Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Most Fumes in His Defense”
Author(s): Gale, Zona
City of publication: New York, New York
Date of publication: 13 September 1901
Volume number: 42
Issue number: 14633
|Gale, Zona. “Most Fumes in His Defense.” World 13 Sept. 1901 v42n14633: p. 3.|
|Johann Most; anarchists (New York, NY); Johann Most (public statements); McKinley assassination (personal response: anarchists); Freiheit.|
|Karl Heinzen [misspelled below]; Humbert I; William McKinley; Johann Most.|
Most Fumes in His Defense
Woman Reporter of The Evening World Has a Stormy Interview with Anarchist.
He is not a beautiful Anarchist—this
Johann Most. His infrequent hair is white, and his spikey [sic] beard
is white, too, and in its midst the uncertain outline of a very highly colored
face dims away till you can only fix your attention on his misshapen nose and
swollen left cheek.
He has roving eyes which he keeps on the floor while he talks. His big horn glasses are the most noticeable part of his face.
“How is McKinley? If McKinley dies I shall be”—he was beginning again, and I asked him:
“If it weren’t for being hanged, wouldn’t you want him to die?”
“What good would his dying do Anarchism? No!” he said.
“What good does Anarchism do anybody?” I asked him. “And you know you said in your paper”—
But when you mention what he said in his paper, Johann Most changes from red to purple and talks in his beard at a furious rate.
“In my paper,” he poured forth, “it said, ‘Death to tyrants! Death to despots! Death to the people who take all and don’t allow us even to steer!’”
I kept up with the commingled metaphor breathlessly, because it looked as if I had a real burning Anarchist sentiment fresh from the press, so to speak.
Then Johann Most added:
“McKinley Was No Despot.”
“But McKinley was no despot and no tyrant. The
President of a Republic couldn’t be a despot if he wanted to be!
“I never said he was. I never said he should have been killed!
“I never said it would do any good to kill off a little four-year ruler and put up some other four-year man.
“That’s not Anarchism. Ah, these people—they are pigs! They prefer not to understand. They hustle your opinions out of your mouth and throw mud at them, and when the opinions are all mud they throw them to you for yours! It is infamous! It is”—
“But you said in your paper,” I said monotonously, “that despots should be killed and had been killed for years, and would always be killed. And you said it just after McKinley had been shot. Now, it looks”—
“It looks! It looks!” he stormed. “Doesn’t everybody know a paper like mine goes to press three weeks before it appears? I put that in my paper before McKinley ever went to Buffalo.
“I put it in three weeks ago, and I can prove that it was all set up before he ever left Washington. I can prove that.”
“Don’t though,” I said, “because that will look as if it all were really a plot, as they think, and that you were in the plot.”
Unable to Speak.
Johann Most mopped his brow and trie dto [sic]
speak. He tried a good many times before he could. Living up to Anarchist principles
is wo[r]se than being a tunnel man, I should think.
“Here is the point,” said Herr Most, “and this is my very good defense: What I said in my paper I did not say at all!”
“An Anarchist editor doesn’t print Anarchist ideas he doesn’t believe, though,” I ventured.
“But it was an academical article—an academical article,” he repeated, as if he were getting behind the phrase. “The sentiment was one expressed by Heinzer fifty years ago in the Pioneer.
“It was said fifty times by him in his books. I merely quoted it, and now they howl ‘plot’ at me. It was an academical”—
“You believed it?” I said.
Yes, He Believed It.
“I believed it, but I merely quoted it. I did
not say it. And I quoted it before McKinley went to Buffalo,” he repeated, doggedly.
Then they brought him the pail of milk for which he had been begging, and somebody told him his wife was upstairs. Instantly his face was scarlet, and his eyes blazed up at the man who brought the milk.
“Have the police been worrying her?” he asked. “Is she arrested, too?”
I waited while they reassured him, and asked him one thing more from the foot of the stairs.
“If McKinley had been a despot—well,” I said, “you believe in killing despots. How ought they to be killed?”
“They should be killed,” he replied, “the way Humbert of Italy was killed.”