THERE were cheerful prophets in London and Paris (and New York) who believed that the United States would enter the war at the conclusion of King George's opening remarks. They were wrong. But those who interpreted America's failure to intervene at once, or within six months, as sure sign that we never would were operating on equally tenuous assumptions. Neither group of dogmatic theorists understood America; and neither understood propaganda. If the intervening period proved anything, it revealed the elasticity of popular emotion, the swiftness with which it could fluctuate. In September, 1939, Americans talked only of war, and of our entry; that was inevitable, all the experts agreed. Then came the listless, uneventful months of "quiet war," disturbed only by the hostilities in Finland; and, despite Finland, those who said that our entry was preordained were called alarmists. When, in April, 1940, war exploded in rapid succession on the picturesque terrain of Norway and the Low Countries, the "alarmists" were once more restored to the eminence of experts; as the "war in earnest" began, Americans began anew to talk of war: not enthusiastically, but with resignation. As the war went, it appeared, so would go Maine. There might be another lull, or the word might seem grotesque by the time it was in type. Only soothsayers could tell the answer, for wars do not run according to public schedule. And without some picture of the future course of the war it was foolhardy, even after months of observation, to predict with positiveness the course of American behavior.
This was the key fact, to foreign propagandists in
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Publication information: Book title: War Propaganda and the United States. Contributors: Harold Lavine - Author, James Wechsler - Author. Publisher: Yale University Press. Place of publication: New Haven, CT. Publication year: 1940. Page number: 325.
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