June 15, 1935 - Article - The Great Propaganda Machine, by Albert W. Atwood
There is one point on which all shades of opinion concerning the New Deal concur - namely, that it is engaged in putting on the greatest show on earth. In more dignified language, it has made Washington the world's news center to an unprecedented degree. It has poured forth a perfect torrent of news, views, facts, information, stories, opinions, articles, reports, surveys, speeches, books, publicity and promotion. It has filled the press and radio; its success in dominating the thought and attention of the nation can hardly be denied by its severest critic.
To get right down to cases, it may be noted that some 11,000 press releases have come from the National Recovery Administration in its comparatively short life to date. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration and the Department of Agriculture are each releasing at the rate of 1500 a year, of 3000 for the two closely related farm agencies. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration and the Public Works Administration have been in existence only two years, and their releases each run over 1100. There are other agencies as prolific, but these few illustrations will suffice. (pg. 23)
Because air channels are limited, radio enjoys a degree of liberty of expression far more circumscribed than that of the press. The Government has a direct licensing power over broadcasting stations, and licenses are for short periods only. Moreover, there is a Federal body to which complaints can be made regarding radio programs, and a great volume of complaints, many of them of a trivial nature, are made. Almost any radio program, or almost any newspaper, for that matter, has features to which some exception might be taken.
The natural result in that broadcast stations give a great deal of time to the Government in power.(pg. 96)
It is a tradition with the English -speaking race that legislators are not only free to comment as much as they desire upon their own legislation but are expected to do so as a safeguard to democratic institutions. In fact, a large proportion of the 531 members of Congress almost fall over themselves to make their ideas known. A good deal of fun is poked at this propensity, yet, in all seriousness, it is one of the real protective elements making for free institutions.
But under conditions which have prevailed generally for the past two years, a large part of the actual work of legislation has been assumed by a number of obscure subordinate administration officials, minor in rank, but in key positions where actual direction to Government is given. Usually these are the younger lawyers of intellectuals attached to the various departments, bureaus and alphabetical agencies.
The identity of most of these men is known to very few people; they are entirely out of the limelight; they are free from any of the responsibility that goes with elective or high appointive office; they are under no traditional obligation to talk to either press or citizens; in too many cases they are persons with doctrinaire leanings, and it is no secret that some of them have little use for either Congress or the courts. Yet these have been the kind of men who have furnished Congress with so much ready-made legislation. (pg. 98)