Gerald Stanley Lee.

Crowds: a moving-picture of democracy online

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All that we have been waiting for is a government that sees
the part from the point of view of the whole, which will take
up a few specific Trusts and be specific enough with them to
make them think, think hard what they really want, and what
their real eagerness is about, and the entire face of modern
business will change. First the expression will change and then
the face itself.

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The moment it is found that the government is a specific
government, all the trusts that know what they really want and
know what they really are doing, will want to be investigated,
because they will want everybody to know that they know.
In case of the trusts that do not know what they want and that
do not know what they are doing, the government will just step
in, of course, and investigate them until they find out.

A specific government will not need to be specific many times.

It takes up a particular Trust in its hand, turns it over quietly,
empties its contents out before the people and says to every-
body, "This particular Trust you see here has tried to be a kind
of Trust, which it found out afterward, it did not want to be.
It is the kind of Trust whose officers hide their faces when they
think of what it was that they thought that they thought that
they wanted . . .

"These men you see here, forty silent nations looking on,
hundreds and thousands of self-respecting, self-supporting,
public-serving, creative, successful business men, whom all the
world envies looking on, do hereby beg to declare to all business
men who know them and to the people, that they did not ever
really want these things for themselves that their business says
or seems to say they wanted.

"They wish to ask the public to put themselves in their places
and to refuse to believe that they deliberately sat down,
seriously thought it all out, that they had planned to express to
everybody what their natures really were in a blind, brutal, fool-
ish business like this which we have just been showing you.
They beg to have it believed that their business misrepresents
them, that it misrepresents what they want, and they ask to
be again admitted to the good-will, the hope and forgive-
ness, the companionship of a great people.

"They declare" (the government will go on) "that they are
not the men they seem. They are merely men in a hurry.
They want it understood that they have merely hurried so
fast and hurried so long that they now wake up at last only to

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see, see with this terrific plainness what it really is that has been
happening to them all their lives, viz.: for forty, fifty, or sixty
years they have merely forgot who they were and overlooked
what they were like.

"In hurrying, too, it is only fair to say they have had to use
machines to hurry with and imconsciously, year by year, associ-
ating almost exclusively with machines, their machines (pump
handles, trip-hammers, hydraulic drills, steam shovels and
cranes and cash registers) have grown into them.

" This is the way it has happened. *Let the nation be merciful
to them,' the government will then say, and dismiss the
subject. "

What our President seems to be for in America, is to do up a
nation in one specific, particular man who expresses everybody.

This man deals with each other specific man, his aggressions
and services, as a nation would if a nation could be one specific

The President of the United States is the Comptroller of the
people's vision. By seeing a part and dealing with a part as a
part of a whole, he governs the people.

He is the Chancellor of the People's Attention.

The business of being a President is the business of focusing
Ihe vision, of flooding the whole desire or will of a people aroimd
a man and letting him have the light of it, to see what he is
doing by, and to be seen by, while he is doing it.

The corporations have expressed or focused the employers
of labour. The Labour Unions have focused or expressed the
will of the labourers, and the government focuses and expresses
the will of the consimiers, of the people as a whole, rich and poor,
so that Labour and Capital, both listen to It, understand It
and act on It.

The way to deal with a specific sin is to fiood it around with
the general vision. Then it does not need to be dealt with.

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Then strangely, softly, and almost before we know — out there
in the Light, it automatically deals with itself.

When the Government takes hold quietly of the National
Cash Register Company, turns it up, empties its contents out,
— ^all its methods and its motives — and all the things It thought
It w:anted, and then proceeds to put its president and twenty-
nine of its officers into jail, my readers will perhaps point out to
me that this action of the government as a method of tempting
people to be good, while it may have the virtue of being concrete
and the virtue of being specific, certainly does not have the other
virtue that I have laid down, the virtue of being affirmative.
"Certainly" they will say "there is not anything affirmative
about putting twenty-nine big business men in jail." Many
people would call it the most magnificently negative thing a
President could have done. Moses himself would have done it.

It does not seem to me that Moses would have done it, or
that it was essentially negative. It could not unfairly be
claimed that in spite of its negative look on the surface, it was
the most massive, significant, crushing affirmation that a
great people has made for years.

By putting the twenty-nine officers of the National Cash
Register Company in jail, the American people affirmed around
the world the nation's championship of the men that had been
defeated in the competition with the National Cash Register
Company. They affirmed that these men who were not
afraid of the National Cash Register Company because they
were bigger, and who stood up to them and fought them, were
the kind of men Americans wanted to be like, and that the
officers of the National Cash Register Company were the kind
of men Americans did not want to be like, would not do
business with, would not tolerate, would not envy, would not
live on the same continent with, unless they were kept in jail.

