The Corruption of the Press, Newspaper Correspondents, and Telegraph Operators
Muscatine Daily Review, November 13, 1860
If the question was seriously asked and just as seriously answered, what caused these great revolutions in the political, financial and social intercourse of states, nations, and communities? would the answer not be the heading of this article? We assert most emphatically it would. Take, for instance, the New York papers of any date, and you will find a long leader in some one, on the barbarity of the people of the South—you read under a flaming head of caps that such a Northern man has been expelled from the South for his political opinions—that a preacher has been hung for no other offence than preaching the gospel—you will read a correspondence to the Philadelphia Press, setting forth that Mr. Buchanan and his cabinet are more notorious scoundrels than the "Bandits of the Prairies." The Chicago papers will contain extracts from some correspondent, one of which we noticed lately, that a printer was invited to leave Charleston, South Carolina, simply because he had worked in the N. York Tribune office. Will any sensible man believe all these things? We say, no! But it is not the sensible men who rule this country. The great men of the country are greater slaves than the negroes of the South; they are slaves to every newspaper, telegraph operator or correspondent in the country. If they have a mind of their own, they dare not speak it. The newspaper press rules everything from a quack doctor to the President of the United States. The whole character of American journalism is intrinsically similar—if there is any favorable difference it depends on the local tastes or humors of the vicinity; they are merely politic adaptations. Some meretorious tendencies may be found in the rural districts, either from ignorance or simplicity of heart, but this does not qualify the hypothesis that everything is swayed to an[d] fro by the press.
The Southern press is alike blamable. You cannot glance over a single paper published in the South, but you will find some incendiary article about how the North is tampering with their rights—stating that the Northern press countenanced the John Brown raid—that we have combined to put in power a man whose principles are antagonistic to their institutions or welfare; and a thousand other absurd squibs, which, if not calculated, has at least the tendency to inflame the naturally hot blooded Southerners with a spirit of resistance and hostility toward their brethren of the North. No longer ago than last week, a Richmond correspondent of the N. Y. Herald writes as follows. We give it as a strengthener of our argument:
South Carolina has received a guarantee from New York that a force of one hundred thousand men would be placed at her service to defend her from invasion, either by the general government or any other power, pending the consummation of her avowed purpose of secession. South Carolina is unwilling to accept the offer, preferring to trust to the patriotic instincts of her sister Southern States. —
The telegraph wires are also accountable for their share of excitement creating articles or telegrams.
If it is in the power of the press to create a sectional feeling, it is also in its power to avert a lamentable result, if action is taken in time. Therefore, we consider it the duty of the press, to suppress all and every line calculated to inflame the minds of our people.—The press has a duty to perform now of no small magnitude, and if it can stay the progress of fanaticism and sectional strife, it will have earned the heart felt thanks of all good American citizens, notwithstanding it is responsible, to a great extent, for all the difficulties which threaten us as a united nation.