Home > Uncategorized > George Gissing: When the next great war comes, newspapers will be the chief cause of it

George Gissing: When the next great war comes, newspapers will be the chief cause of it

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

George Gissing
From The Crown of Life (1899)

george gissing

“My dear boy,” said his father weightily, “we talk very much, and very badly; in pulpit, and Parliament, and press, We want the man who has something new to say, and knows how to say it. For my own part, I don’t think, when he comes, that he will glorify explosives. I want to hear someone talk about Peace — and not from the commercial point of view. The slaughterers shan’t have it all their own way, Arnold; civilisation will be too strong for them, and if Old England doesn’t lead in that direction, it will be her shame to the end of history.”

***

He lived much in the past, brooding upon his years of activity as author, journalist, lecturer, conspirator, between 1846 and 1870. He talked in his long days of silence with men whose names are written in history, men whom he had familiarly known, with whom he had struggled and hoped for the Better Time. Mazzini and Herzen, Kossuth and Ledru-Rollin, Bakounine, Louis Blanc, and a crowd of less eminent fighters in the everlasting war of human emancipation. The war that aims at Peace; the strife that assails tyranny, and militarism, and international hatred. Beginning with Chartism (and narrowly escaping the fierce penalties suffered by some of his comrades), he grew to wider activities, and for a moment seemed likely to achieve a bright position among the liberators of mankind…

***

“Do you like caviare, Mr. Otway?”

“Except perhaps that supplied by the literary censor,” was his laughing reply.

“Now I am intriguee. Please explain.”

“We call caviare the bits blacked out in our newspapers and periodicals.”

“Unpalatable enough!” laughed Irene. “How angry that would make me!”

“I got used to it,” said Piers, “and thought it rather good fun sometimes. After all, a wise autocrat might well prohibit newspapers altogether, don’t you think? They have done good, I suppose, but they are just as likely to do harm. When the next great war comes, newspapers will be the chief cause of it. And for mere profit, that’s the worst. There are newspaper proprietors in every country, who would slaughter half mankind for the pennies of the half who were left, without caring a fraction of a penny whether they had preached war for a truth or a lie.”

“But doesn’t a newspaper simply echo the opinions and feelings of its public?”

“I’m afraid it manufactures opinion, and stirs up feeling. Consider how very few people know or care anything about most subjects of international quarrel. A mere handful at the noisy centre of things who make the quarrel. The business of newspapers, in general, is to give a show of importance to what has no real importance at all — to prevent the world from living quietly — to arouse bitterness when the natural man would be quite different.”

“Oh, surely you paint them too black! We must live, we can’t let the world stagnate. Newspapers only express the natural life of peoples, acting and interacting.”

“I suppose I quarrel with them,” said Piers, once more subduing himself, “because they have such gigantic power and don’t make anything like the best use of it.”

***

“And for Napoleon, too, I suppose. Napoleon — a wild beast with a genius for arithmetic.”

John Jacks let his eyes rest upon the speaker, interested and amused.

“That’s how you see him? Not a bad definition. I suppose the truth is, we know nothing about human history. The old view was good for working by —Jehovah holding his balance, smiting on one side, and rewarding on the other. It’s our national view to this day. The English are an Old Testament people; they never cared about the New. Do you know that there’s a sect who hold that the English are the Lost Tribes — the People of the Promise? I see a great deal to be said for that idea. No other nation has such profound sympathy with the history and the creeds of Israel. Did you ever think of it? That Old Testament religion suits us perfectly — our arrogance and our pugnaciousness; this accounts for its hold on the mind of the people; it couldn’t be stronger if the bloodthirsty old Tribes were truly our ancestors. The English seized upon their spiritual inheritance as soon as a translation of the Bible put it before them. In Catholic days we fought because we enjoyed it, and made no pretences; since the Reformation we have fought for Jehovah.”

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  1. Kathleen
    January 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Irene: “Do you like caviare, Mr. Otway?”

    (Eirene is the biblical Greek word for peace. Otway is a Teutonic name meaning “lucky in war.”)

    Mr. Otway: “We call caviare the bits blacked out in our newspapers and periodicals.”
    Mira enters the conversation.

    Mira: Caviare is the bits blacked out in your newspapers and periodicals? These days, that is now known as the blacklist. You know, newspapers have become obsolete, and have been replaced with the electronic surfboard. It does use electricity as you would know of, but it is wireless, you know, the router is in the cellar, and the satellites in the sky…well, I will explain it to you and Irene at a future time.

    Anyway, here are a few of these, to use your term, caviares. They happen commonly in this age, yet in the lens of newspaper proprietors it is as though they never happened…

    Two die as Coptic Orthodox Church in Libya attacked with grenade
    January 02, 2013

    http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/2013/01/two-die-as-coptic-orthodox-church-in-libya-attacked-with-grenade/

    Foreign Ministry: 1000 Factories in Aleppo Were Robbed and Transferred to Turkey with Its Government’s Full Knowledge

    January 10, 2013

    http://www.sana-syria.com/eng/21/2013/01/10/461119.htm

    http://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/13477/

    (One little western source confirms the UN Security council is in receipt of the letter…) http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Syria+accuses+Turkey+receiving+looted+factory+goods+from/7834265/story.html

    Press TV
    January 18&21, 2013
    Israeli troops demolish Palestinian structures near Jericho http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/01/18/284298/israel-troops-raze-palestinian-buildings/
    Turkish Police arrest anti-Patriot protestors http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/01/21/284791/arrested-in-turkey-nato-protests/


    Irene: “But doesn’t a newspaper simply echo the opinions and feelings of its public?”

    Mr. Otway: “I’m afraid it manufactures opinion, and stirs up feeling. Consider how very few people know or care anything about most subjects of international quarrel. A mere handful at the noisy centre of things who make the quarrel. The business of newspapers, in general, is to give a show of importance to what has no real importance at all — to prevent the world from living quietly — to arouse bitterness when the natural man would be quite different.”

    Irene: (vociferating to both) “Oh, surely you paint them too black! We must live. We can’t let the world stagnate. Newspapers only express the natural life of peoples, acting and interacting.”

    Mira: I see. A “newspaper”, stirs up feeling… that is what leads to quarrel? Independent critical thinking is of importance, study of facts on the ground, study of history…My surf time awaits. Thank you for the caviar.

    Mira is the result of multiple family cultures. One grandmother wanted to name her Miroslava, (various Slavic for peace-glory), the other Miriam, (Hebrew for light.) Her father kept the family peace by choosing Mira, (meaning, in Sanskrit letters, ocean).

  2. richardrozoff
    January 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Brilliant. Indeed inspired. And greatly appreciated.

    • Kathleen
      January 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Generous.Encouraging.And appreciated.

      It has another act. I found out fiction is an interesting exercise, and had to look up a few WWI facts and the Teutons too.

      It comes much easier for me than trying to read a good think tankers book. Mouthing off without knowing anything is a weak position. ; )

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