Journalism: Bring Back The Old-Time Muckrakers

Given the low esteem in which sentient readers and viewers hold today’s Mainstream Media (MSM), one wonders if there was ever a high point in the history of American investigative journalism. Yes, there was! The prime example can be found in the January 1903 issue (yes, that far back in time) of McClure’s Magazine (1893 to 1929).

Back then, S.S. McClure and his business partner John Sandborn Phillips assembled a talented staff of investigative journalists and backed their investigations to the hilt and with total disregard for the wealth and power of those whom their investigations exposed. Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and Upton Sinclair wrote for McClure’s Magazine. Collectively, they became known as the “muckrakers.” An unfortunate appellation that took the glitter off of their great service to the public.

Appearing monthly, McClure’s Magazine serialized stories about the brutal and corrupt business practices of Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, General Electric, the Meat Packing Industry, Railroad Monopolies, Big City Machine Politics, and tenement-packing landlords. Frequent contributors to McClure’s were: Willa Cather, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Mark Twain. Without McClure’s Magazine, it is doubtful that President Teddy Roosevelt could have ever busted the Trusts.

If Ida Tarbell (1857-1944) and her colleagues were alive today, the Durham Report would be front-page news for days on end. We would have the entire list of Jeffrey Epstein’s clients. We would have the entire text of the manifesto of the Tranny Nashville school shooter. The FBI probably could not have hidden Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop for over a year.

A revealing feature often used by Tucker Carlson on Fox News was to juxtapose clips from MSM TV news programs, showing each talking head repeating the exact same language as the others ripped from the pages of the latest “Talking Points” from the Democratic National Committee. One would think the talking heads would at least change some adjectives or rearrange the word order. But, knowing no shame, they often do not bother.

Today’s Russia is a prime example of what a government-controlled media can do to keep the general public in ignorance. Work-a-day Russians are little bothered by the war in Ukraine because Vladimir Putin is mostly fighting in Ukraine with mercenaries, called the Wagner Group, and with cannon fodder released from Russian prisons.

Odds are Russians know little, if anything, about their military’s resupply problems. Apparently, the Ukrainians have severely damaged portions of the ten-mile-long Kerch Strait Bridge, cutting off supplies to Russian forces in southern Ukraine and Crimea. Moreover, the Ukrainians are blowing up Russian resupply trucks, trains, and even rail lines.

But the Russians are far from losing a war Russia cannot afford to lose without coming apart at the seams. Yet these supply setbacks must be hurting because Putin is increasingly talking up the utility of tactical nuclear weapons. As if any kind of nuclear weapons could be used without destroying all life on this planet for the next several millennia.

Ergo: it is very dangerous to live in a world where Russians and Americans alike are given the Mushroom Treatment, i.e. kept in the dark and fed a lot of male bovine excreta.

Suggested reading: The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin, 2013.

©2023. William Hamilton. All rights reserved.

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