Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Dusty Corner of Public Diplomacy History: The Bloom Bill that didn't Pass in the Senate after WWII

KrisAnne Hall, "KrisAnne Hall: Obama State Dept Official Reveals Feds Used Propaganda on Americans," The Western Journal (June 8, 2018)

Note: The above-cited article surveys the history of the Smith-Mundt Act (1948) banning the dissemination in the U.S. of information products -- including radio programs by the Voice of America -- intended by the State Department for foreign audiences. This Act was "modernized" on July 1, 2013, by the Smith Mundt Modernization Act "eliminating the domestic dissemination ban.

But before Smith-Mundt Act, modernized or not, was the defeated 1946 Bloom bill, as described in the below excerpt from the Hall article.

The Bloom bill was defeated in the same "pre-Cold War" year when Senator Fulbright pushed for "legislation establishing the Fulbright Program [that] passed the Senate by unanimous consent in 1946 and drew strength from the U.S.’s national commitment to develop post war leadership and engage constructively with the community of nations."

Excerpt from Hall article:
In 1946, Rep. Sol Bloom, D-N.Y., introduced a bill to grant the secretary of state the power to give monetary, service or property grants to nonprofit public and private corporations to prepare and disseminate informational materials. Although this act was intended to disseminate information abroad, there were no limitations to keep it from being used upon the American people — and opposition began to form.

After having lived through two regimes of government propaganda and having seen the effects of such government propaganda machines as Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Congress decided this was not something in which it wanted to engage. The Bloom Bill passed the house but failed in the Senate.

An AP release at the time stated, “(G)overnment cannot engage in news casting without creating the fear of propaganda which necessarily would reflect the objectivity of the news services from which such news casts are prepared.” 
On Bloom (quite a character!) -- at one point in his varied career he labeled himself as "Sol Bloom, the Music Man" -- from Wikipedia

Sol Bloom
Sol Bloom 1923.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 20th district
In office
January 3, 1945 – March 7, 1949
Preceded byVito Marcantonio
Succeeded byFranklin D. Roosevelt, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 19th district
In office
March 4, 1923[1] – January 3, 1945
Preceded byWalter M. Chandler
Succeeded bySamuel Dickstein
Chairman of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs
In office
January 3, 1939 – January 3, 1947
Preceded bySam D. McReynolds
Succeeded byCharles A. Eaton
In office
January 3, 1949 – March 7, 1949
Preceded byCharles A. Eaton
Succeeded byJohn Kee
Personal details
BornMarch 9, 1870
Pekin, Illinois
DiedMarch 7, 1949 (aged 78)
Washington, D.C.
Political partyDemocrat
Sol Bloom (March 9, 1870 – March 7, 1949) was an American politician from New York who began his career as an entertainment impresario and sheet music publisher in Chicago. He served fourteen terms in the United States House of Representatives from the West Side of Manhattan, from 1923 until his death in 1949.
Bloom was the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee from 1939 to 1947 and again in 1949, during a critical period of American foreign policy. In the run-up to World War II, he took charge of high-priority foreign-policy legislation for the Roosevelt Administration, including authorization for Lend Lease in 1941. He oversaw Congressional approval of the United Nations and of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) which worked to assist millions of displaced people in Europe. He was a member of the American delegation at the creation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, and at the Rio Conference of 1947.
Bloom was especially concerned with the fate of European Jews, but was unable to overcome very strong resistance to admitting Jews or any refugees before the war. He argued vigorously after the war that the United States needed to take in larger numbers of refugees. He adopted the Zionist position that Palestine should be the refuge for Jewish victims of the Holocaust. He urgently lobbied President Harry Truman in 1948 to immediately recognize the Jewish state of Israel, which Truman did. When the Republicans took control of the Foreign Affairs Committee after the 1946 election, Bloom worked closely with the new chairman, Charles Eaton. They secured approval for the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.[2]

Early life[edit]

Bloom was born March 9, 1870, in Pekin, Illinois, to Polish-Jewish immigrants who soon moved to San Francisco. He was introduced to theater production in his early teens, then became a theater manager, staging boxing matches featuring "Gentleman Jim" Corbett. Seeking ever more spectacular attractions, he attended the Exposition Universelle (1889) in Paris, where he was particularly taken with the dancers and acrobats of the "Algerian Village," somewhat representative of France's Algerian colony.

