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Newspapers Fuel the War

As the secession crisis increased in intensity, the Fredericksburg Herald editor wrote in early January 1860: “Newspapers and Telegraphs have ruined the country. Suppress both and the country could be saved now.” The Northern press influenced vast numbers, including newly-landed immigrants; in New York alone the circulation of newspapers and periodicals was triple that in the entire South. And Massachusetts could claim about the same. As those newspapers counseled war against the South, they could also have sought compromise and a peaceful settlement of the issues dividing the country.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Newspapers Fuel the War

“In mid-April 1860, virtually all newspapers of the future Confederate States believed in preserving the Union, provided that Southern “rights,” as they conceived them, could be protected. One year later all but a handful of the same journals had endorsed the Confederacy. During most of the intervening twelve months, the Southern press was divided on the question of secession.

Papers which believed that the Union was salvageable held the upper hand in the pre-election period. But a combination of events – notably the alleged abolitionist conspiracy in Texas, the election of Lincoln, the secession of South Carolina and the lower South, and the failure of compromise – shifted the initiative to the disunion publicists and led to a gradual breakdown of Unionist journalism, until, with few exceptions, the press in eleven States became a unit in favor of withdrawal.

Like their Southern-rights counterparts, Unionist editors feared a Republican administration, though some failed to realize the depth of their fears until after the election. In the days following Lincoln’s triumph at the polls, as some Northern journals taunted and threatened the South and as the States of the lower South took firm, irrevocable steps preparatory to leaving the Union, Southern Unionist papers increasingly found it necessary to decide between the Confederacy and the Union.

Most Southerners regarded the election of a Republican president by Northern votes as a direct, calculated insult to their section. With the South’s honor allegedly at stake, most Southern Unionist editors soon forgot their earlier quarrel with secessionists over the legality of secession.  Moreover, Southerners were convinced that abolition would be but the first in a chain of events that would spell disaster for the South.

A Tennessee journal showed exceptional insight when, at the height of the sectional crisis, it blamed the alienation of the sections upon the newspapers. “. . . [E]ach indulges in constant crimination and labors incessantly to mislead and prejudice the people of the respective sections. And even now, when the country is trembling on the verge of dissolution, the warfare of misrepresentation and abuse is carried on with redoubled violence by the vultures who thrive and fatten on popular prejudice. We would rather be the lowest thing that crawls the earth than rear our children on bread obtained by such means.”

(Editors Make War, Southern Newspapers in the Secession Crisis, Donald E. Reynolds, Vanderbilt University Press, 1966, excerpts pp. 210-217)

Mass Market Sensationalism and Kansas

Early New York newspapermen James Gordon Bennett and Moses Beach both recognized the power of the telegraph on news they could sell in their Herald and Sun, respectively, and both sought that “mass market” which was shortly to become the Holy Grail of American industry. The revolutionary-minded reporters they sent to Kansas in 1856 greatly helped light the fuse for the coming war; the election of a purely sectional president in 1860 finished their work.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Mass Market Sensationalism and Kansas

“The appearance of the telegraph [in 1835] unlocked the door to the entire country for the newspaperman. Until it came, current news was the property only of the city room . . . while the steam locomotive sliced helpfully into the mailbag’s travel time, it could not keep up with the dots and dashes.

“This agency,” wrote James Gordon Bennett at the time, “will be productive of the most extraordinary effects on society, government, commerce and the progress of civilization.”

The Herald . . . [was] soon blooming with police-court reports, details of murders and offenses against morality of an interesting nature, blow-by-blow write-ups of bare-knuckle prize fights, stock market reports, gossip, and the most up-to-date news that money could procure.

In 1841, Bennett wrote to Henry Clay, asking for the distinguished Senator’s help in removing [a rule barring non-Washington reporters from House and Senate galleries]. Clay, a master politician, perhaps guessed that already the Herald was useful to have on one’s side. He went to work and the rule fell . . . [soon] the solons rapidly accustomed themselves to orating for a national audience.

