Nothing New Under The Sun… Words of Wisdom and Words of Warning From A Century Ago

March 26, 2020

From The Vault…

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

“If you do not put good men into office bad men will put themselves in.” Calvin Coolidge, April 24, 1920

When it comes to journalism and the media, the platforms may change, but the message is still the same.  Today is just like yesterday and tomorrow is going to be like today.  There is really nothing new under the sun. A new twist from here, another from there, but at the end of the day, it is all the same.

Take a look at the April 24, 1920 (yes, you read that right), Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, The Oldest Illustrated Weekly Newspaper In The United States then, and my aforementioned statement will be as clear as crystal.

The cover shows a grim-fisted Uncle Sam with an open and empty U.S. Treasury safe box. The headline touts The Red Success in Russia and on the editorial page under the tag line: “STAND BY THE FLAG: IN GOD WE TRUST” has a guest note from Stephen C. Mason, then president of Association of Manufacturers.  Under the heading  “We Need the Open Shop,” he writes:

“The only truly American standard is the open shop, with equal opportunity for all. I believe every good citizen will agree with us that the time has arrived when organized labor in the United States had better take stock of its policies and practices from a thoroughly American standpoint. The American people are no longer going to accept lip service from those organizations which are leading the nation to the brink of the most serious economic and social crisis in our history. Oft-repeated declarations of Americanism and frequent disclaimers of Bolshevistic beliefs are not sufficient to conceal their constant efforts to stimulate unsound and dangerous industrial theories.”

I asked professor Joe Atkins, my colleague at The University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism and New Media, and our resident expert on labor unions and all things labor, to comment on Mr. Mason’s editorial.

His response: “Sounds like classic “Red Scare” verbiage from that era, a time when J. Edgar Hoover and the predecessor to the modern FBI were raiding unions and shutting down foreign language newspapers (the so-called “Palmer Raids”), all in the name of “democracy” when in reality it was a kind of American brand of fascism. All a “closed shop” means is a worker at a unionized factory shouldn’t enjoy the hard-won benefits that the union fought and struggled for without being a member of that union. All an “open shop” is, is a sweet-sounding effort to destroy the union.”

Another article entitled All Progress The Result of Economy (with great advice from a man who ended up being president himself, Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge) and a subtitle: Some plain truth from Calvin Coolidge, “The Silent Man on Beacon Hill.”

By Fred John Splitstone

But the most amazing part of that interview was this section:

“The Men We Need in Office

“Here I thought of a remark made that morning by one of the Governor’s friends, who said: “The ruler of Italy is credited with saying that being a king is a business like any other, and that it is the duty of one who follows it to make good on the job. That is the conception that Calvin Coolidge has of office-holding, and he has devoted the past twenty-two years of his life to fitting himself to make good in whatever capacity the people may call him.”

I asked the Governor how we were going to get the kind of men he specified into public office.

“By each citizen realizing and doing his duty at the polls. If you do not put good men into office bad men will put themselves in. If you put good men into the elective offices they will see that the subordinate administrative places are properly filled. What we require, both in State and National affairs, is a class of officers who realize that the duty the government now owes to the people is to reduce their burdens by paying off the obligations that came from the war, rather than imposing additional burdens for the support of new projects. Government expenses must be reduced from a war to a peace basis.”

True words of wisdom, yesterday, today and tomorrow…

And as Robert Heinlein once wrote…
“A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.”

Peace in our times and stay well, stay safe and stay inside….


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