Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Prostitute Press (1915)

From the April 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalism has produced many vile institutions, but none more corrupt and degraded than the capitalist Press, by which the workers are systematically hoodwinked and led astray.

Whenever a section of the workers are goaded by the horrible conditions of their existence, into striking, the cheap and nasty Press lets itself go and pours out a perfect deluge of lies. If the men come out in accordance with the wishes of their trade union officials we are told that they have been led astray by demagogues and agitators; if they strike against the wishes of their officials .they are denounced for having thrown over their “responsible leaders ’’!

For example, on the occasion of the strike movement in South Africa last year, when nine of the strike leaders were deported without trial, that organ of light and truth, the “Morning Post,” presented us with the following gems of editorial wisdom:
first editorial.
"Supposing that Ulster were pacified as Warsaw was pacified on a famous occasion, a legacy of hatred and resentment would be left behind that would sooner or later bring to ruin the new system of government. Force, the Liberals have always told us, is no remedy. Certainly, the attempt to apply it to Ulster will lead to utter and perhaps irretrievable disaster."
Second editorial.
“The Union Government seem to have broken the back of the general strike in South Africa . . . Now, these are strong measures, but it is sometimes necessary to be cruel in order to be kind. General Botha was faced by the danger of a most dangerous and calamitous anarchy and he treated the case with the decision and energy of a soldier and a man of courage and character."
As the showman says: “You pays yer money and you takes yer chice."

But not only does the Press drug the workers' minds in the interest of the masters; it also assists them to poison their bodies by booming adulterated and unwholesome products. Who does not remember the “Standard Bread" craze that was so assiduously boomed by a section of the Press some time ago? One might have thought that the sole concern of these newspapers was for the purity and wholesomeness of the people’s bread, instead of which all the wheat sweepings which had been lying in the warehouses for years, and which are generally used for feeding cattle and pigs, were suddenly taken away—one can guess where they went to.

We Socialists have always contended that lying is the common character of the capitalist Press, and is not confined to the German section of it; and our attitude is justified by our opponents. Even Lord Selborne, in a letter to the “Times" says:
“The Press Bureau consistently slurs over bad news and exaggerates good news. The Press lays every emphasis by poster, headline, and paragraph on that side of the war which is flattering to our pride. It keeps further in the background the news which is disagreeable to us, and the result is that our sense of proportion is being destroyed and that perspective is ceasing to exist. I could multiply instances of what I mean. Frequently, lately, we have seen the roll of casualties of some battles in Flanders amounting to two hundred, three hundred, four hundred men, or even to half a battalion. These casualties took place in February, January, or December, but who can recollect that at the time we received any impression of such loss by the news published? The fact is that these casualties have usually occurred when we have lost a trench or a line of trenches, and the men holding them have been killed or made prisoners. A day or two after this had happened we were probably told that a trench which had been lost had been brilliantly recaptured, but we had never been previously told that we had lost the trench, and we were never told at the time what the loss of the trench or its recapture had cost us.”
Here we have an admission by a leading light of the capitalist class that the people are deliberately being gulled by their penny and halfpenny oracles.

When capitalist society is a thing of the past the Press will be run by the people themselves for its true purpose, viz., for the dissemination of news, and only then will it be free from the hypocrisy, lying, and cant that characterise it to day, because then there will be no capitalist interests to bolster up and no subject class to be kept in mental darkness.
H. T. Edwards

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