The day before yesterday lunching with H. P., editor of ——-[1].  H. P. rather pessimistic about the war.  Thinks there is no answer to the New Order [2], i.e. this government is incapable of framing any answer, and people here and in America could easily be brought to accept it.  I queried whether people would not for certain see any peace offer along these lines as a trap.  H. P.: “Hells bells, I could dress it up so that they’d think it was the greatest victory in the history of the world.  I could make them eat it.”  That is true, of course.  All depends on the form in which it is put to people.  So long as our own newspapers don’t do the dirty they will be quite indifferent to appeals from Europe.  H. P., however, is certain that ——- [3] and Co. are working for a sell-out.  It appears that though —— [4] is not submitted for censorship, all papers are now warned not to publish interpretations of the government’s policy towards Spain.  A few weeks back Duff-Cooper [5] had the press correspondents up and assured them “on his word of honour” that “things were going very well indeed in Spain.”  The most one can say is that Duff-Cooper’s word of honour is worth more than Hoare’s.

H.P. says that when France collapsed there was a Cabinet meeting to decide whether to continue the war or whether to seek terms.  The vote was actually 50-50 except for one casting vote, and according to H. P. this was Chamberlain’s.  If true, I wonder whether this will ever be made public.  It was poor old Chamberlain’s last public act, as one might say, poor old man.

Characteristic war-time sound, in winter: the musical tinkle of raindrops on your tin hat.



[1] Editor and journal not identified.

[2] Hitler’s New Order for Europe – Nazism.

[3] It is possible that Orwell’s animosity towards Sir Samuel Hoare (see last sentence of the paragraph) may have led him to retail H. P.’s assertion.  In The Second World War, Churchill, discussing the formation of his War Cabinet, in May 1940, defends Hoare, Halifax and Simon against charges of responsibility for shortcomings in the period leading to the war (II, 10; U.S.: Their Finest Hour, 10).  Although he included the two lords in his Cabinet, he had Hoare appointed ambassador to Spain on 17 May.  He later comments that ‘no one could have carried out better this wearing, delicate, and cardinal five years’ mission’ (II, 459; U.S.: Their Finest Hour, 518).

[4] Unidentified; its six hyphens may be an error for the seven of H. P.’s journal.

[5] Alfred Duff Cooper, Minister of Information. Peter Davison

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14 Responses to 23.11.40

  1. wordsmithsuk says:

    “I could dress it up so that they’d think it was the greatest victory in the history of the world. I could make them eat it” – is this an early instance of political spin?

  2. Greg says:

    *Early* spin? I’m sure there are some clay tablets somewhere that fit the bill.

    Chamberlain after the invasion of Poland and declaration of war:
    “Everything that I have worked for, everything that I have hoped for, everything that I have believed in during my public life has crashed into ruins. There is only one thing left for me to do: that is devote what strength and power I have to forwarding the victory of the cause for which we have sacrificed so much”

    Everyone’s an expert with Wikipedia!

  3. Barry Larking says:

    “I could dress it up so that they’d think it was the greatest victory in the history of the world. I could make them eat it” – is this an early instance of political spin?

    No, a later example of Hubris.

  4. Max says:

    Spin, I think, goes back a little further than 1940. What about ‘The War to End All Wars,’ and ‘It’ll be all over by Christmas’? Or is that more old-fashioned propaganda than spin? If som what’s the difference? And what’s the difference between these forms of lying and advertising in general?

  5. I agree that it is hubris regarding his ability to spin.

  6. Barry Larking says:

    Hubris in a sense of self delusion. I think it may come up soon, but Orwell does comment that some of his contacts at this time (one or two emigré) thought Britain would see a revolution if any ‘peace’ were arranged with Hitler and the Nazis. Hence Churchill, the Liberal Imperialist who would fight, maintained in power chiefly by Attlee and Bevin of the Labour movement. Understand that and the events of 1945 become clear.

  7. M G says:

    The only thing new about spin is the word ‘spin.’ The actual practise has been around since classical times, Caeser’s ‘Conquest of Gaul’ being a prime example.

  8. Satan used spin in the Garden of Eden.

  9. Wednesday
    27 November 1940

    Bucharest: Pro-Nazi Iron Guards massacre 64 former aides of the exiled king.

    The murderous Nazi rampage arrives in the Pacific at 443 nautical miles (820 kilometers) east of Auckland, New Zealand, in position 37.00S, 176.00W.

    The Battle of Britain spawns Blitzkrieg everywhere, it seems, and there are tens of thousands of deaths and injuries worldwide.

  10. Pingback: Indignant Desert Birds » Sunday Morning Reading Material (Fourth Sunday in November.)

  11. Stephen says:

    In defence of @wordsmithuk’s point about this being an early example of spin, and to address @Max’s questions:

    Spin is different from political self-promotion via favorable memoirs, a la Julius Caesar; different from paid advertising; and different from mass propaganda. All are efforts to influence public opinion but the means are quite different.

    Spin also seeks to influence public opinion but a) involves intermediaries such as PR agents (‘spin doctors’ etc) who b) operate through the mass media ie seek to influence public opinion indirectly and c) do so on behalf of entrenched state / political power. Spin has the particular connotation of presenting something to the public in a way at odds with the ‘truth’, such as presenting a policy as beneficial to the whole electorate when it actually confers benefits to a few. (this is why it is called spin – i.e it is not straight or ‘true’)

    Against this rough definition the comments GO attributes to the unidentified “H.P.” are nearly, but not quite, an early example of spin. If HP was not an editor but was working on behalf of the government, his ability to present a defeatist peace offer as the greatest victory ever would indeed be worthy of a contemporary spin doctor. Instead, it is just an example , though an interesting and acute one, of the media’s power to shape pubic opinion through its control of what George accurately describes as ‘the form in which it is put to the people.’

  12. ‘its six hyphens may be an error for the seven of H. P.’s journal’—is no one going to name the journal? The person who wrote this appears to know.

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