Information, Propaganda, Censorship and the Newspapers
In the Second World War, television was scarcely known. Instead
people received their diet of information from newspapers, radio
and motion pictures. Government in turn used the media to get out
their message and shape opinion, while those on the business end
of information cooperated closely, almost as if they were an arm
of the government. The war was total. The cause was just. Propaganda
was not a dirty word.
The government was out to stop any news or talk that would damage
the Allied cause, or make Canadians doubt the war effort. As in
other nations at war, the Canadian armed forces censored militarily
sensitive information, whether it appeared in soldiers' letters
home or in the dispatches from war correspondents at the front.
A civilian Directorate of Censorship within the Department of National
War Services, formed in July 1940, was responsible for the security
of information in newspapers, radio and film, as well as in postal
and telegraphic communications. All mail from Canadian families
to prisoners of war overseas was censored for information that might
be passed on to the enemy.
The government's cheerleader was the Wartime Information Board.
The Board's chief for much of the time was John Grierson, who also
headed the National Film Board. Grierson, like other leaders, favoured
"democratic" propaganda grounded in truth but conveying
a buoyant optimism about the war. The results are to be seen in
wartime motion pictures, radio broadcasts, books, magazines and
theatrical presentations, as well as in newspapers. The mandate
of the Board and other propaganda organizations was to ensure high
morale and patriotic fervour.
The newspapers of the time were full of the war. The news pages
were crammed with the long dispatches of foreign correspondents
from far-flung fronts and the first-hand reporting about the Canadian
forces by correspondents such as Ross Munro, Gregory Clark or Peter
Stursberg. The business pages explained Canadian war production
and the workings of the various programs to control wages, prices,
trade and supply. The domestic sections discussed food rationing
and advised homemakers how to make do with shortage. Full-page government
notices on every subject from recruiting rallies to scrap metal
drives were inserted into the newspapers. Even the heroes of the
comics fought the common enemy.
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