Document 8: Carrie Chapman Catt, "Lies-At-Large," The Woman Citizen, June 1927, pp. 10-11, 41.
Appearing in 1927, this third article by Catt attacked the swear tactics of anti-red propaganda and false accusations. Although she initially dealt with the anti-red hysteria humorously, Catt did not evade the seriousness behind such defamation. She viewed it as a threat to American democracy, and questioned a government that not only failed to quash these "red hunts" but that actually perpetuated them.
Citizens Who See Certain Other Patriotic Citizens
Through a Red Haze of Fear
A SINGULAR thing is happening in this country. A group of men and women have wrought themselves up to an almost apoplectic state of mind with sheer fright over the expected coming of the Bolsheviki. The group appears to be composed of irredentist anti-suffragists, groups of the D.A.R. and other patriotic societies, some elderly army and navy men and scattered sacred souls here and there. Although its component parts have little or no connection, they are clearly working together for a grand defensive against the Russian enemy. It is seemingly well financed and venomous to an astonishing degree. They take themselves seriously and perform as though they actually believe what they say. It is indeed a revelation that men and women of a civilized land can hate so ardently, think so falsely, or stoop so low to give a vicious kick at those they hate. Yet were it not for this and one or two other flaws in the situation, the country would be unanimously grateful to this voluntary host of defenders ready to meet the Bolsheviki mid-seas when they come over. Here the laugh comes in.
THE unhappy defenders, all loaded with hate and patriotism, can not find a Bolshevik at whom to level their guns. Not a shot falls where a Communist could possibly lurk. When they cast about, Don Quixote fashion, for an appropriate enemy upon whom to launch their fury, their apprehensive gaze fell, not on a windmill, but upon a few regiments of respectable, intelligent, law-abiding, patriotic citizens who chanced to be moving in the range of their vision. As they saw red themselves, a red rainbow invested these innocent citizens, and suddenly quantities of print announced that these quiet folk were in reality an army secretly allied to the dread Bolsheviki, and although appearing much like other Americans, they were working day and night to make things easy for the Russians when they should arrive.
According to this literature, some two hundred and fifty societies in the United States have gone over root and branch. Since the list [A] includes more membership than the Bolsheviki claim to have converted to their views in Russia itself, the wonder grows that a bold, bad Bolshevik has not, by some coup d’etat, pushed Mr. Coolidge from the presidential chair, seized our banks and factories and turned us all over to the new order. That it has not been done indicates that these self-styled patriots have wandered far away from facts and truth. Are they merely scared or is there a motive for attempting to destroy the status, influence and good name of innumerable individuals and organizations?
Many senators, representatives, clergymen, authors, correspondents and most public speakers are enumerated among the red and dangerous, according to the literature. Tons of it are distributed by the anxious at doors of clubs, dinners, theatres, lecture halls, churches, each telling the reader of the horrors of the conspiracy in our midst. Tons of lies passed out by American citizens charging other American citizens, at least as honest, intelligent and patriotic as themselves, with near treason.
It astonishes, amuses and shames the nation. If Bolsheviki are coming or have arrived, there should be a united nation to meet them, not a debating society quarreling over the relative shades of pink among our citizens.
It is safe to say that in the women’s organizations listed as dangerous and deceitful, even Diogenes with his lamp could not find a Bolshevik. Whoever says they are red, lies. I know very many of the men and women listed and advertised as red. Those who write and print these tales about them lie. To be sure, they say I am red, too. Therefore, let me add I am not a Bolshevik, Communist (nor even a Socialist), and whoever charges me with leanings in that direction lies. More, whoever circulates by word of mouth or the distribution of literature any of the above lies, disobeys the law of God, "Thou shalt not bear false witness."
These folk, terribly scared, are either badly duped, or they are not scared at all and are deliberately organized to dupe others. Neither motive is flattering, but there is no other explanation for their strange conduct.
I have in my possession quantities of this literature sent me by solicitous friends who received it through the mails or through distributions at public meetings. It affords considerable variety and has come from many states, yet all of it contains the same lies repeated and revamped.
I SELECT one interesting document by way of example. It is a conglomeration of lies and innuendo read into the Congressional Record by Senator Bayard of Delaware on July 3, 1926, and covers about sixty-nine columns of that document. The total scheme is designed to show that the Maternity Act, the Child Labor Amendment, the Educational Bill and similar legislation, are Communistic, by demonstration that all the people and organizations sponsoring them are either sympathizers with Communism or poor fools who are duped by the Bolshevists. Quotations from Communists, Socialists, and other radicals mostly long dead, or if alive, living in Russia, none of whom probably ever heard of these proposed acts of the Congress of the United States, are sprinkled over the whole with a wild hand. Baron Munchausen could not have compiled a bigger lie, nor a more malicious one.
This document was reprinted in a least two forms; one was franked to thousands of people, and the other distributed at public meetings. Scared groups of men and women from Maine to California have discussed its awful import with many an "Oh," "Ah," and "How Terrible!"
Mildly speaking, there is at least one big downright lie to each of the sixty-nine columns, while little ones are scattered all over it like pepper and salt. If it contains any truth at all, it is buried so deep that an excavating expedition would be needed to find it.
