“One of the wisest things ever said about the newspaper business was said by the late J. Sterling Morton, of Nebraska. He declared that a newspaper’s enemies were its assets, and the newspaper’s liabilities its friends. This is particularly true of a country newspaper.”
— William Allen White, “In Our Town”
This column is about contemporary politics, but this being a country website, I aim to take my time getting around to that.
Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1902) was the third U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, under President Grover Cleveland, whom he helped establish our system of National Forests. He was the founder of Arbor Day. Before the Civil War, Morton was editor of the Nebraska City News, secretary of the Nebraska Territory, and the acting governor of Nebraska.
More gloriously, he was expelled from the University of Michigan in 1854, twice — first for making a fiery speech against the Board of Regents, for firing the head of the medical school. He was expelled the next day on a pretext, which prompted protests across the state. It was six weeks before he was due to graduate.
He was readmitted, then expelled again for excoriating the university president in a letter to the Detroit Free Press, because the prez had edited an apology Morton had been forced to write as a condition of being re-admitted. He got the heave-ho again.
(His son, Joy Morton, founded Morton Salt, and was Secretary of the Navy under President Teddy Roosevelt.)
Lest we think this a hagiography — or just to confuse you — Julius Morton was a conservative Democrat who supported slavery before the Civil War. His son Joy was a progressive Republican.
I told you it was confusing.
William Allen White (1868-1944), whom I quoted above, praised Mr. Morton in a book of short stories published in 1906, narrated by the editor of a small-town newspaper in Kansas. It’s a wonderful book.
As editor of the Emporia Gazette, White gained national recognition for his editorials against the Ku Klux Klan. He won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing — the first small-town editor from the hinterlands to do so — for sticking up for unionized railroad workers in a national rail strike, in which at least 10 union workers were killed.
White was a terrific writer, in part because he sympathized with all the fools, fakers, liars, scoundrels, double-dealers and villains who passed by his office window every day. His sympathy and understanding is evident in every line he wrote. He sympathized with them because he knew who they were, and what they were going through — as a small-town editor should.
This brings us to today, when an ignorant brat in the White House, and his clan, assail newspapers as enemies of the people, particularly “the failing New York Times.”
Well, in the two weeks after U.S. voters elected that spoiled brat, The New York Times gained 41,000 paid subscribers. By the third week it had gained 132,000.
Three months after the Whiner in Chief was elected, the failing New York Times had gained 276,000 paid subscribers, in print and online.
Samuel Beckett wrote: “Fail again. Fail better.”
The narcissistic sociopath who rules us today has no idea what is going on in his country — excuse me, in our country. He doesn’t even understand himself, much less anyone else. Nor cares to.
Sympathy? What’s that?
He has no idea that every time he attacks a legitimate news outlet, he increases its assets.
And every time he praises his friends, in the press and on TV, he stomps on their knees.
Look at the long train of people who have disgraced themselves by sucking up to this infected adenoid of a human being. I was about to say “working for,” but as we used to say on the playground, same difference.
This bloated, shriveled carcass of a human has the power to destroy human civilization in a single day.
Would he care if he did it? I doubt it.
Here’s a tip for all the people in my trade whose job is to follow this chancre around and repeat what he says. Ask him this question: “Mr. President, do you have sympathy for anyone but yourself, and if so, whom? And if so, why?”
He won’t understand the question.