National elections came in 1856 – automatically a year ripe for trouble. At the very beginning of it, ominous stories were appearing from the territory of Kansas, opened to settlement since 1854. There had been elections for a legislature, bad blood between factions divided on the inescapable issue of slavery, angry claims of fraud, and then shootings.

Editors swung around in their chairs and scribbled notes; reporters boarded trains and steamboats and headed West to cover Kansas.

They wrote as actors, not spectators, and many believed that truth could be put to flight in a free and open encounter unless it received at least some assistance [from them].

They sallied forth to depict a contest between freedom and tyranny in the impressive arena “beyond the Mississippi.” The results boded ill for the caving Union.”

(Reporters for the Union, Bernard A. Weisberger, Little, Brown and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 17-18; 20; 22-23)

Mar 24, 2018 - American Military Genius, Foreign Viewpoints, Newspapers, Propaganda    Comments Off on Stonewall and the British Reporter

Stonewall and the British Reporter

The fledgling Northern press tagged themselves as the “Bohemian Brigade,” which fit their tattered existence and life “on the periphery of a society which scarcely understood their function.” The so-called reporters were suspected as spies, and their penchant for either reporting, or fabricating, what they saw or heard, caused consternation in Lincoln’s regime. The South had few real newspapers, as paper to print them on was scarce.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Stonewall and the British Reporter

“A more baffling problem of [press] coverage arose when Stonewall Jackson staged his Shenandoah campaign . . .  routing [Gen. Nathaniel] Banks at Front Royal and Winchester, threatening Washington, and making good his escape while Union armies converged on him from three directions.

When Jackson struck . . . G.W. Clarke, a Britisher representing the [New York] Herald, was “musing over the dullness of the war” in the hotel at Front Royal. [Northern] Colonel John R. Kenly, commanding a detachment of nine hundred men there, dispatched Clarke to cut the rope ferry across the Shenandoah [River]. Clarke won a citation in Kenly’s report, but he was captured [by Jackson’s forces] in the brisk skirmish that followed. He was introduced to the Confederate commander.

“Jackson reached his hand and caught mine, remarking he was glad to see anyone connected with the American Thunderer. “I am very glad to see you under the circumstances, General,” I said, “and I hope you will be good enough to pass me out of your lines as soon as possible.”

At this the General’s face changed slightly. He remarked that he had not time to attend to that just then, and rode off.

Clarke wrote to the General as a British subject to demand his release. At Winchester, Jackson granted him an interview.

“This time [Jackson] wore a blue military overcoat. “General, I suppose you will restore me my horse and clothes?”

“Oh,” replied he, “it was taken in the camp and must be considered contraband of war.”

“But . . . I stand as a neutral, and you know it to be the law of nations that a neutral flag covers neutral goods.”

“Yes,” said the rebel chieftain; “but the Southern Confederacy is not recognized by neutral nations, and, consequently cannot by bound by neutral laws.”

Clarke was released two weeks later at New Market – minus his goods. The other correspondents, for all their efforts to report Jackson’s whirlwind campaign, might just as well have been captured too.

Charles Henry Webb of the [New York] Times [was] . . . among the first to comprehend the genius of Thomas J. Jackson. “We may run the mountain fox to death yet . . . The correspondents of some papers claim it as a victory [over Jackson] . . . is it always necessary to pander to the [public] appetite that demands victory in all cases, an assurance that the enemy lost at least one more than we? One thing is certain, Jackson is equally eminent as a strategist and tactician. He handles his army like a whip . . . This retreat of his, if retreat it can be called, has been conducted with marvelous skill. He has not much mercy on his men, but he gets extraordinary marches out of them on very short commons.”