The President of the United States, sitting in Washington,
at the head of this vast affirmative and assertive continent,
indicted the Cash Register Company, that is, by a slight pointed

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negative action, by pushing back a button he turned on the
great chandelier of a nation and flooded a nation with light.
We, the American people, suddenly, all in a flash, looked into
each other's faces and knew what we were like.

We had hoped we believed in human nature, and in brave
men and in men against machines but we could not prove it.

Suddenly, we stood in a blaze of truth about ourselves.
Suddenly, we could again look with our old stir of joy at our
national Flag. If we liked, we could swing our hats.

Perhaps I should speak for myself, but I had been trying to
get this news for years. It is news I have wanted to live with
and do business with. I have been trying to get my question
answered. What are the American people really like?

The President points at the National Cash Register Company
and I find out. All the people find out.

In the last analysis, the masterful, shrewd, practical, and
constructive part of being a President of the United States —
the thing in the business of being a President that keeps the
position from being a position which only the second rate or
No type of man would have time to take, is the fact that the
President is the Head Advertising Manager of the United
States, conducting a huge advertising campaign of what
Americans really want.

He takes up the National Cash Register Company, picks out
its twenty-nine oflScers, makes it a bill board sky-high across
the country. "Here are the kind of business men that the peo-
ple of the United States do not want, and here are the kind of
men that we do!"

The thing that makes indicting a trust a positive and affirma-
tive, act is the advertising in it.

Gladstone once wrote a postcard about a little book of
Marie Bashkirtseff's.

Twenty nations read the little book.

Every now and then one watches a man or sees a truth that
would make a nation. One wishes one had some way of being

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the sort of person or being in the kind of place where one could
make a nation out of it.

One thinks it would be passing wonderful to be President of
the United States. It would be like having a great bell up
over the world that one could reach up to and ring! But it is
better than that. One touches a button at one's desk if one
is President of the United States, and a nation looks up. He
whispers to twenty thousand newspapers,"Take your eyes away
a minute," he says, "from Jack Johnson and Miss Elkin's
engagement, and look, oh, look, ye People, here is a man in this
v/orld like this ! He has been in the world all this while without
our suspecting it. Did you know there was or could be any-
where a man like this? And here is a man like this! Which
do you prefer? Which are you really like?"

There is nothing really regal or imperial in a man, nothing
that makes a man feel suddenly like a whole Roman Empire
all by himself, in 1913, like saying "Look! Look!"

Sometimes I think about it. Of course I could take a great
reel of paper and sit down with my fountain pen, say Look for a
mile, "Look! look! look! look!!! — President Wilson says it once
and without exclamation points. Skyscrapers listen to him!
Great cities rise and lift themselves and smite the world. And
the faint, sleepy Uttle villages stir in their dreams.

Moses said, "Thou shalt not!" President Wilson says,

Perhaps if Moses had had twenty thousand newspapers like
twenty thousand field-glasses that he could hand out every
morning and lend to people to look through — he would not
have had to say, "Thou shalt not."

The precise measure of the governing power a man can get
out of the position of being President of the United States
to-day is the amount of advertising for the people, of the
people, and by the people he can crowd every morning, every
week, into the papers of the coimtry.

A President becomes a great President in proportion as he

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acts authoritatively, tactfully, economically, aid persistently
as the Head Advertising Manager of the ideals of the people.
He is the great central, official editor of what the people are
trying to find out — of a nation's news about itself.

By his being the President of what people think, by his dictat-
ing the subjects the people shall take up, by his sorting out
the men whom the people shall notice, this great ceaseless Meet-
ing of ninety million men we call the United States — comes
to order.

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OUR American President, if one merely reads what the Con-
stitution says about him, is a rather weak-looking character.

The founders of the country did not intend him to be anybody
in particular — if it could be helped. They were discouraged
about allowing governments to be eflSicient. Not very much
that was constructive to do was handed over to him. And
the most important power they thought it woidd do for him to
have was the veto or power to say "No."

Possibly if our fathers had believed in liberty more they
would have allowed more people to have some; or if they had
believed in democracy more, or trusted the people more, they
would have thought it would do to let them have leaders, but
they had just got away. They felt timid about human
nature and decided that the less constructive the government
was and the less chance the government had to be concrete, to
interpret a people, to make opportunities and turn out events,
the better.

