Document 5: Carrie Chapman Catt, "The Lie Factory," The Woman Citizen (20 September 1924): 24-25.

Introduction

       This is the second article by Catt that investigated the sources of the slander directed at women's organizations. She identified J. E. Eichelberger, editor of the Woman Patriot, Fred R. Marvin, editor of the Searchlight column of the New York Commercial, and W. H. Whitney, secretary of the American Defense Society as likely sources. She also discussed the extent of government involvement behind the anti-red propaganda, and claimed the War Department's role to be "the unsuspecting mouthpieces through which the poison propaganda is projected upon an equally unsuspecting and gullible public."

The Lie Factory
By Carrie Chapman Catt

It has long been noticeable that anyone conspicuously working for peace is likely to be accused of allegiance to Soviet Russia. Many people have wondered why. Mrs. Catt decided to try to find out, and her investigations have resulted in a series of articles. The series really began with that article in the May 31 issue of the WOMAN CITIZEN called "Poison Propaganda"--about the famous spider web chart which linked up the leaders of prominent women's organizations with "Red" propaganda. "The Lie Factory" continues the story. Later articles will go into the sources and the workings of such propaganda.

       The apology of Secretary Weeks to the Joint Congressional Committee for the false charges disseminated by the Chemical Warfare Bureau (Chief Brigadier General Fries), and the promise to order the destruction of the offending "spider web chart" connecting all the best-known women's organizations with red propaganda, did not close the matter. It is not easy to catch nor to stop a lie when it has once started on its course. Further developments caused the New York World to send a correspondent (Leonard L. Cline) to Washington to investigate. He learned that a woman librarian in the Chemical Warfare Service had secured what she thought was evidence by writing letters to radical women designed to draw them out, while pretending to be in sympathy with their views.

       One such letter went to a woman who had once served as organizer of the National Woman's Party, and in reply the librarian learned that this one woman believed in the "communistic idea in some form" which would have to be brought about by revolution, "peaceful if possible, bloody if necessary." Right here let us note that the Woman's Party is not a member of the Joint Congressional Committee, nor of the National Council for the Prevention of War, the two organizations attacked. Whether the woman in question is now a member of the Woman's Party is not known, and if she is a member of any one of the organizations involved in the general condemnation, she is certainly an inconspicuous one.

Threads in The Spider Web

       The librarian also wrote a Russian Soviet leader who replied to "Dear Comrade" and assured the Chemical Service spy that she was "quite sure we shall never establish communism if we do not take up energetically the question of educating women to communism." From these slender threads, the "spider web chart" was woven by the imaginations of those in charge of that new branch of war--the Chemical Service.

       When, in December, 1922, Brigadier General Fries, Chief of the Chemical Service, spoke in Kansas City, the press quoted him as declaring that the National Council for the Prevention of War (a council of thirty-five affiliated organizations, each of national scope) purposed to establish communism in America. In support of this, writes Mr. Cline, "he quoted from the Field letter, thus fastening on organizations with which Miss Field had no connection, the personal opinion which she had been tricked into revealing."

       From this point we may move forward or back, and in both directions the revelations are equally interesting. Brigadier General Albert J. Bowley, commandant of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has been speaking about the country also. On March 7, he spoke before the Chamber of Commerce at Columbus, Ohio, and there he is said to have pronounced the National Council for Prevention of War "the tool or organ of the Soviet Government" and added that it "has as its impelling motive the overthrow by violence of our form of government."

       He accused Mr. Libby [A], the somewhat strenuous Quaker who is the director of the Council for the Prevention of War, of six specific offenses: 1. That Mr. Libby was educated for the promotion of communism in Russia or by Russians. 2. That after returning from Russia he taught communism in Pennsylvania. 3. That he is a communist. 4. That Mr. Libby and his associate, S. E. Nicholson, take turns visiting Russia to get instructions direct from the Soviet Government. (Mr. Nicholson is engaged by the Friends' Relief in Europe.) 5. That Mr. Libby and the National Council are not only the tool of the Soviet Government but their constructive measures are simply a cloak to hide their sinister designs. 6. That Mr. Libby and the National Council have as their impelling motive the overthrow by violence of our form of government.

       With affidavits from responsible citizens of Columbus that these accusations had actually been made General Bowley was called upon rather numerously for proofs. Says Mr. Cline, concerning one inquiry, "With much assurance he referred her for documentary evidence substantiating his charges to three men; namely, J. E. Eichelberger, editor of the Woman Patriot; Fred R. Marvin, editor of the Searchlight column of the New York Commercial, and W. H. Whitney, secretary of the American Defense Society." Upon request for the promised documentary evidence, Mr. Whitney dodged all responsibility, and refused to furnish any form of substantiation of General Bowley's statements. Mr. Marvin declared that he was having something prepared in the way of proofs, but for some reason it does not appear, and meanwhile Mr. Marvin rivals Mr. Whitney in his evasion of responsibility. Mr. Eichelberger admits very definite suspicions of Mr. Libby, but he has no proofs. Meanwhile, the Council for the Prevention of War, following the example of the Joint Congressional Committee, sent a deputation to Secretary Weeks (June 16), with a statement of General Bowley's untruthful charges, substantiated by affidavits, and with the denial of each charge.

