Saturday, January 8, 2011

Political rhetoric and political violence -- the McKinley Assassination

William Randolph Hearst was relentless in his attacks on President McKinley. When the president was assassinated, those attacks had consequences:

Hearst Burned in Effigy

The publisher learned of the shooting in Chicago and said quietly to editor Charles Edward Russell of the American, "Things are going to be very bad." All of his papers took a sorrowful, solicitous, hopeful stance while waiting for news of McKinley's fate. When the president died, Hearst's enemies reprinted the cartoons, the poem, and the editorial that seemed to incite assassination. It was widely believed that Czolgosz was carrying a copy of the Journal in his pocket when he shot the president, but that story is apocryphal. Nonetheless, the Hearst papers were widely boycotted, and their publisher was burned in effigy along with anarchist Emma Goldman, whose lecture Czolgosz cited as his true inspiration for the assassination. Hearst punished none of the writers or cartoonists but soon changed the name of the Journal to the American. A cloud hovered over his empire for about a year, but by 1902 he was popular enough to win election to the House of Representatives from New York.

We'll have to wait to see if there will be any real consequences for this.

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