Baltimore Evening Sun (27 June 1911): 6.


Mr. Bonsal said that * * * the courts should protect the dignity of the City Council.—The Evening Sun.

The what? Since when did the City Council get any dignity?

Will Irwin, discoursing in Collier’s Weekly upon the influence exerted by advertisers upon American newspapers, tells various tales designed to show its baleful character. When bubonic plague appeared in San Francisco, six or seven years ago, he says, an association of advertisers of that fair town demanded that the local newspapers print nothing about it, on the ground that the truth would hurt business, and all of the newspapers, after a feeble resistance, complied. The result was that the people of San Francisco were not properly warned of their danger and the second result was that the plague got such a foothold that the war upon it lasted 10 times as long as it should have lasted.

Again, when there were wholesale disorders in Philadelphia, grovwing out of the street car strike of a few years. ago, some of the local advertisers demanded that the newspapers conceal the seriousness of the situation, on the ground that the truth would scare off customers and so hurt business. One of the newspapers complied, at least for a few days; the rest bravely continued to print the news as their reporters brought it in. Yet again, when the prohibition craze was at its height in the South, and three out of four Southerners were hot against the Rum Demon, most of the Southern newspapers were on the other side, first, because the liquor advertisers urged them to take that course, and, secondly, because all other advertisers joined in the plea, on the ground that the ruin of the liquor dealers would hurt business in general.

Mr. Irwin has the facts behind him; it would be useless to deny the truth of his charges. But it must be said in defense of the advertisers that their course in all such cases is fully approved by the whole business community, advertising and non-advertising, and it must be said for the newspopers that their occasional compliance is caused, not so much by a fear of losing advertising as by a fear of hurting business--the one unforgivable crime in this great republic. In brief, it seems to be a primary axiom of the American people that the success of commercial undertakings is the only thing in the world worth a moment’s consideration--that it ranks infinitely above everything else, including even the pursuit of virtue and the pursuit of happiness.

In Old Man Rasin’s palmy days he always had a Business Men’s Association behind him. The men who strove, for 20 long and bitter years, against ring rule and corruption in Baltimore were constantly denounced for hurting business. Every American who tries to make the community in which he lives a bit more civilized, a bit more habitable for intelligent white men, must expect to meet that charge. Within four months there will be a typhoid epidemic in Baltimore and the newspapers will report it and perhaps discuss means of combating it. As soon as they do so, protests will begin to appear--protests on the ground that such discussions spread the news of the city’s plight and so scare off customers and hurt business.

Do you remember Governor Crothers’ experience? He discovered that the Police Department was enforcing certain laws with a degree of gentleness approaching neglect, and he began an investigation to find out if such gentleness were necessary, and if not, how it could be replaced by vigor. Did this effort to discharge a clear duty bring him public support? It did not. On the contrary, there arose the time-honored cry that he was hurting business, and a number of the self-appointed prominent citizens at Baltimore actually went to the length of threatening him with dire penalties if he didn’t abandon his investigation. Not a soul, so far as I know, offered to help him.

Let us not blame advertisers or newspapers for an attitude of mind which appears, more or less plainly revealed, in all of us. We Americans are a commercial people--the most uncompromisingly and frantically commercial the world has ever known. Some day, perhaps, we shall learn that other things besides bank statements measure success in the world, and decency, and progress, and happiness. But as yet we discern that fact only dimly.

It may seem radical, but I should like to see motion-picture shows open on Sundays. Then the young people would not have to go to resorts to enjoy the day.—Councilman Spencer, of the Fourth Ward.

Obviously, this Mr. Spencer is a rank amateur when it comes to the science of morals. He should take lessons from some of Baltimore’s recognized virtuosi. No doubt they would quickly convince him that the worst of all crimes against the Sabbath is to “enjoy the day.”

Appropriate music for the Greater Baltimore jehad: Valse du petit chien, in D flat, opus 64, No. 1, by Francois Frederic Chopin.

The best American book of the spring: “The Jew: A Study of Race and Environment,” by Maurice Fishberg, M. D., fellow of the New York Academy of Sciencees. (Charles Scribner’s Sons, cloth, 578 pages, $1.50.) A book that every intelligent Jew should have in his library.

The lesson for the day is from the Rule of St. Benedict, the fifty-third chapter.

Bill Garland’s reply to the Reform League: Honi soit qui mal y pense.

We are on the right track and * * * the (See-America-First) convention will be a great thing for Baltimore.—The Hon. Charles H. Dickey.

Perhaps it would help things a bit if Mr. Dickey would explain clearly, or have one of his cabinet explain just why and how it will be a great thing for Baltimore. This suggestion is made in perfect sincerity. Certainly Mr. Dickey must be well aware that there are many Baltimoreans, and some of them persons not obviously insane or admittedly scoundrels, who regard the whole See-America-First movement with suspicion, as an enterprise of the press agents of Western railroads. A frank statement of the reasons for regarding it otherwise might make many a valuable convert. Let that statement answer the following questions:

1. Supposing the See-America-First movement to succeed in its objects, how would Baltimore gain by it?

2. Which would benefit Baltimore more—a decline in travel to Europe or the establishment of a first-class line of steamers between Baltimore and Europe?

3. How many visitors is the proposed convention expected to attract to Baltimore?

4. In just what way does such a convention benefit business?

H. L. Mencken