Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hearst v. Great Britain

The Brits would not have been pleased with this August 3, 1916 front page of the Chicago Examiner. 
Hearst newspapers openly supported the Irish cause.
This week in 1916, friction between the British government and William Randolph Hearst's media empire came to a head. The publisher of a chain of newspapers including the New York Journal-American, Chicago Examiner and San Francisco Examiner, Hearst opposed U.S. entry into World War I; his International News Service was repeatedly censored by the British government over its coverage of allied reverses and criticism of British policy at sea.
"Freedom of the Seas" by Harry Murphy for Chicago Examiner, September 18, 1916
Not that Hearst was a pacifist by any means: he had famously used his newspapers to prod the U.S. into the Spanish-American War, and he was presently promoting American military activity in Mexico. His was more of an "America First" policy against entanglement in European alliances.

Hearst praised isolationist Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan for trying to keep the U.S. out of Europe's war after the sinking of the British RMS Lusitania. While Hearst papers did express outrage over the torpedoing of the Lusitania, they argued that it wasn't worth our going to war over it (unlike, say, the Maine).
"A Corking Affair" by Harry Murphy for Chicago Examiner, October 6, 1916
Hearst denounced the Allies' naval blockade of the Central Powers as an unfair restriction of U.S. trade. He editorialized that the British were opening some U.S. mails in order to uncover trade secrets in our dealings with China and Japan. He supported opening American ports to shipping from any country, including German U-boats. Rumors even circulated that Hearst was a spokesman for the Kaiser — when the British government banned Hearst's International News Service from sending dispatches from England, Hearst had reporter (and alleged German propagandist) William Bayard Hale arrange for INS dispatches to be transmitted by wireless to Long Island from Nauheim, Germany.

This Chicago Examiner cartoon by Harry Murphy mocks the British for being thwarted at sea by the German U-boats; Uncle Sam looks on, safely bemused, from behind his three-mile sovereignty limit.
"The Goat-Getters" by Harry Murphy for Chicago Examiner, October 10, 1916
Complaining that Hearst was peddling fictitious war reportage — often from equally fictitious war correspondents — the British government banned his International News Service from sending news dispatches from England. Hearst responded with this full-page, flag-festooned editorial, "A Reply to the Malignant and Lying Accusations of the British Government That We Distort and Garble War News," in the Chicago Examiner on October 11:

From the editorial:
"The action of the British government in ordering the British censorship to refuse the International News Service the use of both mail and cable facilities for the dispatch of news to America was excused in the fashion characteristic of the British government. ...
"The unforgivable sin of the International News Service was that it would not willingly suppress true news, distort true news, AND DISSEMINATE FALSE AND LYING NEWS to suit the British censorship and the British government.
"The unforgivable crime of the great newspapers owned and conducted by William Randolph Hearst — at whom this petty exhibition of official spite was aimed — is that they are American newspapers, honest newspapers which tell the truth without fear and without the least concern as to whether the truth is agreeable or not to the British government or to any other government on Earth."
There follows paragraph after paragraph of examples of how the British government and press had previously castigated the French, Belgians, Russians and others whom they now heralded as heroic brothers in arms in the fight against Germanic tyranny.
"WELL THERE YOU HAVE THE BEST example of British press agitating — and Judas and Ananias rolled in one could not equal it."
"Busy on All Fronts" by Harry Murphy for Chicago Examiner, October 13, 1916
A postscript here: I had wanted to use cartoons and coverage from Hearst's New York Journal-American in this post. I would assume that Hearst's hand was heavier on the editorial till in the Big Apple than in the Windy City. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find Journal-American source material from this period on line.

No comments:

Post a Comment