Looked at at first sight no more elaborate, impenetrable,
water-tight arrangement for keeping a government from letting
in an idea or ever having one of its own or ever doing anything
for anybody, coidd have been concei /ed than the Constitution
of the United States, as the average President interprets it.

Each branch of the government is arranged carefully to keep
any other branch from doing anything, and then the people,
every four years, looli the whole coimtry over for some new man
they think will probably leave them alone more than anybody
— and put him in for President.


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Looking at it narrowly and by itself, all that a President
selected like this could ever expect in America to put in his
time on, would seem to be — being the country's most impor-
tantly helpless man — the man who has been given the honour
of being a somewhat more prominent failure in America than
any one else would be allowed to be.

He stops people for four years. Other people stop him for
four years. Then with a long happy sigh, at the end of his
term, he slips back into real life and begins to do things.

This has been the more or less sedately disguised career of
the typical American President. Merely reading the Con-
stitution or the Uves of the Presidents, without looking at what
has been happening to the habits of the people in the last few
years,. we might all be asking to-day, "What is there that is
really constructive that President Wilson can do?" What is
there that is going to prevent him, with all that moral earnest-
ness dammed up in him, that sense of duty, that Presbyterian
sense of other people's duties — what is there that is going to
prevent him, with his school-book habits, his ideals, his
volumes of American history, from being a teachery or preach-
ery person — a kind of Schoolmaster or Official Clergyman to


The one really important and imperative thing to the people
of this country to-day is News. In spite of newspapers, authors.
College presidents. Bank presidents, Socialist agitators, Bill
Heywoods, and Trusts, the people are bound to get this news,
and any man who is so placed by his prominence that he can
scoop up the news of a coimtry, hammer its news together
into events the papers will report, express news in the laws,
build news into men who can make laws and unmake laws, any
man who is so placed that directly or indirectly he takes
news, forces it in by hydraulic pressure where people see
it doing things, who takes news and crowds it into courts,
crowds news into lawyers and into legislatures, pries some

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of it even into newspapers, can have, the ordinary American
says to-day, as much leeway in this government as he likes.

The ordinary American has never been able to understand
the objection important people have — that nearly everybody
has (except ordinary people) to news — especially editors and

It is an old story. Every one must have noticed it. One
set of people in this world, always from the beginning, trying to
climb up on the housetops to tell news, and another set of people
hurrying up always and saying, "Hush, Hush!" Some days it
seems, when I read the papers, that I hear half the world
saying under its breath, a vast, stentorian, "Shoo! shoo! SHSH!

Then I realize I Uve in an editor's world. I am expected to
be in the world that editors have decided on the whole to let
me be in.

Of course I did not know what to do at first when this came
over me.

I naturally began to try to think of some way of cutting
across lots, of climbing up to News.

I looked at all the neat little park paths, with all those artistic
curves of truth on them the editors have laid out for me and for
all of us. Then I looked at the world and asked myself, "Who
are the men in this world, if any, who are able to walk on the
Grass, who cut across the little park paths when they like? "

And as fate would have it .(it was during the Roosevelt
administration), the first two men I came on who seemed to be
stamping about in the newspapers quite a little as they liked
were the Prime Minister of England and the President of the
United States.

Just how much governing can a President do

How many columns a day is he good for, how many acres of
attention every morning in the papers of the country — all these
white fields of attention, these acres of other people's thoughts,
can he cover?

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How many sticks a day can he make compositors set up of
what he thinks?

How many square miles of the people's thoughts can he
spread out at breakfast tables, lift up in a thousand thousand
trolleys before their faces?

I have seen the white fields of attention filled with the
footprints of his thoughts, of his will, of his desires!

I have seen that the President is the Editor of that vast,
anonymous, silent newspaper, written all the night, written all
the day, and softly pubUshed across a country — the news-
paper of people's thoughts.

I have seen the vision of the forests he has cast down, ground
into headlines, into editorials, into news. Moimtains and hills
are laid 'mre to say what he thinks. Thousands of presses throb
softly &nd the white reels of wood pulp fly into speech.
Thousands of miles of paper wet with the thoughts of a people
roll dimly imder ground in the night.

The Presidei^t is saying Look! in the night!

The newsboys hasten out in the dawn. They cry in the

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EF NEWS is governing, how does the President do his

By being News, himself.

By using his appointing power and putting other men who
are News Themselves, news about American human nature
— where all the people will see it.

By telling the people directly (when he feels especially asked)
news about what is happening in his mind — news about
what he believes.