(Bohemian Brigade, Civil War Newsmen in Action; Louis M. Starr, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, excerpts, pp. 119-122)

“Visiting Statesmen” in Florida

The South acquiesced to the inauguration of “His Fraudulency,” Rutherford B. Hayes, in the notorious national election of 1876 with the withdrawal of Northern troops from the South as well as promises of federal aid to Southern railroads. This election was a continuation of Republican election fraud in the South which herded freedmen to the polls while intimidating white Democratic voters. In order to win elections, the Democratic Party was to become as corrupt as their even worse political adversaries.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“Visiting Statesmen” in Florida

“The smallest tadpole in the dirty pool of Secession,” as the New York Herald had described Florida in the war, had become something very different to The New York Times in 1876. Early in the morning after the election, that strong Republican paper, after accounting politically for every State in the Union but Florida, announced: “This leaves Florida alone still in doubt. If the Republicans have carried that State, as they claim, they will have 185 votes, a majority of one.”

The situation was not quite that simple, but Florida’s vote was that important. “Visiting statesmen” of both parties hastened to Tallahassee. Local partisans were active too. Some of the Republicans who came were . . . Governor Edward F. Noyes, of Ohio, who presented the Republican case and was said to have made some remarkable Republican promises . . .

Lew Wallace, the politician and novelist . . . described the Florida situation in a letter to his wife: “It is terrible to see the extent to which all classes go in their determination to win. Conscience offers no restraint. Nothing is so common as the resort to perjury . . . Money, intimidation can obtain the oath of white men as well as black to any required statement . . . if we [Republicans] win, our methods are subject to impeachment for possible fraud.

Fraud was national. It applied to the Presidency as well as railroad bonds. “Visiting statesmen” who came late showed no more scruples that carpetbaggers who came early or the scalawags whom they found.

The Republicans secured the vote of Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina. But the Florida vote remains more significant in view of Dr, Vann Woodward’s statement that the consensus of recent historical scholarship is that “Hayes was probably entitled to the electoral votes of South Carolina and Louisiana, and that Tilden was entitled to the four votes of Florida, and that Tilden was therefore elected by a vote of 188 to 181.”

(The Prince of Carpetbaggers, Jonathan Daniels, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1958, excerpts pp. 282-283)

Ministering Angels Arrive in the Philippines

The Treaty of Paris submitted to the Senate for ratification in 1899 passed with barely the two-thirds majority required, though the prospect of commercial exploitation in Asia carried the day for Republicans. President William McKinley told Congress in his message asking for ratification that turning the Philippines over to our commercial rivals “would be bad business.” Senator Hoar of Massachusetts had forgotten his region’s treatment of the Pequot tribe who were sold into slavery and his State’s part in subjugating Southern States in the 1860s. The brutal methods used to subdue Filipino’s resisting occupation were familiar to the American South, which remembered Sherman’s visit.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Ministering Angels Arrive in the Philippines

“The Treaty of Paris gave the United States sovereignty over the Philippines, but it could not come into force until the Senate ratified it. Opponents denounced the treaty as an imperialist grab of distant land and shamed American ideals and overextended American power.

Senator George Frisbee Hoar of Massachusetts warned that it would turn the United States into “a vulgar, commonplace empire founded upon physical force, controlling subject races and vassal states, in which one class must forever rule and the other classes must forever obey.”

Supporters countered with three arguments: that it would be ludicrous to recognize Filipino independence since there was no such thing as a Filipino nation; that it was America’s duty to civilize the backward Filipinos; and that possession of the archipelago would bring incalculable commercial and strategic advantages.

As this debate was reaching its climax, in what the New York World called “an amazing coincidence,” news came that Filipino insurgents had attacked American positions in Manila. It later turned out that there had indeed been a skirmish but that an American private had fired the first shot. That was not clear at the time, however, and probably would not have mattered anyway.

Several senators declared that they now felt obligated to vote for the treaty as a sign of support for beleaguered soldiers on the other side of the globe. “We come as ministering angels, not as despots,” Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota assured his colleagues.

In September, 1901, a band of Rebels . . . fiercely set upon [American soldiers at Balangiga], stabbing and hacking them to death. Of the seventy-four men who had been posted in Balangiga, only twenty survived, most with multiple stab wounds. News of the “Balangiga Massacre” was quickly flashed back to the United States [and it] stunned a nation that was only beginning to realize what kind of war was being fought in the Philippines.

