose between suspending publication and bending the knee, that is to say, accepting doctored dispatches and carrying on a campaign for the Central Empires.
The Haasenstein and Vogler concern distributed or refused advertising, that is to say, supplies, to the poor papers.
But the Italian concern, at Milan, founded by Georg, the confidential agent of Haasenstein and Vogler of Berlin, had its labor for its pains: it did not succeed in preventing the Italian government from taking its stand on the side of the Right. Then it was that, realizing that it was compromised by the shifty manœuvres to which it had resorted, it underwent a transformation,— this is one of the processes for which the Germans have no distaste, — changed its name, and became the Unione di Pubblicita Italiana (Italian Advertising Union). It did more than that: it changed its quarters and established itself in less pretentious offices; and still more — it changed the managers of its branches, whose Teutonic names disclosed too plainly their real nationality.
As it was necessary, however, that the management should remain in the hands of a trustworthy person, it retained one of the two former managers. Wunenburger; but in the documents in which his name appears, he is described as a native of Geneva, although he had been previously declared to have been born at Kehl. This is a proceeding which was repeated, as we shall see, at the time of the establishment of the European Agency at Paris.
Meanwhile this attempt to disguise the Haasenstein and Vogler concern was characterized as it deserved to be by a certain number of Italian papers.
On July 29, 1916, La Sera said, —
A typical example of the artifices by which the Germans have been able to exploit us and are exploiting us still, is presented by the advertising industry, which, so far as a very large number of Italian newspapers is concerned, is in the hands of a purely German concern, the house of Haasenstein and Vogler. Up to yesterday
it has appeared under the mask of an anonymous Swiss advertising agency, whose place is taken to-day by the Unione di Pubblicita Italiana. . . .
Under this deceptive name, Haasenstein and Vogler continue to hold a monopoly of insertions on the fourth page of our newspapers, which believe, as does the general public, that the aforesaid concern, which is attempting to-day to hide its German name behind an Italian designation, is a Swiss commercial house, whose members and capital stock have no connection with a house organized, managed, and financed by Germans.
The chicanery and contempt with which we are treated could not be more outrageous, because the house of Haasenstein and Vogler, even if it can as a matter of law be held to be Swiss, has always been German both ethnologically and financially.
Many Italian newspapers, their eyes being opened, broke with Haasenstein and Vogler, in spite of the contract which bound them. Litigation ensued. The Tribunal of Milan, and, later, the Court of Appeal, decided in favor of the newspapers; but all had not equal courage. Refuse advertising? It is very easy to say it, but how is one to replace the receipts from that source? Tout for customers one’s self? But they do not always come for the asking: one needs a body of trained men to run after customers, solicit them, make them understand that it is to their interest to spend money in advertising in order to sell their wares.
An organizaton of this sort is not to be got together in twenty-four hours; and pending the time when you have it, you must have the means of holding your ground.
The Haasenstein and Vogler agency holds the newspapers, first of all, in this way; and also, in another way, by a shrewd appeal to their pockets: it makes advances of large amount on their advertising contracts, thus reaping this twofold advantage: it receives good interest, and its customers, so long as they have not repaid the advances, are at its mercy.
Down to 1912 the German house of Haasenstein and Vogler of Berlin, which had succeeded so well in Italy through the medium of Georg, its confidential agent, had in France only a single unimportant branch agency, at 100 rue de Réaumur, Paris. In 1912 it thought that the time had come to found a powerful concern, in order to attain in our country the end we have described at the beginning of this paper.
But it was a more difficult matter for the Berlin people to obtain a foothold in Paris than to establish themselves at Geneva or Milan. To hoist the flag of Haasenstein and Vogler would have been too hazardous: a German label in France meant certain defeat.
How could they get around the obstacle? How could they find soberminded Frenchmen who would consent to play the part of dummies and tools of the Berlin house? It was a risky undertaking: they concluded that Georg, President of the Swiss Agency of Haasenstein and Vogler, in view of his Swiss nationality, might be able to found the Paris house without attracting attention; and to impart a more truly French aspect to the establishment, they conceived the scheme of purchasing one or more agencies already operating in the capital.
