Saturday, June 2, 2012

William Randolph Hearst was a progressive, not a conservative

In my interview on WZRD yesterday, I made the comment in response to a question regarding William Randolph Hearst, even without having already made an entry about it.

In "Truths about the Trusts", Hearst himself writes the following:(last page - 50)

The masses of the people to-day are more enlightened, more capable than ever before, more confident of their own knowledge and ability, more able to govern wisely and impartially, more dis- posed to take the power of government into their own hands and better fitted to exercise it for the general good.

The progressive political program in the United States is both moderate and sound. Its purpose does not go beyond the ideas of the founders of this republic, or beyond the obvious right and recognized ability of the citizens who constitute this republic.

This magazine declares its devotion to the cause of progress and will employ its best efforts to promote that cause.

It will discuss in its columns every phase of progress, and will endeavor to promote all legiti- mate advance and development without dissension and without disturbance.

It will strive to allay all unnecessary antagonisms and to unite all classes in harmonious support of such progressive measures as will secure exact justice for all and the fullest advantage for all.

I don't know about you, but I resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me, the free men and women of this country, as "the masses." This book was written in 1916, which would've been beyond his days as an elected representative within the Democrat party. But it does give you an idea about how he looks at people - as a collective.

Outside of looking for how Hearst described his own views(above), he can be a tricky one to track down. Like this one for example, who calls Hearst a radical. I suspect a lot of the villification that was done of Hearst back in those days by newsmen was more from a competitive point of view from another newsman's point of view, rather than a strict policy-oriented one. However, 'progressive' was typically the word used to describe Hearst in his own time.

Herbert Croly in his book "The Promise of American Life describes Hearst as a "Reformer". I normally don't say too much about the reformers, because they weren't the generally uniform statists that the progressives became, but nontheless, "reformer" is the chosen label of the progressives before they decided to take the label of 'progress' for themselves. Noting how progressive Theodore Roosevelt also used to be a reformer is important in understanding this concept. They just change their title. 30(roughly) years later, they would change their titles again and call themselves 'liberal'.

Reference magazines like this one described him this way, but what I find to be the most telling outside of his own words is a roster of letters to the editor describing him this way.

In Pearson's Magazine(starting on page 503), they had an election special titled "Who's for Hearst - and why?". What's noteworthy about this is the following:(Page 504)

In talking to progressive people, through a progressive magazine, about a progressive candidate, it occurred to me that the most suitable things to say about Mr Hearst, from the viewpoint of his availability for the presidential nomination, was the record of his activities in the interest of the great principles of democracy which form the basis of the political battle of 1912, and it occurred to me that the letter of Mr Lewis covering this ground was conclusive.

That sets the stage for everything you're about to read from the readership of Pearson's. I'm not about to clutter up my posting with letter to the editor after letter to the editor, but searching the book for 'progressive' returns back what appears to be 31 results which are in the context of Hearst's run for the presidency, from readers at that time. I also highlighted the part regarding his work for democracy, given what we know about what progressives mean regarding the word 'democracy'. See these: 1, 2, and 3. For those who know their history, Greece is the birthplace of democracy.

The letters to Pearson's start on page 514 and end on page 528. Some of the letters are from people in elected office at that time.

And this is why I said what I said during the interview. If the people living during Hearst's time(including himself) considered him to be a progressive, particularly progressive readers to a progressive magazine, then why shouldn't I?

All of this is very much counter to modern revisionist-historians who would have you believe that Hearst was a conservative given his supposed comments regarding the Spanish-American war. The supposed quote is "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war", however, this comment has a very different meaning in the context of the doctrine of Wilsonianism.

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