“Censorship is essential in wartime, and we are at war.”

A Report on the Office of Censorship from November 1945, by Byron Price (Director), has quite a lot of detail with regard to American culture during 44 months of national censorship operations.

Censorship’s work may be said to divide itself into two separate tasks. The first is to deprive the enemy of information and of tangibles, such as funds and commodities which he can use against our armies and our navies. The second is to collect intelligence of many kinds which can be used against the enemy. No censorship can fail to go dangerously afield unless it holds rigidly and resolutely to these basic purposes.

…the President issued the following statement outlining the bases of Censorship: “All Americans abhor censorship, just as they abhor war. But the experience of this and of all other nations has demonstrated that some degree of censorship is essential in war time, and we are at war.”

With all the news lately circulating about Texas hoarding weirdly pro-slavery revisionist narratives and denying history (e.g. struggle to remove revisionism and restore real history of the Alamo), it’s impossible to say Americans abhor censorship.

Without heavy censorship for example the myth of Davy Crockett finally would die, as historians repeatedly try to reveal he fought for slavery until being caught and executed.

Anyway, there are a lot of details from the WWII Office of Censorship in anecdotes like the following, which make for light reading:

Most of the censors, of course, were women, who traditionally have been preferred for the job.

Why? No more explanation about women is given. Here’s another one:

To prevent the transmission of secret information, the postal censors also had to stop such things as international chess games, for the symbols might or might not be entirely innocent.

I’ve always felt that way about chess. Also this:

One woman tried to get a letter past Censorship by concealing it in a basket of flowers which she carried off a plane at an American airport. She paid a $40 fine for censorship evasion.

Was it really concealed? I mean flowers are kind of unusual and draw attention, especially on a plane. At least she didn’t put the letter inside a bunch of balloons.

Speaking of balloons, Censorship asked Japan’s bombing campaign to be obscured from the people who were targeted until a generic “don’t touch the pretty balloons” warning finally became a compromise.

Late in 1944 voluntary censorship was presented with a unique problem in connected with the landing of Japanese bomb-carrying balloons in the western part of the United States… Censorship asked editors and broadcasters not to mention these incidents unless the War Department officially gave out information. There was complete compliance with this request, even when six persons were killed by one of the bombs in Oregon on May 5, 1945. Stories of the tragedy did not disclose the cause. […] The Japanese received neither information nor comfort about their fantastic scheme to attack the United States.

The Oregon Secretary of State today retells the bomb stories in much detail.

Taken as a whole the report consistently says that censorship must focus tightly on a narrow objective such as fighting against racism, fighting against pandemic and fighting against… I hate that I have to say it… enemies of democracy.

As the Office of Censorship report says on page 11:

It took pains to indoctrinate the censors and those charged with distributing intercepted information with the basic principle that only material having a direct bearing on the war should be reported.

All good food for thought when reading news about Tucker Carlson meeting with authoritarian leader of Hungary, Viktor Orban, before speaking at an anti-democracy gathering in Budapest.

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