Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Intellectual Prostitutes

The Good Old Days of the Press

“There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print.

“I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

“The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance.

“Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

—John Swinton (1829-1901), New York journalist and editor,
on being asked to toast independence of the press, 1880
(Thanks to alert WORDster Arnold Ismach)

Editor’s Note: Callin’ ‘em low and outside.


  1. Bet that was the last time he was invited to give a toast.

  2. Sorry to pile on, Ted (you being a Journalism prof and all) but this just demonstrates and clarifies the simple fact that, at least on this particular subject, nothing has changed in … what … 129 years? I just got back from 10 days in the Carolina mountains (hills to you Westerners) during which I didn’t see a daily newspaper, watch a daily news program (local or national), didn’t bother with a Sunday morning show, and apparently, obituaries notwithstanding, didn’t miss a damn thing of consequence. Amazing, no?