A shadow of the past
Ever wonder how a free press behaves in a country that's about to go to war? Here's an item to ponder as the coming week's news events unfold.
If you're having trouble with the small type, that's Congress, with "sole power to declare war" in his right hand, grabbing the rampaging New Deal (the, erm, cosmopolitan-looking dude waving the sword of "Undeclared War a la Hitler") by the collar. The paper is Bertie McCormick's Chicago Tribune, the artist is Carey Orr (one of several Trib cartoonists of that era to win a Pulitzer), and the date is Nov. 26, 1941. And some useful reminders are thus entailed:
1) The idea of "liberal media" on the loose in big cities is a historical myth. If anyone hated FDR and the New Deal more than Col. McCormick, it was his Patterson cousins who ran the largest newspapers in New York and Washington.
2) Gosh, when did dissent stop being a conservative virtue?
3) We hear a lot these days about the treasonous weasels who run the New York Times and its commie ilk. It's worth recalling that when the chips are down (and, oh, a certain unfriendly embassy in Lisbon is shaking the trees for back copies of a particular newspaper*), the right-wing press still holds the title for betraying national secrets. It was, of course, the Trib that led its front on the Sunday after the battle of Midway with the announcement that the good guys had won because we'd read the bad guys' secret operational traffic.
In the fullness of time, that one seems more a spectacular screwup -- the responsible editor is better known for a later Great Moment in Headline Writing, "Dewey Defeats Truman" -- than an deliberate attempt to give aid and comfort to the enemy. Still, it kind of makes you close your eyes and envision Sean Hannity working below decks in an eastbound tanker on the North Atlantic in the weeks before the Neutrality Act was repealed, doesn't it?
Anyway, enjoy. It's amazing what a little press freedom can do for democratic debate. We ought to try it sometime.
(And if you're among those who have followed the path of the article that includes the Orr cartoon and some others, it's picking up speed on the publication runway. Long story.)
* I don't make this stuff up. Wouldn't be scholarly.