The month-long reaction of all western governments and the vast majority of MSM to the Danish cartoon controversy is not, as many people believe, unique to 21st century political correctness. Peter Costello, the Tresurer of the Government of Australia, gave a speech (Hat Tip: Tim Blair in which he discussed another cartoon controversy that has an eerie similarity to today’s headlines. It too involved murderous fascists bent on world domination, and wrongheaded politicians and media types who believed that appeasement would make it all go away.
Costello tells the story of David Low, a London-based cartoonist during the 1930s who some called “the Twentieth Century's Greatest Cartoonist.”
Whilst in some quarters in Britain Hitler was attracting admiration, for David Low, a natural democrat and liberal who distrusted totalitarianism, Hitler was a regular target of attack and ridicule.
Low's regular depictions of the Fuhrer caused enormous diplomatic problems for the British Government, but they were to prove remarkably prophetic. Throughout the decade he portrayed the German dictator as a ludicrous, vain, pompous fool with unbridled ambition.
In 1933 the Nazis banned the Evening Standard and all newspapers carrying Low's work because of a cartoon he had drawn depicting Germany's withdrawal from the League of Nations.
In 1936 during the Berlin Olympic Games Low received his first request to tone down his depiction of Hitler in the interests of "good relations between all countries".
In 1937 the British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax visited Germany and met with the Propaganda Minister Goebbels, who told him that Hitler was very sensitive to criticism in the British press, and he singled out Low for attention.
Lord Halifax contacted the manager of the Evening Standard to see if Low could be toned down. He said:
"You cannot imagine the frenzy that these cartoons cause. As soon as a copy of the Evening Standard arrives, it is pounced on for Low's cartoon, and if it is of Hitler, as it generally is, telephones buzz, tempers rise, fevers mount, and the whole governmental system of Germany is in uproar. It has hardly subsided before the next one arrives. We in England can't understand the violence of the reaction."
His attempt to influence newspaper management was unsuccessful, so the Foreign Secretary then decided to speak with Low directly. At their meeting, this is how David Low described Lord Halifax's explanation.
"Once a week Hitler had my cartoons brought out and laid on his desk in front of him, and he finished always with an explosion. That he was extremely sore; his vanity was badly touched... So the Foreign Secretary asked me to modify my criticism, as I say, in order that a better chance could be had for making friendly relations... The Foreign Secretary explained to me that I was a factor that was going against peace.' `Do I understand you to say that you would find it easier to promote peace if my cartoons did not irritate the Nazi leaders personally?' `Yes,' he replied. `...I said, "Well, I'm sorry." Of course he was the Foreign Secretary what else could I say? So I said, "Very well, I don't want to be responsible for a world war. But, I said "It's my duty as a journalist to report matters faithfully and in my own medium I have to speak the truth. And I think this man is awful. But I'll slow down a bit." So I did."
Meanwhile Hitler within a month invaded Austria. Low felt vindicated and went back to his old ways. Low said:
"...I was good for about three weeks. Then Hitler bounced in and invaded Austria, showing that he had given our Foreign Secretary a run-around, had taken him for a ride. I considered that let me out, so I resumed criticism."
It was no surprise when after the war it was revealed that Low was high on the Nazi's death list.
It wasn't only Hitler complaining about Low. In 1938 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain singled out Low while appealing to newspapers to temper their critical commentary of Germany. Chamberlain said:
"Such criticism might do a great deal to embitter relations when we on our side are trying to improve them. German Nazis have been particularly annoyed by criticisms in the British press, and especially by cartoons. The bitter cartoons of Low of the Evening Standard have been a frequent source of complaint."
Replace the names and dates and we see history repeating itself. The echos grow louder as each day passes.