Because of their transcendent practical importance, no successful leader has ever been too busy to cultivate the symbols which organize his following. What privileges do within the hierarchy, symbols do for the rank and file. They conserve unity. From the totem pole to the national flag, from the wooden idol to God the Invisible King, from the magic word to some diluted version of Adam Smith or Bentham, symbols have been cherished by leaders, many of whom were themselves unbelievers, because they were focal points where differences merged. The detached observer may scorn the "star-spangled" ritual which hedges the symbol, perhaps as much as the king who told himself that Paris was worth a few masses. But the leader knows by experience that only when symbols have done their work is there a handle he can use to move a crowd. In the symbol emotion is discharged at a common target, and the idiosyncrasy of real ideas blotted out. No wonder he hates what he calls destructive criticism, sometimes called by free spirits the elimination of buncombe. "Above all things," says Bagehot, "our royalty is to be reverenced, and if you begin to poke about it you cannot reverence it."1 For poking about with clear definitions and candid statements serves all high purposes known to man, except the easy conservation of a common will. Poking about, as every responsible leader suspects, tends to break the transference of emotion from the individual mind to the institutional symbol. And the first result of that is, as he rightly says, a chaos of individualism and warring sects. The disintegration of a symbol, like Holy Russia, or the Iron Diaz, is always the beginning of a long upheaval.

These great symbols possess by transference all the minute and detailed loyalties of an ancient and stereotyped society. They evoke the feeling that each individual has for the landscape, the furniture, the faces, the memories that are his first, and in a static society, his only reality. That core of images and devotions without which he is unthinkable to himself, is nationality. The great symbols take up these devotions, and can arouse them without calling forth the primitive images. The lesser symbols of public debate, the more casual chatter of politics, are always referred back to these proto-symbols, and if possible associated with them. The question of a proper fare on a municipal subway is symbolized as an issue between the People and the Interests, and then the People is inserted in the symbol American, so that finally in the heat of a campaign, an eight cent fare becomes unAmerican. The Revolutionary fathers died to prevent it. Lincoln suffered that it might not come to pass, resistance to it was implied in the death of those who sleep in France.

Because of its power to siphon emotion out of distinct ideas, the symbol is both a mechanism of solidarity, and a mechanism of exploitation. It enables people to work for a common end, but just because the few who are strategically placed must choose the concrete objectives, the symbol is also an instrument by which a few can fatten on many, deflect criticism, and seduce men into facing agony for objects they do not understand.

Many aspects of our subjection to symbols are not flattering if we choose to think of ourselves as realistic, self-sufficient, and self-governing personalities. Yet it is impossible to conclude that symbols are altogether instruments of the devil. In the realm of science and contemplation they are undoubtedly the tempter himself. But in the world of action they may be beneficent, and are sometimes a necessity. The necessity is often imagined, the peril manufactured. But when quick results are imperative, the manipulation of masses through symbols may be the only quick way of having a critical thing done. It is often more important to act than to understand. It is sometimes true that the action would fail if everyone understood it. There are many affairs which cannot wait for a referendum or endure publicity, and there are times, during war for example, when a nation, an army, and even its commanders must trust strategy to a very few minds; when two conflicting opinions, though one happens to be right, are more perilous than one opinion which is wrong. The wrong opinion may have bad results, but the two opinions may entail disaster by dissolving unity.2

Thus Foch and Sir Henry Wilson, who foresaw the impending disaster to Cough's army, as a consequence of the divided and scattered reserves, nevertheless kept their opinions well within a small circle, knowing that even the risk of a smashing defeat was less certainly destructive, than would have been an excited debate in the newspapers. For what matters most under the kind of tension which prevailed in March, 1918, is less the rightness of a particular move than the unbroken expectation as to the source of command. Had Foch "gone to the people" he might have won the debate, but long before he could have won it, the armies which he was to command would have dissolved. For the spectacle of a row on Olympus is diverting and destructive.

