Kaiser Wilhelm - Actions Based on News not Knowledge

This image depicts the last page of a letter which Kaiser Wilhelm wrote to President Woodrow Wilson before World War I erupted.  It contains a KEY edit which the Kaiser himself made.

Explaining his position, the Kaiser tells the President (initially) that he (and his military leaders) are acting on "knowledge" of events in Belgium.

On re-reading his response, however, the Kaiser changes the word "knowledge" to "news."  The "news," however, is not always factually accurate.

This document raises several key questions:

1.  Is it appropriate to take action, leading to war, if a country's rulers have information based on "news" instead of "knowledge?"

2.  Why did the Kaiser edit his words to replace "knowledge" with "news?"

3.  What would the change of words have communicated to President Wilson?

4.  In today's world, the edit would not have been seen because the Kaiser would have sent a "clean copy" of his words to Wilson.  Is it better for the person receiving the communication to see the edited version (instead of the clean version) to better-assess the mindset of the writer?

5.  Can you think of events, in the recent past, where countries went to war based on "news" as opposed to "knowledge?"

Click on the image for a better view.

Media Credits

Online, courtesy the byu.org website.  Image included in My Four Years in Germany by American Ambassador, James W. Gerard.


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