Judge Hooper on Propaganda
by Ellis Parker Butler
Our eminent jurist, Justice of the Peace Lem Hooper, took off his spectacles and raised his eyebrows questioningly at Court Officer Durfey.
"I only want to ask you, judge," said Durfey, "what is this propaganda business a man hears so much about these days?"
"I can tell you in one word, Durfey," said Judge Hooper. "Propaganda is a thick wad of spongy paper on which have been mimeographed the letters of the alphabet arranged in the form of words for the purpose of making black look white and white look like the golden radiance that beats around the Throne. When neatly done up in an envelope the wad is mailed to eight thousand two hundred and sixty-four editors in the hope that one of them will say, 'Jim, the meeting of the school board has been postponed until next Tuesday, which leaves a hole as big as the court house on page seven; stick in enough of this junk to fill it.'
"At the present time, Durfey, the main habitat of the propaganda bug is the great city of New York, to which the famous and infamous writers of fiction flock in eager but hungry herds, and go bust. For the purpose of the propagandist New York is the fine flower of perfection, being situated on the outskirts of the largest stone post office on the Western Hemisphere and containing more dealers in second-hand flat-topped desks than any other cosmopolis on earth. A fair-to-middling typewriter can be rented for $1.00 per month, and the splendid freedom with which many of the commercial classes display a fifteen-dollar overcoat with a placard saying 'This magnificent all-wool garment, formerly $85, now marked down to $45" induces a noble scorn for unimportant details such as truth.
"In spreading his glad tidings the propagandist first requires a sour lemon that he is to prove is a sweet orange if not the true golden apple of the Hesperides. It may be that the nation of Ruritania has spent the past forty years playfully cutting the livers out of the Methodist Episcopal missionaries and using them for fish bait, the Ruritanians being followers of the prophet Hogus and sore as a pup at all other sects. All is well for forty years, but suddenly the Dekko-Bojacks decide to buy Ford cars and cast hungry glances at the gasoline mines of Ruritania. For the purpose of proclamations they declare that Amos B. Gubb, of Glean, Ohio, who is now liverless and defunct at the hands of the Ruritanians, was a second cousin of the Dujack of Dekko-Bojackia -- I'm speaking parabolically, you understand, Durfey -- and go to war. Instantly the Dekko-Bojackians send a gent with a two-foot beard and a breath loaded with garlic to the United States. He has a fist full of real money. Co-instantly the Ruritanians send another gent, with a beard two feet and a half long and eight inches wide at the base, to New York. He has two fists full of money, not of the Ruritanian wastebasket brand.
"The idea, in general, Durfey, is that the national color of Ruritania is yellow and the national color of Dekko-Bojackia is blue, and the brain of the American -- in the opinion of them foreigners -- is white mush. The object is to squirt yellow into the brain of the intelligent citizen of the Land of the Free until it is solid yellow, or to squirt blue into it until it is beautiful blue mush, thus creating a properly mushy public sentiment that will induce the Department of State to advise the Dekko-Bojacks that the gasoline mines are none of our business, or cause it to telegraph the Ambassador to Ruritania that the Methodist Episcopal missionaries always did have too many livers and are better off without a few, and that the gasoline mines of Ruritania must remain Ruritanian, yours truly, dictated but not read.
"The first step of the long-bearded patriot from Ruritania. Durfey, is to find a restaurant where they serve vodka with the tea, after which he hires a fictionist in a cutaway coat and white spats, and turns him loose at the rented typewriter, paying him the first real money he has earned since last June when he conducted the propaganda campaign proving the French are murdering thieves -- a campaign he was well fitted to undertake since just before that he had conducted the campaign proving the French are swan-feathered angels with platinum halos. He spits on his hands, sticks a sheet of paper in the typewriter and begins: 'It is unfortunate that the news from Ruritania for the last eighty years has had to come by way of Dekko-Bojackia, since every blame word has been censored and nothing but lies defaming the delightful Ruritanians has come to us. At last word has come direct, by courier from Pippalonga via Gumbusoga, and we have the truth about the much-touted liver business. No livers were ever taken from Methodish Episcopal missionaries and fed to the fishes. The truth is that one -- only one, mind you -- Methodist Episcopal missionary back in 1897 looked a little peaked and the chief surgeon of the king, speaking of it, said "Your majesty, maybe our dear missionary friend would buck up a little if he took a few doses of cod-liver oil." It was this the cursed black Dekko-Bojacks twisted into unfounded lies.' And at the same time, Durfey, in the Dekko-Bojack shop across the street the other eager (for wages) new-made patriot of Dekko-Bojackia is writing: 'The Truth About the Ruritanian Massacres; late advices from Ukka-Logak, on the frontier, give proof that instead of 7,654 missionaries having been de-livered by the Ruritanians, the actual total is 97,642, and in some cases two and even three livers were removed from each.'"
"I should think," said Durfey, "that such a confusion of propagandas would be confusing to the American public."
"It is, Durfey," said Judge Hooper. "The net result is one of two things. Either half the brains of America get violently yellow and the other half violently blue, causing grand rages about things that are none of our business, or the yellow and blue mix and we are a rich, verdant green. And the way we swallow this propaganda stuff, Durfey, I'm beginning to think green is what we are."