You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

It was ever thus

The Baltimore Sun

When those of furrowed brows cluck their teeth about how far The Media has declined in our degenerate age, a little historical perspective can be helpful.

Here is A.J. Liebling, his essays collected in The Press, writing about the emerging news of the death of Josef Stalin in March 1953.

After reading a New York Times article on reactions and speculation from Tel Aviv, the United Nations, Tokyo, Bonn, Kansas City (Harry Truman), Rome, Belgrade, Hong Kong, Taipei, London, and points elsewhere: “I had an ungenerous feeling, while paddling through all this virtually identical speculation, that I was watching a small boy pull a cud of chewing gum out to the longest possible string before it broke.”

Summing up, in August 1953: “Within a week of Stalin’s announced demise, the American public knew that he had died of natural causes or been murdered subtly, either on the date named by Pravda or several weeks earlier; that the people of Moscow had demonstrated grief but (a Journal-American scoop) the demonstrations had been a carefully organized fake; that his death portended either a hardening or a softening of policy toward the West, which, in turn, would lessen or increase the chances of open war; and that his death would either precipitate an immediate struggle for power among the surviving leaders or impel them to stand together until they got things running smoothly. It was freely predicted that, in the event of a struggle, Malenkov would destroy his associates or his associates would destroy him. The subject permitted a rare blend of invective and speculation—both Hearst papers, as I recall, ran cartoons of Stalin being rebuffed at the gates of Heaven, where Hearst has no correspondents—and I have seldom enjoyed a week of reading newspapers more.”

Substitute a few proper nouns and internet for newspapers, and tell me just how much has changed in the intervening six decades.

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