“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” - A.J. Liebling
My father Bob Wilson took this to heart, and bought one and started his own newspaper, the Prairie Post of Maroa, Illinois in 1958, and ran it until he died in 1972. It never had a circulation of more than 2500 or so, but every week, he would fire off editorials at everyone and everything from local events to the actions of the nations of the world.
He may have been a Quaker peace activist in a Republican district, but his love and support of the farming communities garnered him enough respect that he eventually ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962, though he lost. (He might have tried again, had he not died of an accident while only 49.) Many of his views ring true today. And he might have been willing to change the ones that fell behind the times. Although raised in the casual racism of the 1920s and 1930s, at the age of 15 he took stock of what he was being taught and discarded much of it as being wrong, and lived his life with respect for all.
I decided to transcribe his old editorials (I may make a book for some of my relatives) and every once in a while I will repost one here, as a view of how the world has changed wildly, or remained stubbornly the same.
July 2, 1959
FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ALFRED E. NEUMANN
Alfred E. Neumann is the lop-eared freckle-patch known as the “What – Me Worry?” kid.
He is the mascot of MAD Magazine. MAD Magazine happens to be a comic book. We are nominating little Alfie Neumann – or the editors of MAD – for distinguished service in the war against sham.
Before you decide the editor has gone daffy with the heat, consider that great French artist and patriot, Honoré Daumier. Daumier in 1832 declared war on the pompous King Louis Philippe. It was gendarmes and prison cells versus a sharp pen dipped in acid. History is of the opinion that Daumier won, hands down.
Daumier's work appeared in cheap little “Caricature” picture books sold on the streets... in other words, comic books.
A century earlier, in 1726, Jonathan Swift had scalded the fatheads of his day with “Gulliver's Travels”, ostensibly a fairytale for children, but actually a political and social satire.
Who are the pompous fools today, who deserve that miniature guillotine, the caricaturist's pen? Nearly all of us at time earn the hyena laugh of the zany artists who draw for MAD.
Their chief targets, however, are the high priests of the advertising and entertainment fields. There are merciless take-offs on movies, TV programs, popular magazines.
They feature mock advertisements which expose the overbuilt glamour of some motor cars; the lies of cigarette and whiskey manufacturers, the palpable frauds in beauty and health aids that are sold to the public.
In the backgrounds of the illustrations an amazing collection of monsters from outer space mingle with familiar figures from your daily newspaper.
Some of the material in MAD Magazine, as in many other comic books, is morbid and even indecent. This we cannot but condemn. Such is not for small children; but, like “Gulliver's Travels”, it may be that the real messages in MAD are meant for adult readers...
Seldom have we seen a more piercing indictment of advertising sham than their story of the man who tried to buy a small tube of toothpaste. “We have Large, Giant, and Super-Economy size tubes, he is told; THE LARGE TUBE IS THE SMALL TUBS!”
Are they so “Mad” after all? Who else in this mixed-up world has the nerve to ridicule practically everything; tail fins on automobiles; television commercials; psychiatry; professional wrestling; credit cards; even the commercialization of Little League baseball?
One has the impression, on a careful reading, that the creators of MAD, who describe themselves as lunatics, and their work as garbage, do not laugh all the time. It is possible that they have a serious interest in a sanity, a decency, and a sincerity that they see everywhere betrayed by the world about them.
They produce much which is not suitable for children to read and some which is suitable for no-one to read, but do not judge them too harshly; the ghosts of Swift and Daumier guide their pens, and we may yet see a cleaner and more honest world stung into being by their satire.
July 16, 1959
How many millions have been spent to blacken the names of REA and TVA? How many crocodile tears for “free enterprise” have been shed by the very people who killed free enterprise and made government intervention necessary?
Spokesmen for the steel industry blandly admitted to Senator Kefauver's committee that they have substituted for competition, something called “administered prices.”
Have you observed that since World War II, a new and frightening principle has appeared in our economic life? When demand falls behind production of something, PRICES NO LONGER FALL – THEY RISE!
Monopoly has taken charge, and if there is competition, it is between local merchants along Main Street who have to take the cut in price out of their own margin.
Free enterprise, indeed!
Collusion is such a friendly little arrangement. “Why are we fighting each other? You take this share of the market, I'll take that; AND WE'LL ALL RAISE OUR PRICES!”
Then with the profits extracted from our pockets, the monopolists set out to persuade us WE LIKE BEING BAMBOOZLED! Such is their contempt for the public's intelligence that they think ENOUGH MONEY BEHIND A BIG ENOUGH LIE CAN DO THE JOB.
They distribute movies and booklets; they buy radio and T.V. time, and space in magazines and newspapers. Most of it is devoted to the following propositions, none of which are true.
“T.V.A. is federal boondoggling. R.E.A. Co-ops don't pay taxes. Both are Socialism; both cost the taxpayers money; both are in unfair competition with private business.”
Newspaper editors “take counsel from their fears” and print the nice big advertisements. They have bills to pay, and they are afraid to question material sent by advertisers such as light and power companies, for fear they will lose the account.
The lie best calculated to read its hearers is, “Some people in this country are getting cheap electricity because you, the taxpayer, are paying the bill!”
Both R.E.A. and T.V.A. were set up as profit-making operations. Both have returned a handsome profit. NEITHER COSTS THE TAXPAYERS ANYTHING.
Besides, the T.V.A. has performed a unique “yardstick” function, because it was directed by Congress to determine “the actual cost and value of services.” In the Tennessee Valley, the 250 kilowatt hours which cost $9.50 in 1932, are now sold for just $5.00!
What else has fallen in price during that time? REMEMBER, THIS IS AT A PROFIT!
(Note: It is worth mentioning that YOU are paying the Illinois Power Company $9.92 for the same 250 kilowatt hours of electricity.)
The private power companies nearest the Tennessee Valley are forced to sell at nearly the same rate in order to compete. AS ONE TRAVELS IN ANY DIRECTION, PRICES RISE!
What has happened to the income of these companies which must compete with T.V.A.? Amazingly, they have recorded an 800% profit increase since the inception of T.V.A., while utility companies the country over have averaged only 300%.
In other words, these people, who never cease to whimper for the monopoly bottle, have been forced by good old American competition to clean up and streamline their operations, till they actually make more profit at low rates than the Fat Cats in the rest of the country make at high rates!
Instead of plotting a Dixon-Yates steal to cut the throat of the T.V.A., they should be thanking the doctor; the bitter pill was the best medicine they ever had.