Saturday, September 27, 2014

William Thomas Stead personally taught "Government by Journalism" to William Randolph Hearst

If you are someone who is upset about the state of Journalism today, and the one-sided ideological view that they take on every issue, then the essay "Government by Journalism" will be a real eye opener for you.

But William Thomas Stead was not content only with manipulating his readers through his one single paper, the Pall Mall Gazette, Stead looked for someone who would truely bring his idea to new heights - manipulate readers in greater numbers than he could ever possibly reach. He said:

I have been long on the look out for a man to appear who will carry out my ideal of government by journalism

This is how the interview begins, then Stead explains to Hearst in greater detail:

I am certain that such a man will come to the front some day, and I wonder if you are to be that man. You have many of the qualities such a man must possess. You have youth, energy, great journalistic flaire, adequate capital, boundless ambition - yes, you have all these. But - but, I am not sure you have got a soul, and if you have not a soul all the other things are as nothing

This notion of Hearst "having a soul" is very important, but I'll get to it at the bottom. As for the rest of this paragraph, Stead is absolutely convinced that Hearst is the best man for the job in regards to Government by Journalism. So what is this "Government by Journalism"? In Stead's own writing, in a paragraph specifically written about journalists, Stead writes that:

They decide what their readers shall know, or what they shall not know.

Sound familiar? Stead even gives an example of how this works, right after that line. He writes:

One man is a favourite with the press, and his speeches are reported in the first person. Another man has offended the reporters or the editor, and his remarks are cut down to a paragraph.

They do this today to Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and many others. It was Stead who was the pioneer in this, and he exported his ideas to America via William Randolph Hearst. So now that you have an idea of what Government by Journalism is, what else did Stead say in regard to his meeting with Hearst?

After I returned home and was settling down to work I was startled by receiving every now and then from Mr. Hearst cablegrams addressed to his London correspondent asking him to obtain and to telegraph what I thought upon what the Journal was doing in this, that, or the other direction. I do not for a moment argue post hoc propter hoc, but it was almost immediately after that midnight talk that Mr. Hearst began to realise the ideal of a journalism that does things. He took up the question of municipal ownership. He engaged Arthur Brisbane, the son of Brisbane the Fourierist, to write editorials. He began the battle against the Trusts; he made the Spanish-American war. For weal or for woe Mr. Hearst had found his soul; for weal or for woe he had discovered his chart and engaged his pilot, and from that day to this he has steered a straight course, with no more tackings than were necessary to avoid the fury of the storm.

That paragraph is explained by these two comments from Hearst: (from the interview section)

"Journalism is only a business, like everything else!"

This is very important to understand. William Thomas Stead single handedly changed Hearst's mind. At the beginning of the interview, Hearst walked in with dollar signs in his eyes. But at the end of the interview:

"It's very interesting what you say," replied Mr. Hearst. "It never occurred to me in that light before."

After the interview Hearst now viewed his papers as places to influence policy positions, and the rest is what I quoted above, from engaging the Trusts to Municipal Ownership and more.

This is where the part about having a soul comes in. What did having a soul mean to William Thomas Stead? He explains:

But in the inmost soul of him–and he has a soul and has found it–there is a desire to serve the common people. He is a Jeffersonian Democrat, a natural demagogue, and a man who is proud of being the tribune of the people.

Demagoguery is the core of having a soul. Stead tries to cast this as "being in service" to the common people, yet the whole scheme is a fraud and is nothing more than a journalist being in service to their own policy preferences.

I have written extensively about how Walter Lippmann is the "Father of Modern Journalism" (here and here), and was also a "brilliant" manipulator of public opinion. But who would be the Grandfather of Modern Journalism? I believe that to be William Thomas Stead.

He laid the foundation upon which so many of their tactics rest today. In "The Future of Journalism" Stead explains how journalists can regiment themselves around certain people(See starting with paragraph 11), not just to gather certain information but to impart it from the inside. It's top to bottom manipulation, this goes much deeper than just the reporting you see or hear. "The Future of Journalism" was a follow up essay for "Government by Journalism" - this second one is geared more toward the implementation of achieving those goals.

Stead created the idea, and had some success in its implementation, but it was Hearst - Hearst was the vehicle for the mass use and implementation, as well as the vehicle for importing all of this from Britain and into America. Lippmann merely finished the job and perfected it.

1 comment:

  1. Hearst wrote about Technocracy in the 1930's in as derogatory style as possible. The trouble was that the more he wrote about it the more press it received and the more interest it received... so he put out a directive to all of his employees. Paraphrased it went like this.... '' Any one writing anything or any mention of Technocracy in his press... and that employee loses their job.''
    Howard Scott claimed to have the original directive in his possession and not doubt did History and Purpose of Technocracy.