But so also is a conspiracy of silence. Says Captain Wright: "It is in the High Command and not in the line, that the art of camouflage is most practiced, and reaches to highest flights. All chiefs everywhere are now kept painted, by the busy work of numberless publicists, so as to be mistaken for Napoleons--at a distance....It becomes almost impossible to displace these Napoleons, whatever their incompetence, because of the enormous public support created by hiding or glossing failure, and exaggerating or inventing success.... But the most insidious and worst effect of this so highly organized falsity is on the generals themselves: modest and patriotic as they mostly are, and as most men must be to take up and follow the noble profession of arms, they themselves are ultimately affected by these universal illusions, and reading it every morning in the paper, they also grow persuaded they are thunderbolts of war and infallible, however much they fail, and that their maintenance in command is an end so sacred that it justifies the use of any means.... These various conditions, of which this great deceit is the greatest, at last emancipate all General Staffs from all control. They no longer live for the nation: the nation lives, or rather dies, for them. Victory or defeat ceases to be the prime interest. What matters to these semi-sovereign corporations is whether dear old Willie or poor old Harry is going to be at their head, or the Chantilly party prevail over the Boulevard des Invalides party."3

Yet Captain Wright who can be so eloquent and so discerning about the dangers of silence is forced nevertheless to approve the silence of Foch in not publicly destroying the illusions. There is here a complicated paradox, arising as we shall see more fully later on, because the traditional democratic view of life is conceived, not for emergencies and dangers, but for tranquillity and harmony. And so where masses of people must cooperate in an uncertain and eruptive environment, it is usually necessary to secure unity and flexibility without real consent. The symbol does that. It obscures personal intention, neutralizes discrimination, and obfuscates individual purpose. It immobilizes personality, yet at the same time it enormously sharpens the intention of the group and welds that group, as nothing else in a crisis can weld it, to purposeful action. It renders the mass mobile though it immobilizes personality. The symbol is the instrument by which in the short run the mass escapes from its own inertia, the inertia of indecision, or the inertia of headlong movement, and is rendered capable of being led along the zigzag of a complex situation.

But in the longer run, the give and take increases between the leaders and the led. The word most often used to describe the state of mind in the rank and file about its leaders is morale. That is said to be good when the individuals do the part allotted to them with all their energy; when each man's whole strength is evoked by the command from above. It follows that every leader must plan his policy with this in mind. He must consider his decision not only on "the merits," but also in its effect on any part of his following whose continued support he requires. If he is a general planning an attack, he knows that his organized military units will scatter into mobs if the percentage of casualties rises too high.

In the Great War previous calculations were upset to an extraordinary degree, for "out of every nine men who went to France five became casualties."4 The limit of endurance was far greater than anyone had supposed. But there was a limit somewhere. And so, partly because of its effect on the enemy, but also in great measure because of its effect on the troops and their families, no command in this war dared to publish a candid statement of its losses. In France the casualty lists were never published. In England, America, and Germany publication of the losses of a big battle were spread out over long periods so as to destroy a unified impression of the total. Only the insiders knew until long afterwards what the Somme had cost, or the Flanders battles;5 and Ludendorff undoubtedly had a very much more accurate idea of these casualties than any private person in London, Paris or Chicago. All the leaders in every camp did their best to limit the amount of actual war which any one soldier or civilian could vividly conceive. But, of course, among old veterans like the French troops of 1917, a great deal more is known about war than ever reaches the public. Such an army begins to judge its commanders in terms of its own suffering. And then, when another extravagant promise of victory turns out to be the customary bloody defeat, you may find that a mutiny breaks out over some comparatively minor blunder, [Footnote: The Allies suffered many bloodier defeats than that on the Chemin des Dames.] like Nivelle's offensive of 1917, because it is a cumulative blunder. Revolutions and mutinies generally follow a small sample of a big series of evils.6

The incidence of policy determines the relation between leader and following. If those whom he needs in his plan are remote from the place where the action takes place, if the results are hidden or postponed, if the individual obligations are indirect or not yet due, above all if assent is an exercise of some pleasurable emotion, the leader is likely to have a free hand. Those programs are immediately most popular, like prohibition among teetotalers, which do not at once impinge upon the private habits of the followers. That is one great reason why governments have such a free hand in foreign affairs. Most of the frictions between two states involve a series of obscure and long-winded contentions, occasionally on the frontier, but far more often in regions about which school geographies have supplied no precise ideas. In Czechoslovakia America is regarded as the Liberator; in American newspaper paragraphs and musical comedy, in American conversation by and large, it has never been finally settled whether the country we liberated is Czechoslavia or Jugoslovakia.

