Author: Robert Showah

Journalism Is Not Activism

In 1893, Finley Peter Dunne, a journalist-turned-humorist at the Chicago Evening Post, introduced Martin J. Dooley to the people of Chicago. Mr. Dooley, as he was best known, was a thick-accented bartender from Ireland who owned a tavern in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Mr. Dooley became popular among Chicagoans for his rich satire of politics and society. Of course, Mr. Dooley wasn’t real. He was a fictional character created by Dunne. His work included countless sketches and wide-ranging commentary, but he may be best known for his biting one-liner on newspapers, since reclaimed by journalists as central to the profession’s creed: “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” The original quote is from Observations by Mr. Dooley, one of several works Dunne produced as the character, in which Dunne specifically satirizes the press’s penchant for trial-by-media. He presented Mr. Dooley through Irish dialect pieces, hence the diction, so the “affliction” quote below has been lightly edited for comprehension: When anything was wrote about a man ’twas put this way: …

Radical Moderate: The Struggle for Martin Luther King’s Legacy

As matters of race continue to grip the American consciousness, there have been commendable efforts to clarify and correct the historical record on slavery, the Civil War, Robert E. Lee, Confederate statues, and the complicated legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Activists and liberal commentators claim that Dr. King’s legacy has been whitewashed by conservatives and white society. Central to this argument is the use of his more radical works to rebut the mainstream’s identification with King and the reassuring tenor of his “I Have A Dream” speech. King did indeed hold fervent social and economic views of which many Americans are unaware. But recent attempts to reclaim King as an identity-driven radical rather than a values-driven one rely upon the same selectivity they seek to correct. They ignore the centrality of the American gospel to King’s message, and overstate King’s most leftwing impulses so that he might serve as a precedent for modern activism’s divergent separatist ethos. But would a white supremacist nation really lionize such a fiercely empowered black man? One reason King, …