Let’s talk about the propaganda of war during the times of Finland-Russian war. Propagandists are not miracle men. The Finnish cause in the United States was espoused by personalities as diverse as President Roosevelt and ex-President Hoover, Father Coughlin and Elsie the Cow; at Finnish benefits Broadway stars contributed songs and Dorothy Lamour her sarong; the American Institute of Public Opinion reported that 88 per cent of America was rooting for Finland, only 1 per cent for Russia. Rarely, if ever, has a propaganda drive been waged under more favorable conditions. But while the Finns needed guns and troops, Joseph Stalin needed only a publicity man. It was a race against time: could the Finns convert a hoard of moral support into tangible military assets? Given additional time, they might have been able to do so. But they lost the race. Although the war in Finland ended on March 12, its echoes did not subside. These echoes promised to become ncreasingly audible as the war in the West proceeded.
London and Paris had written off the Finns as lost, but not forgotten. When Belgium was overrun in 1914, her spiritual value to the Allied cause was only enhanced by her plight; and the dividends of the Allied propaganda investment in Belgium weren't realized until three years later. There was ample evidence that the Allies were alive to the value of Finland in their propaganda in America. The Russian campaign did more than any prior aspect of the war in the West to undermine American aloofness. It provoked a mental and emotional mobilization; it shattered almost all the pretenses of neutrality; it revealed the receptivity of a large body of Americans to anti-Communist manifestoes. The United States didn't go to war to save Finland. But the United States witnessed a dress rehearsal in miniature of the kind of campaign which would precede a war against Bolshevism. In the angry chorus of voices which condemned the Russian invasion it was not always possible to identify those who loved Finland less than they hated Bolshevism. Both the affirmative and negative passions were fully exploited; they were the basic elements in an almost perfect design for propagandists. Finland's advocates made mistakes, both in Helsinki and New York.
To prove that Finland was no lost cause, they exaggerated their successes to ridiculous proportions; the fantasy overshadowed the urgency of their plight. (There were caustic suggestions that the Russians, not the Finns, needed relief. ) Ex-President Hoo ver's leadership of the relief campaign also, in the long run, had serious drawbacks. He was too vulnerable. For one thing he had headed the Belgian relief movement, and most Americans tend to agree that the enterprise, whatever its humanitarian intent, was part of the build-up for American intervention in World War I; a judgment in which postwar students concur.
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