Source: San Francisco Call
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Stroke of the Rattlesnake”
City of publication: San Francisco, California
Date of publication: 24 September 1901
Volume number: 90
Issue number: 116
|“Stroke of the Rattlesnake.” San Francisco Call 24 Sept. 1901 v90n116: p. 6.|
|William Randolph Hearst; Hearst newspapers; Hearst newspapers (role in the assassination).|
|Leon Czolgosz; George III; Marcus Hanna; William Randolph Hearst; Collis P. Huntington; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; William P. Sullivan; Frank J. Symmes.|
Stroke of the Rattlesnake
AFTER waiting two weeks for a lull in the storm of public indignation
that burst out against him upon the assassination of the President, whom he
had reviled and vilified day after day for years, William R. Hearst on Sunday
struck back at the public that condemns him. He notes that “funerals, even the
saddest,” pass, and he evidently indulges the delusion that indignation has
passed with it. It is clearly the belief of Hearst that since the President
has been buried no one will any longer recall the villainous and criminal attacks
made upon him, and so Hearst feels it safe to resume. He is himself again. Once
more as venomous, false and egotistical as ever.
Hearst divides the public that condemns him into two classes—the predatory rich and their organs, and the dull incapables of journalism and of life. He says of the indignation of the public: “It is the revenge which inferiority takes in solacing compensation upon superiority.”
Such is the view Hearst takes of the situation. The press of the country, presidents of universities, the most eminent of the clergy, Archbishops and Cardinals, Judges, representatives of the commercial and industrial organizations of the country, are, in the estimation of this moral idiot, subject to an infuriating envy and jealousy of his superiority. An egotism of that kind can hardly be stung by anything less physical than a horsewhip, yet it is likely to be made to suffer by other means. Public condemnation may not sting it, but a withdrawal of public patronage will force it to silence.
It is the claim of Hearst that he has used his papers to fight for the people against greed and class privilege, but the people do not admit the claim. He denounces “the press that lives on subsidies and on alms,” but the public is aware that his own organ, the Examiner, was subsidized by the Southern Pacific Company and continued to draw the subsidy month after month until Huntington refused to pay it any further. That the Examiner is not on the payrolls of the Southern Pacific and perhaps of other corporations to-day is due solely to the fact that the subsidies are no longer to be obtained, either by solicitation or by extortion.
The public at this time, however, is not interested in Hearst’s relations to corporations, to the predatory rich or to those whom he regards as incapables envious of his superiority. The question to which an answer is wanted now is that involved in the universal charge that Hearst is directly responsible for promoting a hatred of the Government and of the prosperous, thus breeding anarchists and encouraging the cowardly but vindictive spirit that prompted the assassination of the President.
Public opinion charges Hearst with having a responsible part in the crime of Czolgosz by the publication of lies deliberately invented for the purpose of exciting a vindictive spirit against the President. To that charge Hearst is called upon to answer. The questions put to him are these:
Did you not lie when you said of McKinley: “He has made the White House the headquarters of a corrupt trust lobby. He has made the White House the stronghold of tariff jobbery. It is notorious that he has mortgaged and sold the highest offices in his gift”?
Did you not lie when you said the President was “an obedient jellyfish”—“an abject, weak, futile, incompetent poltroon”? Did you not lie when you said “McKinley and the Wall street Cabinet are ready to surrender every particle of national honor and dignity”? Was it not a lie when you said of the Philippines and Porto Rico: “William McKinley is ruling them with an arbitrary disregard of law that George III never dared to exhibit in America”?
Did you not lie when you said: “And McKinley—bar one girthy Princeton person, who came to be no more, no less, than a living crime in breeches—is, therefore, the most despised and hated creature in the hemisphere. His name is hooted; his figure burned in effigy”?
Did you not lie when in a grotesque caricature you represented Theodore Roosevelt with a face like a baboon shouting out: “I am brave. I believe in shooting. I shot a Spaniard in the back”? Was it not a lie when you said: “Mark Hanna, acting for McKinley, will increase the army, and if occasion arise use it against the organized labor which he so much detests”?
Have you not also made use of lies in attacking every one against whom your malice or your egotism felt aggrieved? Was it not a lie which you published in this city but a short time ago when you charged Chairman Symmes of the executive committee of the Employers’ Association with saying: “If by reason of a struggle we are making on a principle and in defense of individual liberty of action, the grain crop can’t be moved, let it rot”?
Was it not a lie when you charged Chief Sullivan with saying to the police: “I am dissatisfied with the conduct of you men toward the strikers. * * * The strikers must be driven off the streets. * * * Drive them to their homes and see that they are kept there. * * * Let me impress this order upon you: Keep the streets clear of union men”? Was not that a lie?
