Thursday, July 08, 2010

Today in quote-mining

Well, that'd put you right off your Wheaties, wouldn't it? Never mind that the Wehrmacht is driving on Voronezh,* the Redistributor-in-Chief is going to have the tires right off your Hudson!

Well, he sort of is. Here's the story, by the redoubtable Walter Trohan, writing off the presidential press conference of July 7, 1942:

President Roosevelt today said if the war gets worse he may have to commandeer every automobile tire in the country.

He told his first press conference in two weeks he is trying to save the country -- not gas or tires. He declared he is confident the people are ready to make any sacrifice necessary to win the war.

The chief executive advanced tire requisitioning as a possibility in stating he hoped to separate the tire problem from the gasoline problem.

All due respect to Mr. Trohan, but bear in mind that he's writing for the next morning's paper -- not what we'd call banging it out on deadline. So let's skip a few grafs of mediocre transcription and see if we can figure out how we got to "TIRE SEIZURE LIKELY" from  "advanced tire requisitioning as a possibility":

... He said he knew more about the situation than any one in the room and yet was not anywhere near the answer. The problem is so complex no one understands it completely, he said. Suppose the situation gets worse, he said, then he might have to take every single auto tire.

It actually gets cooler:

... It is obvious and copybook stuff that an increase in steel wages would be a factor in increasing the cost of living, he said. Asked whether he would like the cost of living to go up, he replied that was kindergarten stuff, adding he was most certainly against any further rise.

No, nothing further about the imminent demise of your tires. Nothing for the next six weeks, either (the naming of experts to the tire board moves to page 6A in mid-August, if you're scoring along at home). But -- y'know, why try to take your 8 or 10 or 12 hours of leeway and try to put the press conference into some form that makes sense, when you can simply scare hell out of the good people of Chicago?

The World's Greatest Newspaper is worth bearing in mind when we ponder some of today's manifestations of Fear and Balance, do you think? And old front pages** are fun on their own.

* Sister city of Charlotte, for you Queen City readers out there!
** You have to work pretty hard to find the story if you aren't used to the typographic signals. Note that all the secondary heds have a hairline rule all the way across except the one in column 5? That's where the lede hed drops to.There were giants in those days.



Blogger John Cowan said...

People often remember that there was gasoline rationing in WWII, but not why: it was done not to save gas (we had plenty of domestic oil back then) but to conserve tires, which were made of imported rubber. The Germans, applying their good old Yankee know-how, worked on synthetic rubber instead, with moderate success.

7:55 AM, July 08, 2010  

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