American commanders on the islands . . . ordered Colonel Jacob Smith, who had participated in the Wounded Knee massacre in the Dakota Territory a decade before, to proceed to Samar and do whatever was necessary to subdue the rebels. Smith arrived . . . and ordered his men to kill everyone over the age of ten and turn the island’s interior into “a howling wilderness.”

“I want no prisoners,” he told them. “I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and the more you burn, the better it will please me.”

(Overthrow, America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer, Times Books, 2006, excerpts pp. 49-53)

Foreign-Born Tip the 1860 Election

Crucial to the immigrant vote for Lincoln in the 1860 election was Republican Party support for a Homestead bill, the transcontinental railroad, and not allowing black people into western lands — thus reserving those lands for white immigrants. The foreign-born who had already filled up Middle West States were eager for western lands to settle where government property was still available, which also meant clearing those lands of Indians. Future Republican administrations would accomplish that task. With a bare 39% percent of the popular vote, a lower foreign-born vote could have put Stephen Douglas in the White House and avoided war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Foreign-Born Tip the 1860 Election

“Scholars, particularly those interested in the impact of ethnic groups on key national elections, have long been intrigued by Abraham Lincoln’s victory in 1860. Ever since Professor William E. Dodd’s classic article [The Fight for the Northwest, 1860, American Historical Review, XVI, (1910), 786)] it has been axiomatic in the works of historians that the foreign-born of the Old Northwest, voting in solid blocs according to the dictates of their leaders, cast the decisive ballots.

Lincoln could not have won the presidency, Dodd suggested, “but for the loyal support of the Germans and other foreign citizens led by Carl Shurz, Gustav Keorner, and the editors of the Staatzeitung of Chicago.”

A decade later . . . Donnal V. Smith scrutinized the immigrant vote in 1860 and confidently declared that “without the vote of the foreign-born, Lincoln could not have carried the Northwest, and without the Northwest . . . he would have been defeated.”

Smith’s statistics also confirmed the premise that the social solidarity characteristic of ethnic groups invariably translated itself into political solidarity, and that because of the language barrier the immigrants needed leaders to formulate the political issues for them.

“The leaders who were so trusted,” Smith maintained, “were in a splendid to control the political strength of the foreign-born.” And in the election of 1860, he continued, even to the “casual observer” the ethnic leaders of the Middle West were solidly Republican . . . [and] except for isolated, insignificant minorities, the foreign-born of the Old Northwest voted Republican.

Foreign language newspapers generally carried the Lincoln-Hamlin banner of their mastheads; prominent immigrants campaigned actively for Old Abe and played key roles at the Chicago convention.”

(The Ethnic Voter and the First Lincoln Election, Robert P. Swierenga, Civil War History, Volume 11, No. 1, March 1965, excerpts, pp. 27-28)

Obsessed with World Power and Democracy

With the Philippine islands in American hands after the Spanish War, the natives imagined their islands free of foreign rule as a gift from America. The liberator determined that the natives “were ill-suited to the concept of representative democratic government” and decided to stay until such was the norm, no matter how many Filipinos lives it cost and years it took.  It will be recalled that the war against Spain began with bellicose headlines from the newspapers of Hearst and Pulitzer.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Obsessed with World Power and Democracy

“On July 4, 1901, William Howard Taft took the oath of office as the first Governor-General of the Philippines, and control of the islands passed from the military arm of the government. Not all the problems [of converting the islands] had been solved. Philippine society remained ill-suited to the concept of representative democratic government, primarily because it is not one culture, but several.

An election in Zamboanga was decided by which Filipino shot the other candidates first.

The Filipinos in the northern islands were Tagalog Christians, those in the south were Moro’s (meaning “Mohammedan”) who had long resisted Tagalog encroachment. A tribal people, they were fiercely jealous of their semi-savage freedom. Wisely, the Spaniards had left them to their own devices; but the Americans wanted to clean up and educate everybody.

So the [American] army established a garrison at Balangiga, on Samar, in the south where Magellan had sighted the Philippines and where he was to die at the hands of natives.