Thus, in 1912, Georg entered into negotiation with Messieurs Van Minden Brothers, natives of Holland, and well known for many years under the style of Maurice and Paul Méry. He bought their business and proceeded to organize the new concern, turning over to it his new purchase, with the assent of his vendors.
In addition to the Van Minden turnover, the capital to be subscribed in cash was to be 2,200,009 francs. It was subscribed by Georg, one Haccius, his son-in-law and nephew; his fatherin-law (a German by birth); Herman Spahlinger, a Württemberger; Sigismund Richter, a German; and a Frenchman, E— D—, who sub-
scribed the trifling sum of 12,500 francs. Thus Georg was the principal stockholder of the concern: with his sonin-law and nephew, and his father-inlaw, he held shares to the amount of 2,137,500 francs out of 2,200,000.
But they had done one imprudent thing: they had included among the founders of the agency, and, later, in its first Board of Directors, the German Sigismund Richter, falsely declaring him to be a merchant living at Geneva; and this Richter was actually manager of the parent house of Haasenstein and Vogler at Berlin! What would you have? No matter how prudent men are, and how practiced in dissimulation, they always end by committing some imprudence that betrays them, especially when they believe, as every German does, that everything that they do is all right.
We may add that Georg himself, in the act of incorporation, did not disclose the fact that he was manager of the Swiss branch of Haasenstein and Vogler, describing himself modestly as a merchant of Geneva; but this is a mere detail.
It thus appears, from the most conclusive evidence, that the Berlin house — of which Georg was the active head, and of which he held, down to 1916, three fourths of the capital stock; the Geneva house — of which he was the founder, in conjunction with the Germans Haasenstein and Vogler; the Italian house — which also he had founded and the management of which he had entrusted to the most unadulterated Prussian he could lay his hand on; and, finally, the Paris house — of which he and his relations owned almost all the capital, and in which he had placed Sigismund Richter, manager of the Berlin house — that all these are not merely connected with one another, but form a single, identical enterprise. In fact, this status was judicially recognized by a decree of the President of the Tribunal of the Seine, dated February 26, 1018.
This condition of affairs inspired the following just observations in the Milan newspaper, La Sera, of July 29, 1916.
One definite and significant fact stands out, namely, that the German mind is so constituted as to believe that a German concern, like Haasenstein and Vogler, whatever the domicile of its branches, whether Italy or Switzerland, ought to use its financial power to impose a Germanophile editorial policy upon those papers whose advertising it controls; and this the Haasenstein and Vogler concern complains that it cannot do.
This shows a state of affairs of serious consequence, which opens a limitless view of the methods of the German propaganda, especially when one remembers the multitude of small agencies that gravitate about this vast undertaking, and the various disguises it can assume; as it did in France, where it formed the European Advertising Agency, at Paris, which is nothing more than an off-shoot of Haasenstein and Vogler of Berlin, and whose president, Karl Wilhelm Georg, and his brother Heinrich Georg, appear in the notarial certificate, at Turin, as owners of the Haasenstein and Vogler Agency in Italy, as they still are of the house disguised under the name of Unione di Pubblicita Italiana. The European Advertising Agency is no more French than Haasenstein and Vogler is Swiss, or than the Unione di Pubblicita Italiana is Italian.
Haasenstein and Vogler has changed its name but not its body, and even less its soul. It is still the same old German advertising agency, the major part of whose property remains at Berlin in the possession of the German manager of the German bouse, Doctor Richter, who, we must remember, is one of the founders and a member of the Board of Directors of the European Agency, and whose fellow directors are the same men, whether in Berlin, Geneva, Milan, or Paris.
Only the label on the bottle has been changed: the contents are always the same.
Again, in Il Giornale of August 4, 1916, we read that ‘the fact is definitely established that M. Georg, already President of the Board of the Swiss and Italian branches of Haasenstein and Vogler, has taken the presidency of the European Advertising Agency, a purely German creation.'
Now let us see how the European Advertising Agency succeeded in taking root in France, in obtaining a large amount of business there, in making its way into the old French advertising agencies, in opening negotiations with them, and in securing monopolistic concessions which were destined to enable it to approach the French press, and by slow degrees to make itself master of it.
