In Search of Honest Journalists
You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
But, seeing what
the man will do
no occasion to.
Humbert Wolfe's famous squib might be misinterpreted as a satire on dishonest journalists, but it is not. It is aimed at the generic British journalist, but the American journalist would be an even better topic, because over the past century and a half, just as the American Empire has replaced the British Empire, so too the American journalist as far surpassed his British colleagues in ignorance, venality, and regime-toadying. What has sometimes passed for courage in the American press was nothing better than the knee-jerk support for leftist parties and movements whose triumph the pressmen quite correctly anticipated.
If we were to drop Humbert Wolfe and take on Diogenes as our role model, as we attempt to shine our light in the nooks and crannies of American journalism, whether practiced by Americans or British immigrants, whom could we name? To make the game more amusing, we should, in addition to picking out the eccentrics, also have to name a famous contemporary who lived down to Wolfe's description-- the regime lackeys that are the true heirs of Pulitzer and Hearst.
To start the ball rolling, I nominate H.L. Mencken as an exceptionally honest writer for the press--worth reading even when, as he was so often, he was wrong. And who could be his counterpart in the mainstream? There are so many candidates, but I choose Walter Lippman, the war-monger who beat the drums for American entrance into WWI and then sought to evade military service by making up whoppers. When I was growing up, Lippman was always the model for the distinguished journalist as, in the electronic media, Edward R. Murrow was becoming.