In foreign affairs the incidence of policy is for a very long time confined to an unseen environment. Nothing that happens out there is felt to be wholly real. And so, because in the ante-bellum period, nobody has to fight and nobody has to pay, governments go along according to their lights without much reference to their people. In local affairs the cost of a policy is more easily visible. And therefore, all but the most exceptional leaders prefer policies in which the costs are as far as possible indirect.

They do not like direct taxation. They do not like to pay as they go. They like long term debts. They like to have the voters believe that the foreigner will pay. They have always been compelled to calculate prosperity in terms of the producer rather than in terms of the consumer, because the incidence on the consumer is distributed over so many trivial items. Labor leaders have always preferred an increase of money wages to a decrease in prices. There has always been more popular interest in the profits of millionaires, which are visible but comparatively unimportant, than in the wastes of the industrial system, which are huge but elusive. A legislature dealing with a shortage of houses, such as exists when this is written, illustrates this rule, first by doing nothing to increase the number of houses, second by smiting the greedy landlord on the hip, third by investigating the profiteering builders and working men. For a constructive policy deals with remote and uninteresting factors, while a greedy landlord, or a profiteering plumber is visible and immediate.

But while people will readily believe that in an unimagined future and in unseen places a certain policy will benefit them, the actual working out of policy follows a different logic from their opinions. A nation may be induced to believe that jacking up the freight rates will make the railroads prosperous. But that belief will not make the roads prosperous, if the impact of those rates on farmers and shippers is such as to produce a commodity price beyond what the consumer can pay. Whether the consumer will pay the price depends not upon whether he nodded his head nine months previously at the proposal to raise rates and save business, but on whether he now wants a new hat or a new automobile enough to pay for them.

Leaders often pretend that they have merely uncovered a program which existed in the minds of their public. When they believe it, they are usually deceiving themselves. Programs do not invent themselves synchronously in a multitude of minds. That is not because a multitude of minds is necessarily inferior to that of the leaders, but because thought is the function of an organism, and a mass is not an organism.

This fact is obscured because the mass is constantly exposed to suggestion. It reads not the news, but the news with an aura of suggestion about it, indicating the line of action to be taken. It hears reports, not objective as the facts are, but already stereotyped to a certain pattern of behavior. Thus the ostensible leader often finds that the real leader is a powerful newspaper proprietor. But if, as in a laboratory, one could remove all suggestion and leading from the experience of a multitude, one would, I think, find something like this: A mass exposed to the same stimuli would develop responses that could theoretically be charted in a polygon of error. There would be a certain group that felt sufficiently alike to be classified together. There would be variants of feeling at both ends. These classifications would tend to harden as individuals in each of the classifications made their reactions vocal. That is to say, when the vague feelings of those who felt vaguely had been put into words, they would know more definitely what they felt, and would then feel it more definitely.

Leaders in touch with popular feeling are quickly conscious of these reactions. They know that high prices are pressing upon the mass, or that certain classes of individuals are becoming unpopular, or that feeling towards another nation is friendly or hostile. But, always barring the effect of suggestion which is merely the assumption of leadership by the reporter, there would be nothing in the feeling of the mass that fatally determined the choice of any particular policy. All that the feeling of the mass demands is that policy as it is developed and exposed shall be, if not logically, then by analogy and association, connected with the original feeling.

So when a new policy is to be launched, there is a preliminary bid for community of feeling, as in Mark Antony's speech to the followers of Brutus.7 In the first phase, the leader vocalizes the prevalent opinion of the mass. He identifies himself with the familiar attitudes of his audience, sometimes by telling a good story, sometimes by brandishing his patriotism, often by pinching a grievance. Finding that he is trustworthy, the multitude milling hither and thither may turn in towards him. He will then be expected to set forth a plan of campaign. But he will not find that plan in the slogans which convey the feelings of the mass. It will not even always be indicated by them. Where the incidence of policy is remote, all that is essential is that the program shall be verbally and emotionally connected at the start with what has become vocal in the multitude. Trusted men in a familiar role subscribing to the accepted symbols can go a very long way on their own initiative without explaining the substance of their programs.

