Early Encounters with Censorship

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

While a freelance war correspondent in Europe at the end of World War I, Seldes and three other journalists drove into Germany on Armistice Day, in violation of the armistice regulations. They got an exclusive interview with German field marshal Paul von Hindenburg, who tearfully confessed that the Germans had lost the war to the American infantry on the battlefield. This story was censored by the U.S. Army under pressure from a group of journalists, including Edwin L. James of The New York Times, who did not want their papers to know that they had been scooped. Seldes always believed that if Hindenburg’s statement had been widely publicized, Hitler would not have been able to appeal to the masses with false claim that Germany lost World War I, not on the battlefield but because it had been “stabbed in the back” by socialists, communists, and Jews. Years later, Seldes wrote that James, who had risen to the position of managing editor at The New York Times, had ordered his staff “never to mention” Seldes’ books or name.

In 1927 Seldes was sent to Mexico by The Chicago Tribune to report on the unrest in the country. Seldes recalled that while the Associated Press frightened the public with reports of a possible communist revolution in Central America, he found that the real news story concerned representatives of American oil interests, who wanted to topple the government so they could appropriate Mexico’s oil...

(The entire section is 442 words.)