Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Today in history: War on Fox, 1942-style

What did the War on Fox look like on this day in 1942? Pretty much like this.

Back in those days, kiddies, the War on Fox pitted the World's Greatest Newspaper (and its cousins in New York and Washington) against the reckless, decadent Europe-loving commie in the White House. The artist is Carey Orr (he's been featured here before), and the occasion is the convening of a grand jury to determine whether the Chicago Tribune should be indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917.

Two months earlier, on the Sunday after the epic U.S. victory at Midway, the Tribune had committed a slight (ahem) indiscretion: a front-page story strongly suggesting that the good guys won because they knew in advance what the bad guys were up to. That being largely true, the story was a stunningly dumb idea.

The Trib thought it had been cooperative and appropriately penitent in the wake of the story. The Navy wanted the spotlight to go away, but frequent Tribune targets like Walter Winchell kept plugging it back in. Under heavy pressure from the White House, the grand jury investigation went ahead. And the Trib fired back at the "Knox-Biddle Smear."

If you're scoring along at home, the guy on the left, pointing at the target, is Frank Knox, FDR's Navy secretary (not coincidentally, publisher of Chicago's largest evening paper, the Daily News; the hed to the left of the cartoon, not shown in this view, proclaims that he's using his position to boost his newspaper). Francis Biddle, the attorney general, is hauling ammunition. At right on the cartoon front page is Stanley Johnston, the reporter whose work set the story in motion. Next to him is Pat Maloney,* the Trib's managing editor, who wrote the hed and compounded the damage by adding bogus attribution -- "reliable sources in the naval intelligence" -- to the story. The heds are from the Trib's first-day coverage (the news broke on Friday, and "Knox uses Navy post to favor own paper" was Monday's take on the story.

Beats Photoshop, doesn't it?

* Yeah, the "Dewey Defeats Truman" guy.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, the Colonel! A.J. Liebling always had fun at his expense, including his loopy crusade for spelling reform. And Henry Luce invented Timestyle... is it just my age showing, or were the megalomaniacs then grander and weirder?

1:16 AM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger fev said...

Yeah, those are some of the Liebling columns that have stayed with me always.

I do miss the great old megalomaniacs, and I'm tempted to say that ours are just smaller and meaner and stupider. Then I think about how much the Colonel sank into, say, Near v Minnesota (on the side of the angels, which unfortunately is also to say on the side of some real sleazeballs), and I have to say I'd take him over Murdoch or Ailes, hands down.

12:11 AM, August 15, 2010  

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