Depravity of the American Press

The American press is, to a fearful extent, in the hands of a cowardly, mercenary and unprincipled class of men, who have no regard for truth in dealing with what is unpopular; who cater to the lowest passions of the multitude, and caricature every movement aiming at the overthrow of established wrong; who are as destitute of all fairness in controversy as they are lacking in self-respect; and whose columns are closed against any reply that may be proffered to their libellous accusations. It is true, these men represent the prevailing public sentiment, either in the locality in which they reside, or in the country at large; but, fearfully demoralized as that sentiment is, in many particulars, they aim to make it still more corrupt, rather than to change it for the better. They not only publish all the lies they can pick up, in opposition to the struggling cause of humanity, but they busy themselves in coining lies, which they audaciously present to their credulous readers as reliable truths. There is no end to their deception and tergiversation. Such men are far more dangerous to society than burglars, incendiaries and highwaymen. Occupying a position of solemn trust, and almost awful responsibility,—exerting a potent influence over a large class of ignorant and unreflecting minds, who look up to them as teachers and guides, however deficient in brains or vicious in morals,—they have it alike in their power and in their disposition to deceive, mislead, circumvent, and demoralize, to a ruinous extent. Each of them is a local authority; and of their many readers, comparatively few think of questioning the authenticity of what is laid before them, from day to day, or from week to week. (¶ 1)

In what part of the country—in what town or village—can an anti-slavery meeting be held, of an uncompromising character, even after a struggle of twenty-five years, without being basely misrepresented by the press, or treated with silent contempt? Yes, for a quarter of a century, abolitionism—the denial of the right to make man the property of man—has been lampooned, anathematized, vilified, unceasingly and universally, by the journals of the day, both religious and secular—its advocates have been held up as crazy fanatics and wild disorganizers—and its meetings represented as unworthy of countenance by sane and decent men! Every other unpopular movement, however noble and good, has been treated in the same manner—and the end is not yet. (¶ 2)

We feel competant thus to arraign the American press generally—first, because we have been familiar with its course for the last forty years—and second, because we have the consciousness of publishing a free, independent, impartial journal, in the columns of which all sides have ever been allowed a fair hearing, and which seeks to make known the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, at whatever cost or hazard. How such a paper—advocating the noblest cause that can engage the attention of man, and giving auxiliary support to other great reformatory movements—is appreciated and sustained, is seen in its petty subscription list, in its limited circulation, in the covert and open effort every where made for its suppression; and how other papers, which espouse the side of the oppressor, make falsehood and jesuitism their stock in trade, and resist every attempt to reform society by removing old abuses, are encouraged and upheld, may be seen in the wide circulation and richly remunerative income of Bennet’s Herald, the New York Observer, the Journal of Commerce, and many others of a similar stamp. What does all this indicate as to the state of the country? (¶ 3)