Chicago World's Fair[edit]

Bloom established his reputation in 1893 at the age of 23 while developing the mile-long Midway Plaisance at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Midway Plaisance offered enticing games and exhibitions presented by private vendors, removed from the more conservative Beaux-Arts splendor of the official exposition and arranged around its "Court of Honor". After initially entrusting the midway to a Harvard anthropology professor, the committee turned to Bloom, whose "Midway" was so successful that the term resided henceforth in the American lexicon. At the "Street in Cairo", the North African belly dance was reinvented as the "hootchy-kootchy dance" to a tune made up by Bloom, "The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid", whose century-old lyrics had traditionally been sung by young boys: "O they don't wear pants/on the sunny side of France"; "There's a place in France/where the women wear no pants"; "...where the naked ladies dance", etc. Bloom did not copyright the tune, which he'd conceived on a piano at the Press Club of Chicago.
Bloom's role in helping to develop the fair had been at the behest of Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who was assassinated only days before the exposition closed. Bloom then rose in stature in Chicago's tough First Ward among the Democratic party's bosses "Bathhouse" John Coughlin and "Hinky Dink" Kenna. Soon, he became Chicago branch manager of M. Witmark & Sons, the largest publisher of sheet music in the United States, and by 1896 he was publishing under his own name and introducing photolithographs to make the scores more visually appealing. In 1897 he married Evelyn Hechheimer and settled in a fashionable district on South Prairie Avenue, billing himself as "Sol Bloom, the Music Man".[3] At the turn of the 20th century, he was awarded, to much fanfare, the first musical copyright of the new century for "I Wish I Was in Dixie Land Tonight" by Raymond A. Browne.

Move to New York and politics[edit]

In 1903 he moved to New York City, where he dabbled in real estate and expanded his national chain of department store music departments. In New York he sold Victor Talking Machines. Bloom soon switched his political affiliation from Republican to the Democrats' Tammany Hall, so that when Representative-elect Samuel Marx of New York's 19th Congressional District died in 1922, Bloom was invited to run and won the usually Republican "silk stocking district" of Manhattan's Upper East Side by 145 votes. He represented the district until his death in 1949.
A confidential 1943 analysis of the House Foreign Affairs Committee by Isaiah Berlin for the British Foreign Office stated that[4]
the main weakness is probably the leadership of Sol Bloom, whose chairmanship of the committee is due solely to the processes of seniority, and certainly not to any outstanding ability or knowledge of foreign affairs, but this is made up for by his blind loyalty to the President's policies ... Has been in Congress since 1923. Is politically friendly toward the British and has been a consistent supporter of F.D.R.'s foreign policies. A Jew, who was elected mostly by Jewish and foreign elements in his New York district, he tends, therefore, to be Europe-con- scious and strongly anti-Nazi. His chairmanship is due solely to the often-criticised process of seniority, and not to any outstanding knowledge of foreign affairs. He is of the easy-going, superficial, glad-handish type rather than a man of outstanding intellect; intensely patriotic in an emotional way despite his leaning towards internationalism. He helped to pilot the original Lend-Lease Act through the committee, and introduced the Act to extend Lend-Lease for one year. Age 73.
In Congress Bloom oversaw celebration of the George Washington Bicentennial (1932) and presided over the U.S. Constitution Sesquicentennial Exposition (1937). He chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affairs beginning in 1939. A strong supporter of Zionism, Bloom was a delegate to the convention in San Francisco that established the United Nations. The first words of the Preamble to the United Nations Charter, "We, the Peoples of the United Nations .. ." were suggested by Bloom.[5]
In January 1946, Bloom represented the US at the first meeting of the UN General Assembly in London. He called his success in persuading a majority of the Assembly to allow the new United Nations organization to assume the finances of the earlier United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration "the supreme moment" of his life.[6]


The Sol Bloom Playground in Manhattan is named in his honor.[7]
His papers, most of them dating from 1935 to 1949, are stored at the New York Public Library.
Bloom lost a bet with Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson after Johnson successfully threw a silver dollar across Fredericksburg, Virginia's Rappahannock River. Although the wager had been highly publicized, Bloom cited technicalities and refused to pay.[8]
Sol Bloom spearheaded the writing and publication of The Story of the Constitution, published in 1937. This was a work of the United States Constitution Sesquicentennial Commission, House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

See also[edit]

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