Mr. Dooley on the Power of the Press

F. P. DUNNE November 1 1906

Mr. Dooley on the Power of the Press

F. P. DUNNE November 1 1906

Mr. Dooley on the Power of the Press


The inimitable Mr. Dooley discourses on the subject of the press in his usual humorous style. Beneath his quaint conception there is a great deal of truth, for he probes pretty deep into the human heart. Beginning with a sly dig at the legal fraternity, whose day of leadership is over, he passes on to con-ider the power of the editor, whose slightest word possesses the greatest influence.

A FEW years ago,” said Mr. Dooley, “I thought that if I had a son I'd make a lawyer iv him. It was th’ fine profission. Th’ lawyers toot' all th’ money an’ held down all th’ jobs. A lawyer got ye into throuble be makin’ th’ laws an’ got ye out iv throuble be bustin’ thim. Some lawyers on’y knew th’ law, poor fellows, but others knew th’ holes in th’ law that made it as aisy f’r a millionaire to keep out iv th’ pinitinchry as f’r a needle to enther th’ camel’s eye, as Hogan says. These lawyers nicer had to worry about payin’ their gas bills. A law, Hinnissy, that might look like a wall to you or me wud look like a triumphal arch to th’ expeeryenced eye iv a lawyer. Lawyers were ivrywhere, even on th’ bench, be hivens. They were in th’ Ugislachure seein’ that th’ laws were badly punctuated an’ in th’ coorts seein’ that they were thurly punctured. They were in Congress makin’ th’ laws an’ th’ flaws in th’ laws. They r-run th’ counthry. McKinley was a lawyer, Cleveland was a lawyer an’ Bryan was a lawyer till he knew betther.

“But ’tis far diff’rent now, Hinnissy. If I had a son ’tis little time I’d spind lamin’ him what some dead Englishman thought Thomas Jefferson was goin’ to mean whin he wrote

th’ Constitution. No, sir, whin me son an’ heir was eight years old an’ had r-read all th’ best iv th’ classical authors fr’m Deadwood Dick to Ü1’ Sleuth th’ Detective, I’d put a pencil in his hand an’ shove him out into th’ wurruld as a gr-reat iditor.

I wud so. F’r th’ lawyers ar-re too busy studyin’ baby as corpus proceeding to do anny thing else, an’ ’tis th’ Palajeem iv our Liberties that is runnin’ th’ counthry an’ is goin’ to run it f’r a long time to come.

“What’s th’ use iv a lawyer armyhow ? If I get a good wan ye may hire a betther. Th’ more money a man has th’ betther lawyer he can get but th’ more money a man has th’ worse iditor he’s liable to get. All anny lawyer can do is to holler at another lawyer. AU a judge can do is to look unpleasant an’ dhrop off into dhreams just at th’ time whin th’' most excitin’ ividence in ye’er favor is bein’ put in. No, sir, lawyers an’ judges don’t amount to annything. ’Tis th’ twelve good men an’ thrue dhragged fr’m butcher shop an’ grocery store that decides. It’s th’ intillegent jury iv ye’er peers or worse that tells ye whether ye must put in th’ rest iv ye’er days stickin’ paper insoles into ready-made shoes or wearin’ out th’ same lookin’ fT wurruk. Th’ lawyers make th’ law ;

th’ judges make th’ errors, but th’ iditors make th’ juries.

“Sure ’tis th’ fine business an’ I’d be th’ gr-reat hand at it f’r there’s nawthin’ I like betther than gettin’ people out iv throuble onless it is gettin’ thim into it. It’s th’ on’y power in th’ wurruld that’s worth talkin’ about. No head is so high that it can’t hit it an’ none so low that it can’t raise it up. If a sudden current shud tear me out iv this here backwather where I’m anchored an’ make me th’ public charackter I wanst was whin I was captain iv me precinct, ’tis not what I was but what th’ pa-apers wud say I was that’d make th’ goose flesh stand out on me an’ disturb me dreams. What I’ve done I’ve done an’ it rests between me an’ Father Kelly. But it’s what all th’ wurruld says I’ve done an’ believes I’ve done that’s goin’ to make th’ diff’rence with me. I take all th’ pa-apers an’ read thim fr’m end to end. I don’t believe a bad thing they print about anny iv me frinds but I believe ivrything about annybody else. Manny a man I don’t know’d be surprised to hear I wudden’t speak to him on account iv what I think I know iv him. I’m personally acquainted with ivry prominent man in th’ wurruld through th’ pa-apers but I cudden’t swear there was ' anny such a person as Tiddy Rosenfelt. I niver see him. So far as I’m consarned, Hinnissy, th’ man that’s prisidint iv ye an’ me an’ sivinty millyon others was made in a newspaper office be some bright young fellow in his shirt sleeves an’ smokin’ a corn cob pipe. He happened to be feelin’ good so he made an attractive charackter. But th’ rale Tiddy Rosenfelt instead iv bein’ a short, thickset man, with rows iv flashin’ teeth, a cheerful demeanor an’

