Saturday, October 18, 2008

Trollope on Newspapers

The following is an excerpt from The Warden, an 1855 novel by Anthony Trollope that I have to read for my British Lit class. In the novel, an all-powerful newspaper takes on the all-powerful Anglican church, and lots of ordinary mortals become collateral damage.

This passage describes, in Victorian hyperbole, the god-like power of a fictional British newspaper called the Jupiter and its agent, reporter Tom Towers.

Reading this, I realize people have been bemoaning the disproportionate power of the media far longer than television has been among us.

If you're interested in such things, and can wade forgivingly through the grandiosity of overstatement, read on:
"Who has not heard of Mount Olympus, -- that high abode of the powers of type, that favored seat of the great goddess Pica, that wondrous habitation of gods and devils, from whence, with ceaseless hum of stream and never-ending flow of Castalian ink, issue forth eighty-thousand nightly edicts for the governance of a subject nation?

It is amazing fact to ordinary mortals that The Jupiter is never wrong. With what endless care, with what unsparing labour, do we not strive to get together for our great national council the men most fitting to compose it. And how we fail! Parliament is always wrong; look at the Jupiter and see how futile are their meetings, how vain their council, how needless all their trouble!

With what pride do we regard our chief ministers, the great servants of state, the oligarchs of the nation on whose wisdom we lean, to whom we look for guidance in our difficulties! But what are they to the writers of The Jupiter? They hold council together and with anxious thought painfully elaborate their country's good; but when all is done, The Jupiter declares that all is nought.

Why should we look to Lord John Russell; --why should we regard Palmerston and Gladstone, when Tom Towers without a struggle can put us right?

Look at our generals, what faults they make; at our admirals, how inactive they are. What money, honesty and science can do, is done; and yet how badly are our troops brought together, fed, conveyed, clothed, armed and managed.

The most excellent of our good men do their best to man our ships, with the assistance of all possible external appliances; but in vain. All, all is wrong -- alas! alas!

Tom Towers, and he alone, knows all about it. Why, oh why, ye earthly ministers, why have ye not followed more closely this heaven-sent messenger that is among us?"

There's more, but you get the picture.

Now when I go to work, should it be under the cloak of the Great Goddess Pica? Well, this guys is still my hero, anyway:

Also known as:

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