Baltimore Evening Sun (23 December 1913): 6.


Meanwhile, nothing but heavy breathing is heard from the Hon. Isaac Lobe Straus, LL. D., the last and greatest of local optionists.

A DAILY THOUGHT. Who make up the majority in any country? Is it the wise men or the fools?–Tomas Stockman, M. D.

The plupious Sunpaper, having suddenly taken to jocosity in its old age, now suffers the righteous pains and penalties of that great offense against stupidity. Perhaps you remember an ironical editorial it printed a week or so ago: an editorial designed to make the anti-vivisectionists ridiculous by exaggerating and seeming to indorse their already idiotic charges against hospitals and medical men. Well, that adroit and harmless piece of fooling was taken perfectly seriously by a large number of the Sunpaper’s readers, and protests poured into the office. On December 17 the joke was solemnly explained away in a second editorial, but the back counties are still being heard from, and no doubt it will be months before the last and densest yokel is enlightened. I quote from the current Cecil News:

It makes our blood boil that a generally considered great newspaper like the Baltimore Sun should attack one of the greatest boons to the human race–the hospital. There is absolutely no truth in the charges made, and the harm done in destroying the confidence of the public in these institutions of relief and mercy is inestimable.

But the worst, I venture, is yet to come. Wait until the Maryland Anti-Vivisection Society begins using the Sunpaper’s burlesque as serious “evidence” against the Johns Hopkins Hospital! Impossible? Don’t be too sure: Irony is wholly lost upon uplifters, as it is upon yap editors. I myself once encountered a curious proof of it. I wrote an printed in this place a buffoonish burlesque upon the literature circulated by the foes of vaccination. It was rough and obvious stuff, and the chances seemed at least 100,000 to 1 that no one would be deceived by it, but to make assurance doubly sure I printed a note at the bottom, expressly pointing out its jocose character, and warning all fools to beware.

But was the warning heeded? Not at all. The anti-vaccinationists took my extravagant nonsense perfectly seriously, and asked me for further details! Fact! I have, among other proofs, a letter from the celebrated B. O. Flower, president of the League for Medical Freedom. This sublime super-Flexner and beyond-Welch fell for my rude clowning just as completely as Editor Bratton, of the Cecil News, fell for the far more subtle irony of the Sunpaper. Imagine such a fellow setting himself up as a critic of scientific medicine! And yet the country is full of old maids, male and female, who venerate him as an inspired sage, almost as a he-Eddy.

But go to back to the Sunpape: let it draw a useful moral from this episode, to wit, that irony is a dangerous tool. A newspaper always runs grave risks when it begins to assume that its readers are intelligent. It is much safer to assume that the vast majority of them are blockheads, and not only safer, but also more honest and accurate. A newspaper gains power and influence, indeed, in proportion as this assumption is adhered to, and is sound. Let the Sunpaper ask itself, for example, whether it would have more influence or less influence if the average citizen of Maryland were as intelligent as, say, the Hon.—but I had better name no names. In particular, would it make greater or less progress with its noble effort to convince the citizenry that the Hon. William J. Bryan is a great statesman?

Books that your pastor will probably appreciate at Christmas:

A box of cigars to any anti-suffragist who will stand up in public and swear solemnly that she doesn’t liek to stand up in public.

Smug and donkeyish note from the current American Issue:

Don’t you ever believe that the brewers, distillers and liquor dealers of our country would always oppose prohibition and raise alrge sums of money for its overthrow if it was true what they say, that “prohibition does not prohibit,” “nor does it reduce the amount of liquor sold.” There must be a reason.

The same argument, I note, is raised by a contributor to today’s Letter Column. It is always bobbing up in boozehound literature, and is one of the chief forensic weapons of the corrupted clergy. But there is, of course, no validity in it. The “brewers, distillers and liquor dealers in our country” are opposed to prohibition for a very sound reason, despite its failure to prohibit, and that reason is that it lays their business open to unfair and indecent competition, and to constant oppression, extortion and blackmail. In brief, it forces them into bribery and law-breaking, and they enjoy that necessity no more than you would.

That is the long and the short of the so-called “liquor ring’s” opposition to prohibition, and to local oiption no less. Prohibition does not lessen the sales of liquor in the slightest. Just as much whisky is sold per capita in dry Maine as in wet New Jersey. Here in Maryland, just as much is sold on the dry Eastern Shore and on the wet Western Shore. But what prohibition does accomplish is to remove all reasonable safeguards and restraints from the traffic. It then becomes in fact what the prohibitionists now picture it to be in fancy: a means of debauching officials high and low, a conspiracy against common honesty and good order, a trade for hogs and rogues. Is it any wonder that men who have invested money in a large business, legitimate under our laws for centuries, are disinclined to convert it into such a disgusting thing?

Boil your drinking water! Watch Anderson come back!