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CSotD: Random thoughts

Gary Varvel offers a thought-provoking idea, though his own opinion isn’t particularly clear here.

The original Tea Party was protesting taxation (as does the current Tea Party, if it exists anymore) but it was tangled up in a whole lot of issues, including, but not limited to, a lack of representation in Parliament.

England hardly believed in free trade, locking its colonies into a mercantilist system that limited their freedom to start businesses and establish their own markets. Meanwhile, if the colonies had been allowed to send representatives to Parliament, they would have had to justify the fact that England was providing military protection while the colonists — at least, some of them — objected to paying any sorts of taxes to compensate for it.

Though it could be argued that the mercantilist system enriched England without more taxation simply by limiting the ability of the colonies to profit from their own efforts.

To address Varvel’s question, you have to start by acknowledging that, although newspapers were in their infancy at the time, pamphleting was lively and the small, one-sheet newspapers that existed were diverse in their opinions and selective in their reporting.

Which is to say, he needs more voices in that cartoon, because Fox would have been firmly supportive of the Crown and the rule of law, while MSNBC would have been supporting the rebels.

Unless you want to argue that Fox would have worked to undermine a colonial governor who questioned Triangular Trade but would then switch to support a new governor who was more supportive of the Crown, while MSNBC was covering a young firebrand who demanded that spinning jennies be made available in all colonies.

And the Boston Tea Party itself would be an interesting case to ponder, because I doubt anyone was terribly puzzled by the “disguises” of the men who threw the tea overboard, and there’d likely be some kind of media kerfuffle over whether they should unmask the various Sons of Liberty or cover them up.

All of which likely happened at the time, given the variety of newspaper/pamphlets/broadsides being struck off and distributed.


It’s easy enough to find one source of speculation, because, during the Bicentennial, Time Magazine produced a pair of special editions of the magazine as if it were covering the events at the time, and, when I say it’s easy, everyone squirreled these things away and so they’re all over Ebay at prices less than the cost of mailing them.

What I remember of them was the interesting coverage of arts and letters and what else was happening around the world.

Our media in 1976 was quite different than now and, while there were outrageous supermarket tabloids as well as “Headless body in topless bar” city tabs, the major media clung to the concept of balanced, ethical coverage, which was pretty much a relic of the 20th Century.

One thing I remember is that someone — almost certainly TV Guide — did an article on “What if there had been television then?” with all sorts of responsible 60 Minutes style coverage, but my own answer was that there’d be superficial coverage that missed the point, like an episode of “All in the Colonies” in which Archie learns that his daughter is dating a member of the Sons of Liberty and hilarity ensues.

I do wonder today how the students of Harvard, had John Adams been a dean in one of their residential houses, would have responded to his decision to represent the accused English soldiers in the Boston Massacre.

And how Fox, MSNBC and the rest would have covered both the original incident and the students’ response.


Moving forward a century and a half

I was listening to an interesting podcast of a recent Fresh Air interview with New York Times’ finance editor David Enrich about the odd relationship between Deutsche Bank and Donald Trump, and perhaps Jeff Danziger heard it as well, but he has obviously followed the coverage.

It’s hard to untangle the greed, lack of coordination and incompetence that marks that relationship, but, as Enrich was tracing the bank’s previous escapades in financing the building of Auschwitz and the backing of the company that made the gas used there, I couldn’t help but think of Rick Blaine’s first bit of dialogue in Casablanca:

I guess casinos have higher standards in Casablanca than in Atlantic City, though it’s only a few moments later when Rick says “I don’t mind a parasite. I object to a cut-rate one.”

I don’t know where to take that, however, Danziger didn’t ask us to consider a Hollywood classic, and Ann Telnaes does …


And, in this case, one can only hope the flock continues to gather.

It’s rather brilliant to only show a few birds, because that is indeed how Hitchcock began the sequence and that’s where we’re at right now.


Bill Bramhall suggests a less optimistic view, though it’s not clear how much sway the Freedom Caucus will have. I would guess that we’ll know within, say, two weeks, if party discipline is going to break down.

So far, the voting record suggests it might not.


And Rob Rogers has a pessimistic view of what it would take for the Democrats to step up.

That’s another thing we’ll see about in the not-too-distant future.


One element that requires a little looking back to remember is how long the Watergate mess dragged on, and, while it’s easy enough to keep in mind the distance between the break-in and the resignation, it always surprises me to see how much time passed between the Saturday Night Massacre and the End.

And that was with both parties dedicated to the greater good of the nation: The will of the nation changed slowly enough even without a party united in foot-dragging and major media dedicated to preserving the power structure.


Today, nobody seems willing to ask the question Jim Morin suggests, much less prepared to initiate a search for what has been lost.

Let’s not forget, however, that there’s a difference between having faith and sitting back.



Community Comments

#1 Brad Walker
@ 11:21 am

So… is it The Birds?

Or High Anxiety?

#2 Denny Lien
@ 1:27 pm

On “historical events covered as they would have been if modern media had existed then,” the classic is the radio and TV series YOU ARE THERE.

I’m also fond of Naomi Mitchison’s 1955 novel TO THE CHAPEL PERILOUS, in which the Grail quest of King Arthur and his knights is an ongoing newspaper story, told from the point of view of the reporters.

#3 Mike Peterson
@ 5:11 pm

There’ve been a couple of “You Are There” attempts over the years and they are always good reading (or watching) but they tend to suffer from knowing how the story ends. It takes real discipline, and a lot more primary-document research, to report on what a person of the time thought was happening.

I used to do the weekly 25-50-75-100 years ago feature at a paper where I worked, which meant combing through microfilm, and you’d see reports on things that were stunning in their lack of foreshadowing — like a brief report that the Maine was making a courtesy call to Havana, or reports that the Marines had landed on Okinawa with little opposition — and realize that they had no idea what was going to happen next.

#4 Kip Williams
@ 9:31 pm

I like to think that “Bahn Frei” in Danziger’s cartoon refers to the Oscar Strauss polka/galop that Jean Shepherd used most times as his radio theme music. Excelsior!

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