a pugynacious disposition, may be a long, lean man with red side whiskers, no teeth at all an’ scared to death iv Sicrety Shaw. Some day th’ young fellow that made him may make him over an’ thin I’ll have another busted idol. It’s th’ same with William Jennings Bryan, th’ Czar, King Edward or annybody else. They’re all made out in newspapers th’ way ye’er little boy makes a cocked hat an’ thin turns it into a boat. Desthroy th’ newspapers an’ they’d disappear like th’ figures off a kinetyscope screen. They’re alive while th’ ink lasts ; they’re dead th’ minyit th’ iditor says : ‘We pass on to th’ next cage.’ Be hivins, Hinnissy, if I can’t believe what I read about people I don’t know, I’m a lost man.

“People tell ye they don’t care what is said about thim in print. They don’t if it’s pleasant. If ye said a man was a greater pote thin Shakespere, a greater gin’ral thin Napolyon, a gr-reater statesman thin Thomas Jefferson, he’d have a feelin’ that ye done him scant justice on’y because if ye didn’t ye’er readers wud indignantly stop th’ pa-aper. Ye niver read iv annybody writin’ in that his attintion has been called to a paragraph praisin’ him an’ regrettin’ that stuff has been published about him that shud be kept f’r his tombstone. But if ye print a squib down in th’ right hand corner iv th’ twelfth page following pure advertisin’ matther to th’ gin’ral effect that his past life in Missoury is known to th’ iditor he’ll be around that rnornin’ with a gun an’ a lawyer. Fr’m me expeeryence with newspapers I’d advise him to lave both on th’ sidewalk an’ go up th’ ilivator on his knees. Th’ on’y people that don’t mind what’s printed about thim are those whose pitch-

ers are already in th’ Rogues’ Gallery. But let a man be on’y half or three-quarthers square, as most iv us are, an’ he fears less a rijimint iv sogers with a gatling gun poundin’ at th’ dure thin th’ touch iv a rayporther’s hand on th’ dure bell. There he sets, th’ patriarch, carvin’ th’ turkey an’ scowlin’ down on th’ assimbled fam’ly. Tie is th’ boss iv that establishment, a man iv ruthless power with wife an’ childher, a model husband an’ father to thim. His conscience is clear because he thinks nobody knows. He’s about to tell thim how ondcsarvin’ they are iv such a spouse an’ papa whin th’ hired girl whispers there’s a rayporther in th’ parlor. Why, childher, does father’s knife an’ fork an’ jaw dhrop at wanst ? Why does a pale green flush of indignation mantle his bold brow ? Why does his legs wobble a little as he laves th’ room ? Ah, little wans, I can’t tell ye. Finish ye’er supper an’ sleep wan more night in peace. Ye’ll know all about it in th’ mornin’ whin ye an’ ye’er playmates gather around th’ first spechal exthry.