Now this mess maligning American citizens and such organizations as the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the largest women’s organization in the nation; the League of Women Voters, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union--the two next in size--and many others, is read into the Record by a senator who thus becomes a party to the lies; it is reprinted by the Government Printing Office, and thus our Government willy-nilly becomes a party to false accusations against its own citizens; the Senate allows such privileges to its members, and thus by its rules becomes a party to falsehoods about its own constituencies, and lastly, from the tax money extracted from millions of women lied about,
Some say, sue, sue, sue! Sue whom? No one can sue the Government for its printing office policy, nor the Senate, and the senator is immune. Your Government may destroy its own citizens and these citizens are powerless to defend themselves. If there is some one to provide the lies and a senator weak or malicious enough to read the lies into the Record, the process may continue indefinitely. Ill-informed, half-educated people will listen to a quotation from a Government document and readily believe a lie must be the truth. You, Gentle Reader, can campaign against any group that disagrees with you, if you will stoop so low, by mobilizing lies, hate and malice and getting it into the Record. Call your opponents the most terrible names you can concoct, and by its rules your Government and Senate must co-operate with you. All the equipment you need is a willingness to lie!
One gem from this document is quoted merely to show the method of innuendo used in the compilation. It was apparently thought necessary to thoroughly discredit Miss Abbott, whose Bureau enforces the Maternity Act, and this is a specimen of the way it is done. (Page 18, first column, bottom):
"MISS GRACE ABBOTT, chief of the Children's Bureau, is one of the two consultative members of the executive board of the Women's International League. There are only two such officials in each country, who probably [the italics in this paragraph are mine] constitute the most powerful inner ring of the League. Miss Abbott's colleague may be Miss Anna Louise Strong. . . . No list is published." A few paragraphs earlier it is stated that "Miss Strong is now chief press agent for Moscow."
Thus by this innuendo, Miss Strong, alleged American Communist living in Russia, it is claimed, may be a member with Miss Abbott on an international committee representing this country, and if she is, she, Bolshevik, and Miss Abbott, in a committee of two from a country, probably control the International League. Note the neat process!
This organized or federated group, dealing in lies favors war and opposes all proposals for peaceful settlements of disputes including arbitration. When Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler made a speech recently, endorsing the League of Nations, he was straightway called a red. When Dr. Crothers, eminent divine, expressed the conviction that the World Court might help to keep nations out of war, it was instantly discovered that he, too, was red. When Senator Borali thought Nicaragua no fit place for marines, he was promptly designated red. When John F. Moors, of Boston, well-known banker, dared to say that since a treaty between the United States and Mexico called for arbitration when, and if, disputes should arise, it might be well to live up to the agreement, he was suddenly transformed into a red over night. As once folks, powerless to give an argument, threw bad eggs, so these make no pretense at defending war--instead they hysterically throw red, red, you're red!
The group opposes the abolition of child labor. It does not defend the employment of children in factories; it merely denounces those who condemn such practices as red. They have widely announced that the Child Labor Amendment was written in Moscow and prescribed by the Bolsheviki. (The Amendment was, in fact, written by a group of lawyer Congressmen and passed upon by several deans of law schools, including those of the University of Pennsylvania and of Harvard.)
The group opposes the Maternity Act. This, too, it seems, was ordered in Moscow. The deaths of mothers at maternity in this country was far above the mortality in other lands. The act had its origin in the desire to correct this unfortunate condition and to save the lives of mothers and babies. It appears that the reds always begin with special care of babies!
The group once opposed woman suffrage, and at least two-thirds of the silly mess used now for circulation is only revamped material broadcast in press and on platform with the intention of showing that woman suffrage was the program of Socialism, and that the leaders of the movement were dangerous radicals. Entire paragraphs are lifted from those ancient documents and set into the new attacks.
This campaign of lies need cause no worry--lies usually come home to roost. But questions are stirring in minds--bold, terrible, red minds, according to charges. Who are the half-criminal minds that invent the lies, strap together unrelated items that form a lie, design the hints and innuendoes that make the most malicious of lies? Further and important, who pays the salaries, the printer’s bills, the post-office and the clerks? Is it the munition makers? Or is it indeed Moscow, as many Americans seriously think? Is Moscow thus trying to break the patriotic solidarity of intelligentsia so that they will fight each other instead of the coming enemy? How does it happen that the Government is involved in it? How, where and why, is money paid out to finance so malicious a campaign? Is not the design to disintegrate organizations, turn members against the officers they elected, discredit every person, professor, editor, speaker who thinks? If so, why?
Therefore, when and if the worm should think it worth while to turn, there is likely to eventuate a nationwide row, with air filled with howls, hats, coats and umbrellas, while liars are properly disciplined by the lied-about. Each side will call the other red, and Moscow may enjoy the spectacle.
The only certain conclusion that can be drawn from the situation is that probably we did descend from apes, and maybe not long ago.
Since the publication of Mrs. Catt's series on "Poison Propaganda" in the CITIZEN in 1924, such propaganda has continued in new forms. This introductory article and those to come will follow the recent developments. The next article is "An Open Letter to the D.A.R."
A. It is presumed
that Catt is referring to "The Common Enemy" here, which was a pamphlet produced
by the Daughters of the American Revolution. She discussed this article in
some detail in "An Open Letter to the D.A.R." which was published in the July
1927 issue of The Woman Citizen.
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