The European Society, thanks to the plant which the Van Minden Brothers, doing business under the name of Méry, had turned over to it, and to the purchase in the following year of the house of John Jones, had at once made a position for itself. It took advantage of it to enter forthwith into relations, not with the press, but with the Havas Agency, and the Société Générate des Annonces (Renier), which together control the advertising of the great Paris papers and of the majority of the great provincial journals. It addressed them, probably, in something after this fashion: ‘Why should you exert yourselves to increase your clientèle in opposition to us, of whose power you must be well aware, since we have behind us the great house of Haasenstein and Vogler which casts its beams throughout the world.’ And to substantiate its words, it had only to produce an account-book which was common to the branch agencies of Haasenstein and Vogler and the parent concern at Berlin — a book which proved the unity of the enterprise.
Havas and the Société Générate must have been convinced by this reasoning, as those two agencies entered into an agreement with the European Agency, dated October 25, 1913. By its terms the French concerns pledged themselves not to accept any advertisements from foreign countries for the French press, and not to accept any orders from French business houses for foreign publication.
Thus, in the first year after its foundation, the Agency had begun to carry out the plan that it had marked out for itself, and to make itself, by slow degrees, master of the French press, by becoming an important purveyor of advertisements, and consequently the dispenser of those receipts without which a newspaper cannot exist.
Georg, the great man of the house of Haasenstein and Vogler, had taken his precautions, in case he should fail to put his hand on the French press, and the latter should rebel, by founding at Geneva, through the medium of dummies, the Société Générate d’Affichage the purpose of which was to accomplish through advertising by bill-posting, what the European Advertising Agency proposed to do through the newspapers.
In the first days of its existence this bill-posting agency succeeded in acquiring certain French establishments, already in existence, which it allowed to keep on operating under their former names. In 1913, it had branches in the following towns in France: Agen, Bayonne, Biarritz, Bordeaux, Cannes, Evian, Luchon, Marseilles, Menton, Montauban, Nice, Royan, and Toulouse. In 1917, the list included the following additional names: Aix-les-Bains, Albi, Annemasse, Arcachon, Chamonix, Divonne, Narbonne, Perpignan, Soulac-sur-Mer, and Thonon.
More than that — the new agency has acquired the concession for the municipal bill-posting in certain large French towns, notably, Albi, Agen, Bayonne, Biarritz, Cannes, Marseilles, Menton, Montauban, and others.
By the creation of the Société d’Affichage and its grip on the French billposting agencies, Georg, and through him the European Advertising Agency, were able, whenever they chose, to threaten to dispense with the services of the newspapers and resort to advertising on the bill-boards.
We may cite, on the subject of the efforts made to extend this enterprise and of the outlay that Georg was prepared to make an order to obtain control of the whole bill-posting industry of France, the following characteristic episode: —
In 1912 Doctor Hermann Stoll, director of the Maggi Company, proposed to the manager of one of our large bill-posting agencies to put him in communication with a friend of his, M. Georg, who had a proposition to make to him.
One fine day Georg appeared, armed with a letter from his friend Stoll. The interview took the following course; although we do not vouch for the exact words, we give their meaning faithfully.
Georg. — The Société Générale d ’Affichage, of which I am the manager, and with which you are familiar, is extending its field of action in your country by purchasing existing agencies. We are ready to take over yours. How much do you want for it?
M. X. — Your question takes me by surprise, but I am sufficiently well acquainted with the ideas of my associates to reply that we are not selling our business. It is a business to which we are attached, and which we propose to develop ourselves.
Georg. — You force me to speak in a different tone. I am Georg —people do not oppose my wishes. Understand that I can find all the capital I need to crush those who are in my path. You cannot contend with me. You will be ruined if you try it. I give you fair warning.
M. X. — Very good; we shall see.
This dialogue is not mere fiction: it really took place. .
Even during the war the European Agency has displayed tremendous energy in monopolizing foreign advertisements. On December 4, 1916, it wrote to the Malay Mail, imprudently introducing itself under the ægis of a great French house, from whom it claimed to have acquired a monopoly of advertisements destined for Australia. The House thus involved formally contradicted this claim; but we will pass over this eminently Teutonic device. The letter went on to say: —
We wish, during the war, to draw closer the commercial links which exist between us and the United Kingdom and to develop the business we are doing with the English Colonies, so as to keep away from the Allied countries all foreign competition in future.