“Th’ printed wurrud ! What can I do against it ? I can buy a gun to protect me against me inimy. I can change me name to save me fr’m th’ gran’ jury. But there’s no escape f’r good man or bad fr’m th’ printed wurrud. It follows me wheriver I go an’ sthrikes me down in church, in me office, in me very home. There was me frind Jawn D. Three years ago he seemed insured against punishment ay ether here or hereafther. A happy man, a religious man. He had squared th’ ligislachures, th’ coorts, th’ politicians an’ th’ Baptist clargy. He saw th’ dollars hoppin’ out iv ivry lamp chimbly in th’ wurruld an’ hurryin’ to’rd him. His

heart was pure seein’ that he had niver done wrong save in th’ way iv business. His head was hairless but unbowed. Ivry Mondah mornin’ I read iv him leadin’ a chorus iv ‘Onward Christyan sogers marchin’ f’r th’ stuff.’ He was at peace with th’ wurruld, th’ flesh, an’ th’ divvle. A good man ! What cud harm him ? An’ so it seemed he might pro-ceed to th’ grave whin, lo an’ behold, up in his path leaps a lady with a pen in hand an’ off goes Jawn D. f’r th’ tall timbers. A lady, mind ye, dips a pen into an ink-well ! there’s an explosion an’ what’s left iv Jawn D. an’ his power wudden’t frighten crows away fr’m a corn field. Who’s afraid iv Rockyfeller now ? Th’ prisidint hits him a kick, a counthry grand jury indicts him, a goluf caddy overcharges him an’ whin he comes back fr’m Europe he has as many polismen to meet him on th’ pier as Doc Owens. A year ago, annybody wud take his money. Now if he wanted to give it even to Chancellor Day he’d have to meet him in a barn at midnight.

“Down they come, these here joynts that have set on our necks f’r years, not crushed be th’ hand iv th’ law which happens to be busy in their pockets at th’ time, or shot out be th’ bombs iv a rivolution or e\en ligislated out be Congress, but smashed be wan tap iv a lead pencil be a man or a woman that has about as much money as wud buy cuttle fishbone f’r their canary b-ur-rds an’ doesn’t want anny more. A cry goes up : ‘Here comes Rayporther Baker,’ an’ th’ haughty insurance magnates break th’ mahogany furniture an’ th’ quarther mile record in a dash f’r th’ steamer. A novel smashes th’ beef thrust an’ a blow fr’m th’ relentless Faber Number Two knocks

th’ props out fr’m undher th’ throne iv Rooshya. A young fellow comes along an’ writes a novel an’ th’ villain iv it is th‘ Boston an’ Maine Railroad. Th’ villain iv all modhern novels is a corporation iv some kind, a packin’ house, a karosene ile facthry or a railroad. Th’ Boston an’ Maine Railroad is a handsome wretch that enthers a peaceful New Hampshire village with its cursed city ways, deceives th’ heeroine with a false bill iv lading, forges th’ will an’ acquires a morgedge on th’ old homestead, but is foiled at last by th’ author. Th’ State iv New Hampshire arises as wan man, so it seems, an’ calls upon th’ young, fellow t’ run f’r governor. None but writing men need now apply. F’r th’ first time in thirty years we have a prisidint who isn’t a lawyer, th’ well known an’ popular author iv ‘Alone in Cubia,’ ‘Private Corryspondence (ninety-siven volumes),’ ‘Wild Beasts I Have Met in Wyoming an’ Washington,’ ‘Th’ Winning iv th’ West an’ How I Did It,’ an’ so forth. Th’ hopes iv th’ dimmycratic party is divided between th’ iditor iv a Nebraska weekly an’ th’ iditor iv a New York siventy times daily an’ a few at night.

“Whin a state wants to ilict a governor or a city a mayor they don’t go as wanst they did to th’ most graceful tax dodger in th’ community f’r advice but apply to th’ PoUytickal Intelligence Office set up be me frind Lincoln Steffens. No wan can get a job without a charackter fr’m him : ‘Grover Cleveland, honest! but grumpy ; don’t get along with other servants an’ is disposed to lecture his masters ; industhrees but not very bright ; wud make a good judge in a probate coort ; since lavin’ his last place has been keepin’ bad comp’ny.’ ‘Thaydore Rosenfelt ; excellent man

iv all wurruk, honest,, sober, but a little quarrelsome. Sometimes thries too hard to please all his employers at wanst ; wants to do too much f’r thim at other times an’ has been known to compel thim to take a bath whin they didn’t need it. Wud make an excellent watchman f’r th’ front dure but doesn’t pay much attention to th’ back iv th’ house. Very well satisfied with his present position but may have to make a change.’ ‘Willum Jennings Bryan ; has been a second man f’r ten years, a position to which he is well suited. Wud like to improve his condition. Cheerful, economical, but not to be thrusted with silver.’

