Source: Norfolk Landmark
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “As to Hysterical Nonsense”
City of publication: Norfolk, Virginia
Date of publication: 13 September 1901
Volume number: 53
Issue number: 15
|“As to Hysterical Nonsense.” Norfolk Landmark 13 Sept. 1901 v53n15: p. 4.|
|McKinley assassination (public response); McKinley assassination (news coverage: criticism); freedom of speech.|
|Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley.|
As to Hysterical Nonsense
It may be said with confidence that the demeanor
of the American people under the shock of the attempted assassination of the
President has been rarely excelled. The people, without regard to politics,
have been boiling with indignation ever since the dastardly crime was committed.
They have demanded in a voice of determination that Congress enact laws which
will check the importation of anarchists and make life in America uncomfortable
for such as are already here. But from first to last there has been very little
hysteria. Here and there a citizen may have lost his head and called for the
punishment of the man Czolgosz by a death of torture; here and there a fool
or scoundrel not identified with anarchy may have expressed satisfaction at
the act of the assassin; but these instances have been so few as to be absolutely
negligible in the general survey. The people have exhibited no hysteria.
This being true about the people, it is all the more to be regretted that a few newspapers which claim reputability, and which certainly possess sense under ordinary conditions, have lost control of their minds and made donkeys of themselves. These newspapers are not many, it is true; but then a newspaper has not the same excuse for talking nonsense as has the individual citizen, who may speak on the spur of the moment without reflection or realization of his own meaning. Newspapers are supposed to think. Their duty to the public and to themselves is to weigh the effect of words before uttering them. The half dozen newspapers which have pretended to find in the strong and proper denunciation of Mr. McKinley’s imperialistic policy a partial cause for the act of the assassin at Buffalo are hysterical. That is the most charitable way of putting it; therefore we put it in that way. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, if for no other reason than that they claim intelligence.
The safety of this nation depends upon freedom of speech. That right does not include the propagation of anarchy; but it does include the criticism of public acts and of public servants. The shooting of the President had no more to do with the patriotic arraignment of his imperialistic policy than it had to do with the phases of the moon. The assassin’s own testimony shows that. But if, by chance, there were any person insane enough to find in legitimate political criticism the suggestion of violence, would the people give up their right of criticism on that account? Bah! The idea is too puerile to talk about. Esteem for President McKinley as a private citizen, admiration of his dignity as a public officer, respect for his exalted post at the head of the nation’s government,—these feelings are shared by all the sensible citizens of this country, whatever their politics. But millions of people, and of the best and sanest people, believe that Mr. McKinley has been dangerously and deliberately heedless of the fundamental spirit of freedom in his treatment of the Filipinos and Porto Ricans and Cubans. These critics are just as much opposed to anarchy, and just as earnestly anxious to have it made a crime in the law, as is the most partisan political supporter of the President. They spurn hysterical raving of all sorts, and laugh at it.