We have been established for 35 years as advertising agents, having been one of the first firms founded on the European Continent ; we are only beginning to develop our relations with the English Colonies which—we regret to say it — have been rather neglected up to the present. The Michelin business is a start; others will follow and we have the firm intention to induce as many of our clients as possible to sell their products in Australia, with the help of advertising.
In order to facilitate the financial side, we have asked the Lloyds Bank, our bankers, to give references on our firm to the Union Bank of Australia at Melbourne, who will give you all the information you may need. Furthermore, we have been in business relations for about thirty years with the leading London papers: Times, Daily Telegraph, Morning Post, Graphic, Sphere, Illustrated London News, etc., etc., and they also will give you all references.
We believe, however, that the fact that the firm of Michelin of Paris has entrusted us exclusively with their advertising for such countries as Australia, West Indies, Spain, Portugal, Siam, Straits Settlements, China, etc., etc., gives you all guaranties.
We may remark incidentally that the European Agency, founded in 1912, here describes itself as being 35 years old. How does it justify this statement? Everything is made clear if we remember that the partnership between Haasenstein, Vogler, and Georg dates from 1882. This is a manifest confession.
In July, 1914, the Agency sent a circular letter to America, to the large manufacturing concerns and business houses, in the following terms: —
Mr. Jean H. Fulgeras, associate of this Company, will be in the United States during the month of September, and will be glad of the opportunity to confer with you in regard to the possibility of extending your market into France and Continental Europe.
In the expressed opinion of many large American houses, Mr. Fulgeras is the bestinformed man in Continental Europe on conditions as they apply to America, and is therefore in a position to give you accurate and valuable information in regard to selling and advertising possibilities on tins side.
Our extensive organization — we are the sole ‘Foreign’ representatives of the majority of the most important newspapers of France —— enables us, not only to offer efficient advertising service, but to secure, if desired, the services of reliable, energetic selling agents.
We believe that we have the privilege of serving more American advertisers than any other firm or combination of firms in France.
Some of the well-known American clients we are serving are: —
Williams Pink Pills
Doans’ Kidney Pills & Ointment
Omega Oil & Cadum Soap
Colgates Soap, etc., etc.
Goodrich Tire Co.
Thus we find a Boche concern offering to supply American manufacturers with ‘reliable, energetic selling agents’ to distribute their products in our country; a Boche concern undertaking to control, with a staff selected by itself, the course of commercial transactions between the United States and France! With what object? We can easily guess.
It is opportune, at this point, to call attention to the Agency’s double game: while it is clear, on the one hand, that it wishes to obtain orders for advertising which will enable it to strengthen its hold on our French press, it is no less clear, on the other hand, that, on the pretext of developing the sale of American products in European markets, it keeps itself posted as to the terms of sale of our ally, the United States, to inform German industrial interests thereon, as any one can see.
In the autumn of 1917, Printer’s Ink, an American periodical, printed two interviews with the same Jean H. Fulgeras, ‘of the Société Européenne de Publicité,’ in which he dwelt upon the vast market awaiting American products in France through judicious advertising in the great Parisian newspapers. ‘Until a few years ago,’he said, ‘the advertising-agency situation in Paris was in rather bad shape. Such agencies as existed were space-brokers pure and simple. . . . To-day, thanks to the introduction of American ideas . . . and the demands of American advertisers invading the field, the situation is infinitely improved. . . .'
When these facts were disclosed in the campaign that we entered upon in the columns of L’Homme Libre, which resulted in the sequestration as a German concern of the Paris house of Haasenstein and Vogler, what did the great newspapers say which figured in Fulgeras’s notices as having given to that concern the exclusive right to represent them? They held their peace — all except two, which declared that they had no direct agreement with the European Advertising Agency.
Now, although it was true that that Agency had no direct contract with the papers in question, still, the HavasRenier combination had previously organized a special agency for each one of them, the function of which was to control and develop the advertising of the paper in question; and it was with these interpolated agencies that the European Agency had relations through the Havas-Renier group.