“No, sir, as Hogan says, I care not who makes th’ laws or th’ money iv a counthry so long as I run th’ presses. Father Kelly was talkin’ about it th’ other day. ‘There ain’t annything like it an’ there niver was’ says he. ‘All the priests in this diocese together preach to about a hundhred thousand people wanst a week an’,’ he says, ‘all th’ papers preach to three millyun wanst a day, aye, twinty times a day,’ he says. ‘We give ye hell on Sundahs an’ they give ye hell all th’ time,’ he says. ‘ ’Tis a wondherful thing,’ he says. ‘I see a bar’l iv printer’s ink goin’ into a newspaper office an’ it looks common enough. A bar’l iv printer’s ink, a bar’l iv linseed ile an’ lampblack, with a smell to it that’s half stink an’ half perfume. But I tell ye if all th’ dinnymite, lyddite, cordite an’ gun cotton in th’ wurruld was hid behind thim hoops there wudden’t be as much disturbance in that bar’l as there is in th’ messy stuff that looks like so much tar,’ he says. ‘Printer’s ink ! A dhrop iv it on wan little wurrud in type,’ he says, ‘will blacken th’ fairest name in Christen-

dom or,’ he says, ‘make a star to shine on th’ lowliest brow,’ he says. ‘It will find its way into millions iv homes an’ hearts an’ memories, it will go through iron dures an’ stone walls an’ will carry some message that may turn th’ current iv ivry life it meets, fr’m th’ Imperor iv Chiny to th’ baby in th’ cradle in Hannigan’s flat,’ he says. ‘It may undo a thousand prayers or start a millyon. It can’t be escaped. It cud dhrag me out iv me parish house to-morrah an’ make me as well known in Pekin as I am in Halsted sthreet, an’ not as fav’rably. To-day th’ pope may give me no more thought thin he gives Kelly th’ Rowlin’ Mill Man. To-morrah he may be readin’ about how great or bad I am in th’ Popylo Romano. It’s got Death beat a mile in levellin’ ranks. No man, be he king or potintate or milkman, is annv bigger or anny littler thin what he see iv him in th’ papers. Ye say it invades our privacy. But so does th’ polisman, on’y he carries a warrant an’ th’ press nabs us f’r crimes that are too intilligint f’r th’ polis to understand. It rules be findin’ out what th’ people want an’ if they don’t want anny thing it tells thim what it wants thim to want it to tell thim. It’s against all tyrants but itsilf an’ it has th’ boldest iv thim crookin’ th’ knee to it. A few years ago if th’ iditor iv th’ Saint Pethersburg “What-d’ye-call-it” wanted to print an item announcin’ a picnic iv th’ Epworth League he’d have to take it

around to th’ Czar to have him look at it first. To-day if ye cud read Rooshyan ye’d see this :

“ ‘ “Dear Sir Me attintion has been called (first be th’ headlines an’ thin be me wife) to an item in ye’er usuallv acc’rate an’ fair-minded journal to th’ effect that I had been assassynated. While I commind ve’'er entherprise, I beg to say that th’ ivint mintioned has, throughy an oversight, not yet occurred. I hope with ye’er customary fairness ye will insert this correction in a place as conspicuous in ye’er valyable columns as th’ original statement, an’ thus prévint an unintentional injury to a desarvin’ man.

“ ‘ “Yours corjally,

“ ‘ “Alex. Romanoff.”

“ ‘Yes, sir,’ says he, ‘th’ hand that rocks th’ fountain pen is th’ hand that rules th’ wurruld. Th’ press is f’r th’ whole univarse what Mulligan was f’r his beat. He was th’ best polisman an’ th’ worst I iver knew. He was a terror to evil doers whin he was sober an’ a terror to ivrybody whin he was dhrunk. Martin, I dhrink to th’ la-ads all over th’ wurruld who use th’ printer’s ink. May they not put too much iv th’ r-red stuff in it an’ may it niver go to their heads.’ ”

“An’ what did ye say to that ?” asked Mr. Hennessy.

“I said ’twud niver hurt annybody’s head whose heart was in th’ right place,” said Mr. Dooley.