       It requires no affidavit, to prove to very many acquaintances of Mr. Libby among whom he has moved throughout his life : 1. That he is not and never has been a communist. 2. Consequently he has never taught communism in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. 3. That he has never been in Russia. 4. That he is a law abiding citizen who believes in the American form of government. 5. That he was a canteen and Red Cross worker throughout the war. The statement announces these well-known facts and adds what some millions of people also know, that the Council "is an organization standing for law, order, the flag and the Constitution of the United States" and gets its support by contributions from Americans "who oppose war as a means of settling international disputes."

Anti Activity

       To return to Mr. Eichelberger. This gentleman appeared some years ago as the generalissimo of the anti-suffrage forces. He spoke at hearings, lobbied legislatures, managed state anti-suffrage campaigns, and attended the lady antis. About the time the vote was won, the anti-suffrage paper, the Protest, changed its name to the Woman Patriot, with propaganda, sent an investigator to Washington, who applied at the Navy League for proofs. The answer was : "The Woman Patriot is handling that." Mr. Eichelberger, apparently "handling that," had seemingly persuaded Mr. Whitney, Secretary of the American Defense League, to put out the libel.

       When the Joint Congressional Committee were calling upon the Dearborn Independent (Mr. Ford's paper) for proofs of the "spider web," again Mr. Eichelberger was pointed out as the source of much of the information. His response was that three paragraphs had been lifted bodily from his paper without credit and that the woman who wrote the article and the one who made the chart were always getting things wrong. When an investigation was made of a long list of women whose names had been reported to the "spy bureau" of the Navy Department as suspected of Soviet connections, it was revealed that the list contained the names of the best-known suffrage leaders, and heads of other women's organizations, and that the list had been turned in by Mr. Eichelberger and other antis. The trail again leads to his doorstep from General Bowley's unsupported statements. Anti-suffragists, the American Defense Society, Eichelberger, Whitney, Marvin, Ford and the Dearborn Independent, Kentucky Industries Association--these seem to be the company enlisted in traducing all persons who believe that a common sense, safe and sane road to permanent peace can be found, and it appears that the greatest among them all is Eichelberger.

       The gentlemen of the War Department are evidently only gullible patriots who have yet to learn that there is more than one kind of poison gas and more than one kind of war. They are quite clearly, the unsuspecting mouthpieces through which the poison propaganda is projected upon an equally unsuspecting and gullible public. The poison itself is carefully concocted of anti-woman hate, child labor, the military mania, and genuine scare over the presence among us of a communistic propaganda undoubtedly aiming to overthrow the government, and the whole is carefully blended by an irrational imagination.        Secretary Weeks did not cheerfully welcome Mr. Libby's deputation. The situation irritates him. He wants his agents to spread the idea of the need for war preparedness, but he probably does not want them to lie. Well, then, Mr. Secretary, take account of these things: Stop the lie factory, turn the spotlight pitilessly upon it and turn the guns now aiming at honest and patriotic women and peace advocates upon the sources of danger from communism. If real danger exists, let there be an undivided and patriotic public to meet the situation.

       Meanwhile, the lies let loose keep on moving . In Buck Hill Falls, in Pennsylvania, "an army man" went about tearing down posters, "Stop war--cooperate," which bore the imprint of the Council to Prevent War, alleging that this organization was connected with Soviet Russia. The Meriden (Connecticut) Record declared that an anti-war meeting held in New Haven by a "communist candidate"--whatever that may be--was held in cooperation with the National Council for Prevention of War. In other sections whispering underground statements are going forward, charging that it is cooperating with William Z. Foster, the communist candidate for president. These facts bring certain logical conclusions: 1. If there is genuine danger from the spread of communism in our midst, the people have the right to know it, and those in authority should tell them. They should not learn it through irresponsible tales, the identity of whose authors is hidden. Although peace advocates and peace organizations (of which there are about seventy-five) have been generally accused of underground connection with communism, these charges have usually appeared without known sponsorship, and no proof in a single case has been forthcoming to substantiate them.

       2. On the other hand, the source is now pretty clearly located. These charges have come from the War Department itself, and have been spread by war officers and privates of the army and members of the American Legion. The American Defense Society, and the three men connected with it, appear to have been the chief providers of the false information which the War Department has accepted as truth. Those who have promulgated the lies have undoubtedly believed them true.

       Lies have a disagreeable way of coming home to roost. Investigate the lie factory, Mr. Secretary of War.

 

Previous
Document
Document
List
Next
Document

 

A. Frederick Libby was the Executive Secretary of the National Council for the Prevention of War.
       Back to the Text

 

| Documents Projects and Archives | Teacher's Corner | Scholar's Edition | Full-Text Sources | About Us | Contact Us |