WWII echoes down the decades

in Army · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · EX-USSR · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Person 2017 · Victory Day 2017 91 views / 7 comments
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GEOMETR.IT  theconversation.com

At approximately 1.30 am in the night of September 11 1939 two police officers walked into the offices of the Daily Mail with instructions to seize all of its early editions. This action was repeated at newspaper offices and wholesale newsagents across the United Kingdom. A road block was set up in Fleet Street, trains from London were stopped, and members of the public had newspapers confiscated.

The war had begun eight days earlier. And this chaotic situation 12 hours earlier. At midday on 11 September, an official radio broadcast in Paris had wrongly announced that British troops were engaged in offensive action against Nazi forces. The whereabouts of British troops had been kept strictly secret since the beginning of the war. So the announcement led to serious discussions within the British government.

The Ministry of Information believed that there was little point suppressing a story which had already broken. The fact that reports of the broadcast had been picked up in the United States suggested that they would also have made their way into enemy hands.

It was eventually agreed that the government should confirm the arrival of British troops in France. But the War Office remained wary that more important information might be accidentally disclosed. It became even more worried when government censors began to receive colourful stories about troops being welcomed with flowers and partaking in bayonet charges.

The War Office responded by instructing the Ministry of Information’s censorship division to recall the news. When this attempt at retrospective censorship failed, an unnamed civil servant in the Home Office instructed the police to take “all possible steps” to protect “the national interest”. The resulting blockade led to scenes of “complete chaos”.

The events of 11-12 September 1939 became a defining moment for British censorship during World War II. They led to intense criticism. Newspaper editors accused the Ministry of Information of acting in a “true Gestapo manner” while opposition politicians spoke of a “muddle of the worst possible kind”. An opinion poll undertaken on behalf of the government also found that more than half of the public believed censorship was too tightly applied.

The fact that the Ministry of Information was responsible for both the issue and censorship of news exacerbated the criticism. Newspapers simply could not understand why the ministry had ended up censoring itself. It had been designed to act as the government’s mouthpiece and its press releases were supposedly vetted in advance. The very fact that one of these stories had been repressed suggested that the system did not work. This led to the ministry being stripped of its responsibility for censorship on October 9 1939.

This episode demonstrates the challenges caused by censorship in an otherwise “open” society. It also resonates with more contemporary concerns. Recent debates about press regulation – reignited by Sir Alan Moses’s statement that the industry-funded Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) is not “a joke” – show that the perception of any regulatory body remains crucial to its success.

It’s not yet clear how IPSO will work in practice. And it’s unlikely that it will ever be embroiled in events as dramatic as those outlined here. But if there’s a lesson to be learned from the experience of the Second World War, it’s that the system linking the production and regulation of news must be made clear.



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  1. To my mind, one of the most remarkable things is rarely remarked on. Millions of men and women, who had endured much horror, returned home and made good lives for themselves. We welcomed our veterans home, and most of them went on to become productive citizens. rue, we didn’t care for their psychological injuries as well as we should have, but there was at least the support mechanisms of veterans groups and the general sense that what our veterans did was appreciated.

  2. well we have to think about what caused the second world war.
    I’ll say the treaty of Versailles was so harsh on the Germans, not only it economically destroyed them, it forced them to give up land and demilitarise.
    so when that happened, an Austrian political called Adolf Hitler (ring any bells guys?)promised to the German people that, Germany would become the most powerful country and have the most purest race, the world has ever seen.
    so that sparked the second world war
    withe the Germans invading the Polish in September 1st 1939.

    alternate: what would happen if world war 2 never happened?

    well If the war never started more bad things would happen instead of good things.
    good things:
    Adolf Hitler wouldn’t rise to power
    there would be no holocaust

  3. Because it could happen again.
    If we allow ourselves to forget how terrible wars on that scale are, we put the very future of the human race at risk, especially with today’s weapons.

  4. With the economic turmoil left behind by World War 1, some countries were taken over by dictators who formed powerful fascist governments. The first fascist government was Spain which was ruled by the dictator Franco. Then Mussolini took control of Italy. These dictators wanted to expand their empires and began to look for new lands to conquer. Italy invaded and took over Ethiopia in 1935. Adolf Hitler would emulate Mussolini in his take over of Germany.

  5. There was no negotiating the treaty of Versailles, it was drawn up and Germany was told to sign it in a railroad car outside Versailles, France, much the same as Russia was told by Germany to sign their Treaty of Brest-Litovsk when Russia wanted out of the war almost a year earlier after the zsar was overthrown in the Bolshevik revolution, Like Russia, Germany had no choice but to sign it if they wanted the war to end, and like Russia, it cost them dearly.

  6. The way WWI was ended itself contained the seed of WWII. Entire responsibility of WWI was placed on Germany and humiliating Treaty of Versailles was imposed on it. Harsh conditions of this treaty on Germany (war guilt clause, disarmament, reparations of damages in WW-1 and territorial clauses ) caused resentment among Germans. People were dissatisfied with the government and voted to power Adolf Hitler, a man who promised to rip up the Treaty of Versailles. It sowed the seed for WW – II.

  7. “Loss of control” was the duly recorded cause of the crash. The real cause? A pilot, barely out of his teens, struggling valiantly to maintain control, but trained too few hours to fly a massive fabric-covered warplane. Not nearly enough flight time to handle the sudden reality of volatile weather, iced-up wings, and the aerodynamics of a heavy but fragile aircraft. Still, he tried his very best, for all of them.

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