Were you not lying when you said: “Levi Strauss & Co. are feeling the effect of the boycott levied against it by the organized labor of San Francisco. Workingmen are refusing to buy overalls manufactured by a firm pledged to stifle unionism. Four hundred of the 800 girls employed by the big Fremont-street factory were yesterday laid off”? Was not the lie published maliciously, and for the purpose of inciting further boycotts and causing further harm to California’s industries?
To what class of people have all of these lies day after day been addressed? Did you think intelligent men would believe them, that good men would tolerate them, or that patriotic men would be influenced by them? Is it not a fact that they were deliberately devised to affect the minds of the ignorant, the vile and the vicious? Was it not your intention to excite that class of men to whatever course of action their cunning, their malice and their brutality would suggest to them? Was it not your intention to incite against President McKinley just the class of which Czolgosz is a type in order that they might commit just the crime that Czolgosz committed?
These are the questions you are to answer at the bar of public opinion. Your offenses of the kind have been many. You have assailed not only individuals but whole communities and Government itself. The people of this city have not forgotten the hideous, grewsome, loathsome page of pictures and rhetoric which you published for the purpose of representing San Francisco as the seat of the bubonic plague.
Why was that lie published?
Have all these vicious utterances been but an idiot’s tale full of froth and fury, signifying nothing, or have they been the malicious incitements of a malignant egotist enraged against society and government because his “superiority” is not recognized?
You say the Examiner is “An American newspaper for Americans,” and you ask: “Has it assailed the church? Has it antagonized any reform movement, or hurt at any time any legitimate business interest?”
To those questions you get your answer in the condemnation pronounced upon you at this very time by the clergy of all churches, the worthy leaders of every earnest effort at reform, by farmers, merchants, manufacturers and workingmen—in short, by representatives of every church, every reform and every legitimate business interest. You have hurt them all to the full extent of your cowardly malice. You are at this very time doing your best to stop the course of industry in California. The crops of the farmers are exposed to ruin, merchants are losing trade, great factories are hampered in their work and labor is being brought every day nearer and nearer to destitution by your incitements.
You say you have fought for the people “with more varied weapons, with more force and talent and enthusiasm than any other newspaper in the country.” The files of each of your papers give the lie to that statement. Your variety of weapons has been but a variety of falsehoods. You have faked interviews misrepresenting honest men, you have garbled letters and speeches, you have suppressed news. Yesterday you misrepresented the memorial services of the Knights of Pythias, and suppressed the vigorous words of the orator who denounced you and said: “Too long have we been afflicted with the loathsome disease of yellow journalism, poisoning the minds of our children and breeding crime in the hearts of the people.” You have forged telegrams, you have devised lie after lie, in season and out of season, and you have given the largest space in your papers and the largest type available to your journalism to displaying the worst and meanest of your lies.
You claim to be a champion of free speech, yet you have degraded journalism to the slums, and for liberty have substituted the prostituted license of slander, malice, vice and crime.
You have encouraged every industrial disturbance that has occurred at any place within reach of your influence. You have aided agitators and demagogues in forcing strikes upon industrious workingmen who do not wish to strike. You have incited the lawless to take advantage of such disturbances to assault honest and peaceable workingmen on their way to or from their work. You have stirred up in the minds and the hearts of ruffians the kind of courage that has led them to the commission of robbery, arson and murder.
Such are the charges the public, through the press, the pulpit, the forum and the councils of representative business men, have made against Hearst, but it is not expected that he will answer them. Whatever retort he makes will be the venomous stroke of a rattlesnake. He will defend his former lies by new lies. The public is aware of the tactics he will pursue, for his character is not unknown. He has not lived his life in a corner, nor has the darkness of his ways and the depravity of his habits concealed him wholly from the public. He is a known and despised man, an exile from his home, an outcast from society, shunned by the decent and scorned by the good, the prodigal associate and patron of the vilest of men and women, supporting out of his inherited wealth blackmailers on the one hand and strumpets on the other, a discredit to his profession, a disgrace to his State, a sore upon his party, a foe to law, order and industry, a demagogue and a coward, a slanderer of virtue and a defamer of dignity. Rotten in body and in heart, with an educated delight in debauchery and lying, he has made himself a cause of folly among the ignorant and of crime among the vicious. Preaching a creed of hatred which the pariahs of the slums would not accept, and practicing personal vices which Czolgosz would not commit, he stands doubly dyed in infamy as a corrupter of morals and a teacher of anarchy, and is thus abhorrent alike to religion and to law, an offense to society and a menace to the republic.
It matters little what the brazen impudence overriding the cowardice of the man may enable him from his retreat to say in vilification of the public that has judged and condemned him. The end of his career is at hand.