Will it he said that the actual control, direct or indirect, of the advertising of a newspaper, does not necessarily influence its editorial policy, which may well remain independent despite that circumstance? To prove the contrary, it will suffice to recall the silence of the great newspapers concerning the disclosures that we made as to the origin, the object, and the operation of the European Agency. That silence on their part was all the more significant because our campaign was based upon documents easily verifiable, which any one could procure, as they were matters of public record.
Not only did those papers remain mute: when the European Advertising Agency was sequestered, and on appeal the decision was affirmed by the President of the Tribunal of the Seine, the same papers, actually going so far as to distort the terms of the decree, announced that ‘only the German interests in the Agency were sequestered.’ This way of putting it was calculated to give the impression that the agency itself was not under sequestration, and that only the interests of certain stockholders had been seized.
This will seem a shocking thing to many people; but we must remember that it is hard to break off abruptly connections of such long standing, and to free one’s self of a domination which one has undergone for so many years.
It is to be feared that the German agency, having been sequestered by the French courts, is being reconstituted under another name, to continue the work projected by Haasenstein and Vogler and carried on by that house in French Switzerland and Italy. These fears are not chimerical if we reflect upon the effort that the Germans are sure to make, to introduce their products into the Entente countries after the war. As the Allies will refuse to purchase commodities which bear the German label, the Germans will not fail to disguise them, and to offer them under new names, with the same cynicism that they displayed in changing the name of Haasenstein and Vogler at Geneva and Milan. One can see, then, how important it is for them to control the advertising pages of French newspapers, in order to introduce these new marks and to guide German manufacturers and merchants in their extensive ' puffing ’ operations.
The centralization of advertising, like that of finance, imposes this new condition, that the moral standpoint of the man who manages it must change. Just as the banking association which handles hundreds of millions of deposits can no longer be managed according to the narrowly individual principles applied in a small or medium-sized bank, but must be alive to the obligations which are attached to the management of every form of public service, so it will certainly not be deemed allowable for all the newspapers of a country to be in the hands of a group which handles them without thought of anything except deriving the maximum profit, whatever the reaction of its management on the national interests.
The newspapers must understand that it is with them a matter of selfpreservation to refrain from handing over their advertising to an agency which they do not control, but which, on the contrary, holds them under its influence. We must remember what happened in Italy, our ally, where we have seen the Haasenstein and Vogler concern wield an execrable influence over the papers which favored intervention, threatening to give them no more advertisements, if they did not change their politics. The plain inference is that a newspaper not only loses its freedom when it lets its commercial advertising to an agency, but that it also exposes itself to the risk of seeing its resources suddenly diminish or disappear. It must therefore defend its independence if it has any regard, not only for public morality, but for its own material interests.
Is this all? No. There is also the national and social side of the question; for we cannot conceal from ourselves the fact that a press managed too largely from a commercial standpoint may become a source of danger to the country. It may become basely demagogic, by flattering the impulses of the crowd, whether they are good or evil, without pausing to reflect where this course may lead the nation — all to increase its circulation. Under present conditions it would be for war so long as the people wanted it, ready to take the side of peace if the people should ever waver. Patriot or ' defeatist ’ — it would matter little; it would follow slavishly an unthinking populace, ignorant of the problems involved, — could it be otherwise? — in order to sell the same quantity of paper to-day as yesterday.
Here is the other extreme: having acquired influence, it would be a question simply of turning that influence into cash; of selling it to whoever can use it: liquor-sellers, shady financiers, as well as honest workmen and shopkeepers. The distinction between the pages would be a matter of indifference: the fourth, and even the first, to save appearances, would belong as of right to the highest bidder, even if he were a German.
We can say, therefore, without exaggeration, that, in a democratic state, the fate of the nation is in the hands of the newspapers. Under many circumstances they are needed to sustain the moral courage of the people; and, under other circumstances, to prepare men’s minds for the great reorganizations which are necessary, for example, on the morrow of a war like that in which we are now engaged.
We live, in very truth, under a régime of public opinion which makes it impossible to carry through any reform without the approval of a majority; and how are the people to be stirred to action unless the newspapers devote themselves to the task; unless they are guided by a fervent and unselfish desire?
Immense power — immense duty! And so the press must take account of its mission, and determine, above all things, not to allow itself to be enslaved by any combination whatsoever, to the profit of one knows not what organization which may have designs against the country.