Source: Medical News
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Genesis of the Crank”
Date of publication: 14 September 1901
Volume number: 79
Issue number: 11
|“The Genesis of the Crank.” Medical News 14 Sept. 1901 v79n11: p. 423.|
|McKinley assassination (personal response); society (mental health); yellow journalism.|
The Genesis of the Crank
IT HAS long been admitted
by alienists as well as by enlightened jurists that it is desirable, if not
necessary, to make a distinction between mental aberration or insanity as viewed
from the standpoint of a well-rounded mental activity and mental aberration
which involves the principle of responsibility. Thus we have an individual afflicted
with medical insanity who may never become insane from the legal point of view
simply because society does not sufficiently suffer to render it necessary to
recognize an abnormal member.
We would hold that there is no ideal mind that may be used as a scale by which other minds should be measured, but would formulate the idea that sound mental action is based upon the prevailing customs of the times and as such is a reflection of the development of the major portion of a large community.
Those who move in the center of the great stream of human progress, contributing their little to the advancement of individual development, we deem as healthy and sane-minded people; a few there are who dream dreams, both little and great, of future perfections; those who dream possible dreams are the geniuses of our social fabric; those whose dreams are impossible of all fulfilment make up the large body of fanatics and cranks of which we would speak.
It is almost a commonplace to say that most of us are for the most part products of our surroundings, our dreams are colored by those about us and it is to one phase of our environment that attention should be called if we would know of the genesis of the particular kind of crank who has so foully shown how barbarous mankind can be.
Because it pays in dollars and cents to be a mouthpiece of discontent and because more money can be made by telling people cheap and tinseled versions of how to offset the inevitable instead of offering honest and manly counsel, we have in our midst a number of foul sheets of sentimentality which are veritable educators to violent and unjust deeds. We believe that our so-termed yellow journals are responsible in large part in keeping alive and introducing into men’s minds the seditious principles of anarchy which bear such rotten fruits. We say this advisedly and with a keen appreciation of the psychological principles involved. That public press which distorts and sentimentalizes the smaller details of every-day life is responsible in large part for the mental unbalance of its readers in their judgment concerning the more complicated movements of society. If the facts of every-day life cannot be given to people of minor intelligence in a straightforward and honest manner, is it any wonder that such people fail to see relations as they should be seen and is it incomprehensible that unbalanced social reformers result from such mental training?
Rulers have been killed before printing-presses ever came into existence and they have been murdered for the very reasons that anarchy now preaches as its gospel. Individual leaders have always been found to pander to discontent and human greed. The mantle of the demagogue of old has fallen on the shoulders of the modern sensational press and murder and lust are still fostered beneath its folds.