Source: San Francisco Call
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Spirit of the Press”
City of publication: San Francisco, California
Date of publication: 26 September 1901
Volume number: 90
Issue number: 118
|“The Spirit of the Press.” San Francisco Call 26 Sept. 1901 v90n118: p. 6.|
|yellow journalism; Hearst newspapers; yellow journalism (poetry); Abram S. Hewitt (public statements).|
|Sherman E. Burroughs; Leon Czolgosz; Emma Goldman; William Randolph Hearst; Abram S. Hewitt; William McKinley.|
The Spirit of the Press
BY way of further evidence that the condemnation of the Hearst
journals for responsibility in the crime of Czolgosz is not the outcome of personal
antagonism by any particular set of men, or of local antipathy, but is the expression
of a deep-rooted and widespread conviction of the great mass of the American
people, we submit this morning further declarations of the press. Many of them
are the utterances of the country press, whose editors are in no way business
rivals of the yellow, but who, being close to the people, reflect clearly and
express forcibly the sentiments of their communities.
The Epworth Herald, Chicago, says: “It is now clear that Czolgosz is not a lunatic, but an anarchist. It is said he learned his anarchistic sentiments from Emma Goldman. That woman has done much harm. But it is more than probable that this man, whom every American loathes, got some of his education from certain daily papers which are widely circulated in centers of our population. The cartoons in these papers are only a trifle more dangerous than their editorial utterances. They array class against class and promote a bitterness which logically ends in open and destructive violence. Every wild-eyed socialist, every blatant anarchist, reads these inflammatory sheets with delight. * * * Is it any wonder we have anarchy in New York and Chicago? Indeed, it is a wonder we do not have more of it.”
The Cleveland Leader says: “First and foremost the yellow press of the United States, the mercenary and venal newspapers which pursued and vilified the dead President during the four years that he occupied the high office to which he was elected by the people, will be held responsible for the feeling of unwarranted hatred which so many of the people entertained toward him. Congressman Burroughs at the meeting held on last Sunday evening at Plymouth Church charged that the yellows were largely to blame for the assassination, and other distinguished speakers have made the same assertion.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer says: “That there is a deep-seated aversion to what has become known in these days as yellow journalism can no longer be questioned. It is the general belief that the assassination of President McKinley was largely due to the recklessness of newspapers that have vilified public men and have made anarchists by their violence of language.”
The Colorado Springs Mail, in referring to the influence of the New York Journal and Chicago American, says: “There is reason to believe, too, that if unchecked it may end in something much worse than mere discontent. It is degrading to the morals of the country and belittling to its intellect to feed on such stuff as the yellow journals provide. What is the remedy? There is only one that we know of—to strike at the only vulnerable place in such newspapers, their cash account. If people would stop reading them they would not pay; if reputable firms would stop advertising in them they would suspend publication.”
The Chicago Journal, in refuting the plea that the Hearst papers were merely criticizing the President, says: “Is it free discussion to breed anarchy by exciting the hatred of the poor against the rich, to ascribe all the evils of society to trusts and monopolies, and the stress of poverty to the oppression of those in power? Is it free discussion to publish day after day such cartoons as the Chicago American and the New York Journal published, entitled ‘Willie and His Papa’”?
The New York Journal of Commerce says: “When newspapers day after day in type and in revolting cartoon depict certain men eminent in business and in the State as oppressors of the poor and as beasts of prey living in luxury on what they take away from other people, they are cultivating envy and hatred, malice and murder.”
The St. Louis Globe-Democrat pithily says: “The colors of anarchy are the red flag and the yellow journal.”
The Springfield Union in describing the condition of public sentiment in Massachusetts since the assassination says: “It is noticed that the man who now buys a yellow journal conceals it until he is out of sight. A man who will buy a paper that he is ashamed to read in public should be ashamed to buy it or read it on the quiet.”
Hardly any phase of the yellow offense has given a greater disgust to the public than the hypocritical mourning which the yellow journals manifested as soon as the outburst of public indignation followed the shooting.
The Ventura Free Press says: “How noticeable the attitude of the Examiner before and after the assassination of President McKinley! The brutal cartoons, the vicious, malignant editorials, the expressed sympathy for anarchists and assassins, the cruel attacks upon the man whom the people of the nation selected as their leader, the panderings to the depraved and animal natures of men, have given way to a fawning lamentation over the crime that is sickening in its contrast!”
The San Bernardino Times-Index says: “There is this difference between the Examiner and its predecessor, the Democratic Press. The latter was true to its principles and went down with the flag of treason nailed to the masthead. The latter recanted at the first sign of danger and sickened its colleagues with a pitiful whine and a page full of prayers for the man it had helped to murder.”
The Portland Oregonian says: “Of all the newspapers in the country none have been so demonstrative in mourning for the late President and eulogizing him extravagantly, and denouncing his murderer and his ilk, as the three papers published by Mr. Hearst. Metaphorically speaking they have fairly shrieked from day to day tearing a passion to tatters. Yet from day to day, from month to month, before this tragedy, these papers have been the only ones in the country that have persisted in lampooning and grossly caricaturing the late and present President.”
The Chicago Journal says: “Why they should mourn McKinley’s death is difficult to see, save that they now fear the just judgment of men, and their excessive grief only makes their attitude all the more suspicious. Hearst, if he has any sensibility at all, has some faint glimmering of an idea of what he has done, and he is now seeking to make people forget his shameless attacks on the late President by pushing forward quite as shamelessly to be the chief mourner at his grave.”
The St. Louis Globe-Democrat denounces what it calls the “cowardly yellow hypocrites,” and points out how they are trying to “get off with apologetic snivel”; while the Chicago Tribune dedicates to the Hearstlings this sonnet:
Ay, turn your column rules, ye hypocrites!
Smear the dead President with your praise!
Tell of his courage and his manliness,
His gentleness, his unobtrusive ways,
His high and noble qualities! ’Tis he
Whom late with coarse abuse and vile cartoon
And ribald jest to public execration
Ye held up. What hath wrought a change so soon?
Go, take a front seat among the mourners,
You who of his latest breath
Made merchandise. Weep for him now, ye knaves
Who hounded him to death.
It is gratifying to know that whatever
Hearst may do or say by way of apology or by whining he will never be able to
delude the intelligence of the American people. The lesson has been too profoundly
impressed upon the public heart as well as the public mind for sneak tactics
to avail the coward. Moreover, the men who in the past have looked upon and
treated yellow journalism with a contemptuous toleration are aroused at last
to a sense of their own responsibility and will no longer give it support, either
by patronage or by commendation.
In an address before the Chamber of Commerce of New York City the Hon. Abram S. Hewitt pointed out the responsibility of the public and said: “So long as prominent men in public life, or in the walks of business, or in the spheres of society, are willing to recognize by social receptions, by subscriptions to the papers which we all recognize as the foundation of this sad development in public opinion, by their advertisements which support these papers, so long as gentlemen in your position shall give your countenance, either by social intercourse or otherwise, to these enemies of mankind, to these traitors to humanity, it is idle to deplore events like this. Let us see that they are made impossible by raising the standard of the conscience of the community to a higher plane, when it shall be impossible for the assassin to justify himself by the arguments of a destructive logic.”
Such, indeed, is the moral of the whole subject, with its awful lesson of what yellow journalism leads to. When men of eminence in business and in society no longer tolerate rattlesnake journalism it will be no longer dangerous. In fact, respectability can kill it by simply refusing to feed it.