On September 1, 1901, the natives from the surrounding hills of Balangiga fell on the American garrison, and in a devastating surprise littered the street with the heads, brains and intestines of the soldiery. This was the beginning of a religious war with the Moros, one that took longer to settle than the war against Aguinaldo’s insurrectos.

The fight became a struggle to win the minds and hearts of the villagers, who supplied the guerrilla bands and offered them bases and sanctuaries. What was called for [to control the Moros], [General John J.] Pershing decided, was to disarm the entire Moro Province, to confiscate or buy every rifle, pistol, campilan, bolo and krise on the islands.

It was not an original idea. General Leonard Wood, who left the Philippines in 1910 to become Chief of Staff advised Pershing: “You cannot disarm the people. It means they will bury their best arms and turn in a few poor ones, especially some who want to make a show of obedience.” Moros who surrendered their arms were victimized by those who had not . . . it is as hard to disarm a people as it is to make them give up a religious belief.

In a letter to Avery D. Andrews, Pershing put succinctly the apostolic creed to which he himself subscribed:

“It has been urged by some people at home that the Filipinos should be given their independence. Such a thing would result in anarchy. To whom should we over the government? Tagalog, Viscayan, Igorrote, Macabebe or Moro?No one can answer that any of these tribes represents the people in any sense, any more than the Sioux represents all the Indians in America. There is no national spirit, and except for the few agitators, these people do not want to try independence.  They will have to be educated up to it and to self-government as we understand it, and their education will take some time and patience. It is a grand work cut out for us from which there should be no shirking.”

The Americans stayed on, Pershing said, because “the American people being obsessed with the idea of maintaining their new position as a world power, insisted on keeping the flag flying over a territory once it was in our possession.

In the long run, the only advantage the United States or the Philippines realized from the occupation was the military mission. The archipelago was never destined to become a great way station to exploit trade with the Orient. America and the world economy were finding uses for Philippine products, especially hemp, sugar, timber and minerals.

But as the world was discovering these products, the Filipinos were discovering corruption. By 1920, Wall Street learned that the directors of the [Wall Street-capitalized Philippine National] bank had dealt out so many unsecured loans that $24 million had simply evaporated. The bank’s reserves, which should have been retained in New York, had also vanished in alarming fashion. Similarly, American rail industries had capitalized the Manila Railroad Company, which piled up astronomical losses in only eight years. By 1921, the islands were insolvent.

Democracy and equal opportunity have always been problematic for the people of this archipelago. William Howard Taft warned the American electorate in 1912 that only 3 percent of the Filipinos voted and only 5 percent read the public press; to confer democracy on such a society was to subject the great mass to the dominance of an oligarchical and exploiting minority.

“The idea that public office is a public trust,” Taft said, “has not been planted in the Filipino mind by experience . . .”

(Pipe Clay and Drill; John J. Pershing: The Classical American Soldier”, Readers Digest Press, 1977, excerpts, pp 100-153)

 

Financing the War with Inflation

As Lincoln was unable to finance his war with the traditional tax and customs revenue sources, he turned to paper fiat money to be printed as needed, though the Constitution permits only gold and silver as legal tender. The predictable speculation in the value of greenbacks versus gold prices caused murky markets to emerge. In New York’s “Gold Room,” decisions were guided not so much by patriotic motives as the desire for profit. It was said that “Sectional feeling often entered largely into bull and bear contests in the Gold Room, and Union men and rebel sympathizers fought their battles sometimes, as much to gratify this as to make money.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Financing the War with Inflation

“To help finance the Civil War, the federal government began issuing “demand notes” in July 1861. These government obligations were not a legal tender currency and were freely convertible into gold upon presentation to a federal depository. During the course of 1861, the Union’s financial condition deteriorated, and in December the Treasury issues a very bleak report on the budgetary situation.

In the face of such news, bankers concluded that investors would lose confidence in the demand notes and the banks would soon experience a massive outflow of gold. On December 30, the banks suspended specie payments of gold [for greenbacks]. The government followed suit almost immediately.