But wise leaders are not content to do that. Provided they think publicity will not strengthen opposition too much, and that debate will not delay action too long, they seek a certain measure of consent. They take, if not the whole mass, then the subordinates of the hierarchy sufficiently into their confidence to prepare them for what might happen, and to make them feel that they have freely willed the result. But however sincere the leader may be, there is always, when the facts are very complicated, a certain amount of illusion in these consultations. For it is impossible that all the contingencies shall be as vivid to the whole public as they are to the more experienced and the more imaginative. A fairly large percentage are bound to agree without having taken the time, or without possessing the background, for appreciating the choices which the leader presents to them. No one, however, can ask for more. And only theorists do. If we have had our day in court, if what we had to say was heard, and then if what is done comes out well, most of us do not stop to consider how much our opinion affected the business in hand.

And therefore, if the established powers are sensitive and well-informed, if they are visibly trying to meet popular feeling, and actually removing some of the causes of dissatisfaction, no matter how slowly they proceed, provided they are seen to be proceeding, they have little to fear. It takes stupendous and persistent blundering, plus almost infinite tactlessness, to start a revolution from below. Palace revolutions, interdepartmental revolutions, are a different matter. So, too, is demagogy. That stops at relieving the tension by expressing the feeling. But the statesman knows that such relief is temporary, and if indulged too often, unsanitary. He, therefore, sees to it that he arouses no feeling which he cannot sluice into a program that deals with the facts to which the feelings refer.

But all leaders are not statesmen, all leaders hate to resign, and most leaders find it hard to believe that bad as things are, the other fellow would not make them worse. They do not passively wait for the public to feel the incidence of policy, because the incidence of that discovery is generally upon their own heads. They are, therefore, intermittently engaged in mending their fences and consolidating their position.

The mending of fences consists in offering an occasional scapegoat, in redressing a minor grievance affecting a powerful individual or faction, rearranging certain jobs, placating a group of people who want an arsenal in their home town, or a law to stop somebody's vices. Study the daily activity of any public official who depends on election and you can enlarge this list. There are Congressmen elected year after year who never think of dissipating their energy on public affairs. They prefer to do a little service for a lot of people on a lot of little subjects, rather than to engage in trying to do a big service out there in the void. But the number of people to whom any organization can be a successful valet is limited, and shrewd politicians take care to attend either the influential, or somebody so blatantly uninfluential that to pay any attention to him is a mark of sensational magnanimity. The far greater number who cannot be held by favors, the anonymous multitude, receive propaganda.

The established leaders of any organization have great natural advantages. They are believed to have better sources of information. The books and papers are in their offices. They took part in the important conferences. They met the important people. They have responsibility. It is, therefore, easier for them to secure attention and to speak in a convincing tone. But also they have a very great deal of control over the access to the facts. Every official is in some degree a censor. And since no one can suppress information, either by concealing it or forgetting to mention it, without some notion of what he wishes the public to know, every leader is in some degree a propagandist. Strategically placed, and compelled often to choose even at the best between the equally cogent though conflicting ideals of safety for the institution, and candor to his public, the official finds himself deciding more and more consciously what facts, in what setting, in what guise he shall permit the public to know.

That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough.

The creation of consent is not a new art. It is a very old one which was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy. But it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technic, because it is now based on analysis rather than on rule of thumb. And so, as a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power.

Within the life of the generation now in control of affairs, persuasion has become a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government. None of us begins to understand the consequences, but it is no daring prophecy to say that the knowledge of how to create consent will alter every political calculation and modify every political premise. Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach.

1. The English Constitution, p. 127. D. Appleton & Company, 1914.

2. Captain Peter S. Wright, Assistant Secretary of the Supreme War Council, At the Supreme War Council, is well worth careful reading on secrecy and unity of command, even though in respect to the allied leaders he wages a passionate polemic.

3. Op. cit., pp. 98, 101-105.

4. Op. cit., p. 37. Figures taken by Captain Wright from the statistical abstract of the war in the Archives of the War Office. The figures refer apparently to the English losses alone, possibly to the English and French.

5. Op cit., p. 34, the Somme cost nearly 500,000 casualties; the Arras and Flanders offensives of 1917 cost 650,000 British casualties.

6. Cf. Pierrefeu's account, op. cit., on the causes of the Soissons mutinies, and the method adopted by Pétain to deal with them. Vol. I, Part III, et seq.

7. Excellently analyzed in Martin, The Behavior of Crowds, pp. 130-132.