The Charlotte News
Thursday, August 15, 1940
A Lawyer's Gentle Game And the Newspapers
Mr. Thaddeus Adams had a case in court and, like any lawyer, wanted to create any little diversion which might suggest to the jury that his clients were having the cards stacked against them to begin with. So we did not take him too seriously in his denunciation of the newspapers.
Still, we can hardly let so derogatory an allegation (that newspapers are the main source of crime) go by without some protest.
It is unfortunately true, as all newspaper men know, that newspaper stories of crime frequently have some suggestive power on weak and criminal types. That imposes an obligation not to exaggerate and sensationalize a crime story. Most newspapers observe it. And beyond that, the result is not the fault of newspapers but is inherent in the communication of ideas between man and man.
Certainly there is no obligation on newspapers to suppress facts simply to please a lawyer. They exist to inform people of current events. And if accounts of events sometimes inflame fools to crime, it can be shown that the overwhelming effect of newspapers is the other way about. The police would be hard put to it to apprehend criminals without the aid of newspaper publicity.
It is lamentable, certainly, that so many of the facts are of an unpleasant kind. But that is the fault of humanity, not the newspapers. It is the business of newspapers to report humanity, not to edit it.
Gift for Reds
West Virginia Presents a Martyr to the Communists
West Virginia seems to furnish the Communist Party in this country with a commodity which it likes above all others: somebody it can paint as a martyr.
In that state one Communist Oscar O. Wheeler ran for office. But to get his name placed on the State ballot, he had to present a petition bearing a certain number of names of qualified electors. He presented it. Then the authorities arrested him on charges that he had obtained some of the names under false pretenses as to what the petition was to be used for.
At the trial, several witnesses testified that they had been misled by Wheeler. The latter countered by charging that he was being framed by the state Democratic Party organization. That the man was guilty does not, however, seem improbable.
But the trial was conducted in an atmosphere of patrioteering hysteria, with a prosecuting attorney constantly reiterating to the jury that they must consider the case as drawing the issue squarely between Moscow and the United States, as forcing them to a choice between Communism and Americanism.
And when Wheeler was convicted, the judge came down with hysteria also and clapped a sentence on him of from 6 to 15 years. That is at the maximum nearly twice the sentence given Al Capone for a long career of banditry punctuated with murder, under the guise of income tax law violation.
The minimum is twice the sentence given to old Boss Pendergast after 30 years of looting one of the great cities of the United States and dealing in vice and crime. And minimum and maximum far exceed the penalties generally visited upon a Negro for murdering another Negro in cold blood.
In short, it is a penalty which bears no relation to the crime under our scale of criminal values.
Large German Claims Suggest Lack of Real Success
One of the most encouraging signs about the Battle of Britain is that the Nazis have obviously taken to lying recklessly about their "successes."
They have always lied, of course, but in the battles of Norway, Flanders, and France, they lied only in exaggerating as a proud artist may be allowed to exaggerate in describing his work. They didn't need to go beyond that. In essentials the facts always checked up with their claims.
In the case of Britain that is certainly not so. Look at Bristol. Fourteen times in the last two weeks the German radio and DNB have reported that Bristol had been reduced to ruins and the harbor made completely useless. But American reporters were invited to examine it, went over it thoroughly, and reported that it was unharmed and that ships were loading and unloading in its harbor in normal fashion.
Their claims about shooting down four, five, and six British planes to one German lost, and reducing Dover to ruins, seem to be of the same sort. They do not at all check with the eye-witness accounts of Taylor Henry, Drew Middleton, and other Associated Press reporters on the scene. And moreover, they do not check with the inherent probabilities of the case.
That an attacking force, operating against such a compact area as southern England, should score such successes is outside of all experience. And especially in view of the fact that military men universally agree that, man for man and machine for machine, the RAF is by far the more effective of the two air forces.
It may well be that Britain is lying, too. Nonetheless, it does appear pretty clear that so far Germany is having to use words and not facts for most of her great "successes."
Southern Cotton Faces a Poor Prospect for Present
The forecast of the Agricultural Department now indicates that the cotton crop this year will run to only 11,429,000 bales. That is well below last year's production of 11,817,000 bales, far under the average for the last ten years of 13,547,000 bales, and almost incredible when set against the record production of nearly 19,000,000 bales.
Yet it remains too great at that, and much of it is undoubtedly going to have to be piled up in warehouses at Government expense. Maximum domestic consumption runs to only about seven million bales, and in many recent years it has gone well below that. And the foreign market, long dwindling, has now shrunk to Lilliputian proportions. Last year it was down to 3,500,000 bales. And this year, the only possible buyers in any quantity are England and Japan. That England will hold her purchases to the lowest possible quantity, in order to husband buying resources and ship space for materials. And Japan has been increasingly turning to other sources of supply. That tendency is likely to gain new impetus from the strained relations now existing.
What is going to come out of the war no one can say as yet, of course. And it is barely possible that the South may end with a great part of its old foreign market restored in the next few years. Yet realism requires that it should be recognized that the odds are against it. The main reliance of the South in the old days was the mills of England and northern France. But since 1930 these mills have been declining rapidly. England had over 55,000,000 spindles in 1930, less than 35,000,000 when she went to war. Meantime, Japanese spindles have increased by leaps and bounds until they now number about 20,000,000.
England made high-grade goods for which high-grade American cotton was necessary. Japan makes goods incredibly cheap by our standards, must have cotton cheaper than we have ever been able to grow. Her demand goes far to explain the vast increase in the growing of cotton in Brazil, India, etc., in the last few years.
The South must consider the possibility of being confined almost entirely to the domestic scene for a market for its cotton.
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