Soon thereafter, in February 1862, Congress passed the first of the Legal Tender Acts. These acts authorized the government to issue “greenbacks” – a currency that was to be legal tender for both public and private debts. Of course, since demand notes were no longer convertible into gold, neither were greenbacks . . . [though] all available evidence indicates that the public believed that at some future date convertibility would be reinstated and all greenbacks would be redeemed in gold.

[Because Lincoln] was unable to finance the war with the available tax revenues . . . Greenbacks were a way of using inflation to pay for the war. Speculators knew that the degree to which the Union would have to rely on future greenback issues depended on just how much the war would ultimately cost. A long, expensive war would require more greenback issues and make it less likely that greenbacks would ever be exchanged for gold dollars on a one-for-one basis.

Not surprisingly, a formal market for buyers and sellers to trade gold came into existence within two weeks of the suspension of convertibility. The first organized dealings took place at the New York Stock Exchange on January 13, 1862. At about the same time a second market formed . . . in New York City . . . known as the Gold Room.

An important question for our purposes is how the gold market used the [political and war] information coming to it. Did the financial market react quickly to news that was available, or did it take several days to digest it? A closely related question is whether news of battles . . . reached all participants at the same time.

In a report on the burning of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, on July 31, 1864, the New York Herald explicitly noted that the government frequently withheld information from the public to minimize alarm and protect intelligence and sources.

The daily registry of the Gold Room was a quicker messenger of successes and defeats than the tardier telegrams of the Associated Press. A private secretary of a high official, with no capital at all to save his position, which gave him authentic information of every shaping of the chess game of war a full twenty hours in advance of the public, simply flashed to the words “sell, buy” across the wires, and trusted the honor of his broker for the rest.

If there was a sufficiently large number of “insiders” competing with each other, then the market would quickly transform war news into changes in the price of greenbacks, despite the fact that the news was not coming through published sources.

The observation of [New York Herald writer] Kinahan Cornwallis are consistent with this notion: “Almost every individual speculator in the Gold Room, whose transactions were large enough to make it of consequence, had a correspondent in the national capital, who sent him a telegraphic dispatch as occasion required . . .”

(Greenback Prices as Commentary on the Union Prospects, Guinnane, Rosen and Willard, Civil War History, The Journal of the Middle Period, Kent State University Press, December 1995, Volume XLI, No. 4, excerpts, pp. 315-318)

 

Censorship and Favorable Publicity

Prior to 1861, the New York Associated Press was playing an important role in transforming American journalism by centralizing a network of like-minded newspapers to distribute news to the country. After commencing hostilities, the Lincoln administration began censoring news stories regarding the war almost immediately and what followed was a constant suppression of stories regarding war financing in Congress, the imminent bankruptcy of the government, Northern casualties figures, and war profiteering by war materiel contractors.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Censorship and Favorable Publicity

“At the outset of the Civil War – and for the first time in American history – the federal government created an apparatus to censor news stories. For the first ten months of the war, responsibility for the Washington censorship shifted among cabinet officials. Given this arrangement, the censorship imposed on correspondents during the crucial early phase of the conflict was as much political as military.

In December 1861, the House of Representatives authorized the Judiciary Committee “to inquire if a telegraphic censorship of the press has been established in this city; if so, by whose authority, and by whom is it now controlled.” The committee held hearings during January and February before submitting its fourteen-page report to the House in February 1862.

On April 19 . . . reporters gathered details from the battered [6th Massachusetts Regiment returning from Baltimore] and hurried to the Washington telegraph office to file their stories for Northern newspapers. When they arrived, however, they found the office guarded by a militia squad . . . no one quite accepted responsibility for the decision to ban the transmission of news, though [William] Seward mentioned that the cabinet had been discussing the need for some type of telegraphic censorship.

[News organization owners were told that] Messages about military operations were to be detained, as was anything “injurious to the interest of the Government.” The circular closed with the admonition, “Of course the strictest secrecy must be observed in respect to these instructions.” Near the end of April, the War Department assumed control of the telegraph and the censorship program.

