Fake News from Crusading Correspondents
Criticizing Northern writers who claimed to report objectively on conditions in the South, novelist William Faulkner wrote in March 1956 that “The rest of the United States knows next to nothing about the South. The present idea and picture which they hold of a people decadent and even obsolete through inbreeding and illiteracy . . . The rest of the United States assumes that this condition . . . is so simple and so uncomplex that it can be changed tomorrow by the simple will of the national majority backed by legal edict.”
The book excerpted below was dedicated by the author to David Lawrence, well-respected and truthful editor of the US News and World Report in the 1950s.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Fake News from Crusading Corrrespondents
“[Most] of the writers who have poured into the South in race-baiting assignments had neither admitted nor allowed for their prejudices. They have listened, with varying degrees of politeness, to the explanations and protestations of their white Southern informants, and have discounted what they heard. A considerable number . . . “have left a bad taste, sometimes repaying with ill-humored misrepresentations the courtesy of their Southern hosts.
The Northern correspondents who “invaded” the South to make first-hand reports on the segregation situation made the local newspaper their first call, there to “pick the brains” of fellow-journalists who had been living there for years. Almost invariably – until Southern patience began to wear thin under the constant friction of misrepresentation, omission and distortion of the reports which appeared as a result of such interviews – the Northerners were accorded every courtesy . . .
If the crusading correspondent ran out of reportorial adjectives with which to color his dispatches, he could always turn to the stock cast of characters which fill the “literary” works of those apostate Southerners who have found profit in despoiling their own heritage.
But one Southerner who made his mark without wallowing too much in such garbage is Robert C. Ruark, a North Carolinian who paid his respects in January 1957 to the “realistic” writers who achieved notoriety through serving up an adulterated potion of “po white trash.” Ruark wrote:
“One of these days . . . I am going to write a book about the South which is not littered with clay-eaters, lint-headed mill hands, idiots, itinerant preachers, juvenile delinquents, morons, slatterns, cripples, freaks and other characters who don’t wash, live off sardines and soft drinks, hang around bus stations, and breed merrily within the family . . .
. . . It is possible to grow up in the South without a full chorus of nymphomaniacs, drunkards, Negro-lynchers, randy preachers, camp meetings, hookworm, albinos, dirty hermits, old mad women, and idiot relatives to form your early impressions. But the literary output of the last 25 years wouldn’t have it so . . .”
(The Case for the South, William D. Workman, Jr., Devin-Adair Company, 1969, excerpts pp. 69-70; 72-73)