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Poem by WIlliam Rose Benét

Conflicts inside the Office of War Information (OWI), based on rival ideologies, led to the mass resignation of many of OWI's writers in 1943. A friend of the writers examines the source of their discontent through poetry.

Elmer Davis, mentioned by name in the poem, was a writer himself and the director of the OWI.

Published in the Saturday Review, May 8, 1943.

Source: Reprinted in Walter L. Hixson, The American Experience in World War II, Volume 1 (London: Routledge, 2003), 293-4.

Oh boy, but there's an ocean
Of joy in promotion,
Answering the question
“What's in it for me?”
Settling the digestion
Of the Land of the Free!
That's the stuff to feed the Rubes,
Subway Chumps and City Boobs!
Aren't you on to the surprising
Way they fall for Advertising?...
Try this delicious health-building War!
Buy all you need—then buy some more!
Never mind what we're fighting for!
Customers, customers, come and buy!
A short girdle does not bind the thigh.
We're the Salesmen of the OWI ...

But the People say “Bosh!” and the People say “Mush!”
To the Pretty-Girl Ad with the smirk and blush.
They're not the Hicks that you take them for.
They know what is needed to win this war.
They know that only the Truth can win
No matter how bad a jam we're in.
They don't need any Sugar-Coater,
Nor will they heed the Slick Promoter
They know where the boys are marching and flying,
The jungles and sands where they're fighting and dying....
They know damn well, with appropriate phlegm,
That Wounds and Death are in it for them.
Though glad they are of the work they do—
But they want the Hucksters told it too,
The minds on the brink of Hell
Can only think how to buy and sell—
The people back home who hate to think
That anything's real but food and drink—....
Who still don't know how the People feel
Silently, grimly, hotly, truly,
But think that the lowest kind of appeal
That doesn't upset the fools unduly
Is the sort of tripe to feed the masses,
Since they're not so bright as the upper classes!

In closing, I'll only say, “God save us!
It isn't your fault at all, Elmer Davis.”