Telegraphic reports about the outcome of [First Manassas] on July 21 damaged the credibility of both the government and the press and prompted changes in censorship. Early accounts of the battle telegraphed to Northern newspapers suggested an imminent Union victory . . . [and] left the public unprepared for the news that followed: the battle ended in an ignominious rout of the Union army.

Only days after Gen. George B. McClellan assumed command of the Army of the Potomac, he met with reporters and proposed a code that governed news sent by telegraph . . . “that may furnish aid and comfort to the enemy.” Eleven correspondents representing leading newspapers in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Cincinnati, and Washington signed, as did General McClellan.

The ultimate arbiter of what could pass over the wires from Washington, Secretary of War Simon Cameron, was well-positioned to cultivate favorable publicity. He directed the censor to let the “despatches of Mr. [Samuel] Wilkeson, of the New York Tribune, go over the wires as written . . . as Wilkeson enjoyed the latitude to offer comments, even editorialize, in his reports from Washington. “The privilege was to be used wholly in [reference] to the policy of sustaining the govt – sustaining the War Dept.,” Wilkeson testified.

Wilkeson’s reports to the Tribune regularly defended Cameron and the War Department from the many charges of scandal and mismanagement in awarding military contracts.”

(The Telegraph, Censorship and Politics; Richard B. Kielbowicz, Civil War History, Vol. XL, 1994, Kent State University Press, excerpts, pp. 96-101)

Exhortative Liberalism

The term “virtue signaling” is defined as “an act of affirmation of some liberal value or shibboleth, intended to establish or reaffirm the sender’s reputation as a socialized, politically correct, and tolerant person.” In the not-too-distant-past, Christian morality dominated American culture and one had no need to signal the virtue one already had in his or her heart.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Exhortative Liberalism

“Even the strongest political conservatives – people who believe in the free market and resist statism, support a strong military defense, and go to church every Sunday – participate in virtue signaling to display their generous intentions, maintain social harmony, and compensate for their illiberal opinions regarding fundamental political, economic and social issues.

Virtue signaling is one aspect of the urgent exhortative tone characteristic of modern liberal society – the “OK guys – let’s all go out today and do the ethical thing!” society.

The spirit behind exhortative liberalism is purely liberal-bourgeois, yet its pedigree traces from the civic boosterism of the conservative bourgeoisie of the 1920’s to whom Sinclair Lewis’s fictional character of the decade gave the name “Babbittry.” In fact there has always been an intimate connection between liberalism and social and intellectual vulgarity . . . Liberalism as an idea is ideally suited to the moral, aesthetic, and political vulgarity of modern commercial-democratic society.

The [Laramie, Wyoming] newspaper [the Boomerang] was founded in 1881 . . . What hard news there is at hand to report daily is buried under alerts, announcements, feature stories and photographs promoting a variety of “awarenesses,” “sensitivities,” and other liberal totems: Big Brother-Big Sister, Violence Against Women Week, Run for the Cure races, rallies to save the climate and fight discrimination against the “LGBT community,” Latina seminars, safe-sex crusades, and Special Olympics weekends.

In the Boomerang’s world, everyone “cares,” “gives back,” “supports,” and “tolerates” from morn to set of sun, and – no doubt – in his dreams as well.

It’s not “nice” to mock, let alone object to, false sentimentality, moralistic self-satisfaction, and virtue signaling, assuming even that people are aware of these things, now as natural a part of the municipal atmosphere as . . . the overflowing bars downtown on Saturday nights, and the ubiquitous message T-shirts advertising (in about equal numbers) commercial products, liberal causes and organizations, and sports teams.

(Message T-shirts are another ubiquitous message from the Exhortative Society, delivered by bipedal human billboards who imagine their fellow bipeds care a tinker’s damn what products they buy, what left-wing causes they support, or what teams the root for.)”

(The Easiness of Being Liberal, Chilton Williamson, Jr., Chronicles, December 2016, excerpts, pp. 9-10)

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