By telling the people sometimes (as candidly as he can
without giving the people's enemies a chance to stop him),
what he is going to do. next, sketching out in order of time,
and in order of importance, his program of issues.

By telling the people news about their best businecj men,
the business men and inventors who, in their daily business,
free the energies, unshackle the minds and emancipate the
genius of the people.

By telling tiiese business men news about the people — and
interpreting the people to them.

• ••••••

It is by being news to the people himself that all the othck
news a President can get into his government counts.

A man is a man according to the amount of news there is
in him.

There are twenty personal traits in a President which of
themselves would all be national news of the first importance
if he had them. The bare fact that a President could have


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470 ^ CROWDS

certain traits at all and still get to be a President in this country,
would be news.

One of the most important facts about news is that while it
can be distributed by machines, machines cannot make it,
and as a rule they do not understand it. Important and
critical news is almost always fresh and made by hand the
first time. Most of the popular news as to what is practical
in American politics for the last forty years has been produced
by political machines, and of course men who were a good
deal like machines were the best men to finish the ideas oflE and
to carry them out.

As a result of course, all the really big leaders for the last
forty years, our most powerful and interesting personalities
have been shut out from being President of the United States.
The White House was merely being run as machinery and did
Qot interest them. They watched it grinding its ideas faithfully
out from year to year of what America was like and what
American politicians were like, and finally at last in the clatter of
the machines there rings out suddenly across the land a shot that
no machinery had allowed for. Before any one knows almost
there slips suddenly by the side door into the White House a
really interesting man, and suddenly, all in one minute, almost,
this man makes being President of the United States the most in-
teresting lively and athletic feat in the country. And now, ap-
parently that the idea has been worked out in public before every-
body, by hand, as it were, that a man can be alive and interesting
all over, can have at least a Httle touch of news about him and
still be a President in this country, another man with some news
in him has been allowed to us and suddenly politics throughout
all America has become a totally new revealing profession, and
men, instead of being selected because they were blurred per-
sonalities, the ghosts of compromises, would-be everybodies —
men who had not decided who they were, and who could not
settle down and let people know which of their characters
they had hit on at last to be really theirs, men who had no

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cutting edge to do things, screw-drivers trying to be chisels —
were revealed to our people at last as vague, mean, other-
worldly persons, not fitting into our real American worid at all,
and hopelessly visionary and impracticable in American politics.

And now one more handmade man has been allowed to us.

The machines run very still in the White House.

The people of this country no longer go by the White House
on their way to their business and just hear it humdrumming
and humdrumming behind the windows as of yore. The nation
stands in crowds around the gates and would like to see in.
The people wonder. They wonder a million columns a day
what is inside.

What is inside?

An American who governs by being news, himself.

The first thing that the people demand from our President
now is that he shall be news himself. The news that they
have selected to know first during the next four years — have
put into the White House to know first is Woodrow Wilson.

"Who are you, Woodrow Wilson, in God's name?" the
steeples and smoking chimneys, the bells and whistles, the
Yales and Harvards, and the little country schools, the crowds
in the streets, and the com in the fields all say, "Who Are

Then the people listen. They Usten to his "I wills" and
"I won'ts" for news about him. They look for news about
him in the headlines he steers into the papers every morning,
in the events he makes happen, in the editorials he makes men
think of, in the men he calls up and puts on the National Wire
— in all these, slowly, daily, hourly they drink up their long,
patient, hopeful answer to their question, "Who Are You,
Woodrow Wilson?"

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BUT if the President governs first by being news himself,
he governs second by his appointments, by gatliering about
him other men who are news to people, too.

One need not divide people into good and bad, because the
true line of division between good and bad instead of being
between one man and another, is apt to be as a matter of fact
and experience cut down through the middle of each of us.

But for the purposes of public action and decision and getting
good things done, this line does seem to be cut farther over in
the middle of some of us, than it is in others. Taking a life-
average in any moral or social engineering feat, in any correct
calculation of structural strain, how far over this line cuts
through in a man, has to be reckoned with.

The president by appointing certain men to office, saying
"I will" and "I won't" to certain types of men, in saying who
shall be studied by the people, who shall be read as docimients
of our national life, puts, if not the most important, at least
the most lively and telling news about his administration into

We watch our President acting for us, telling us news
about what we are like, sorting men out around him the way
ninety miUion people woidd sort them out if they were there
to do it.

The President's appointments may be said to be in a way
the breath of the nation.

A nation has to breathe, and the plain fact seems to be that
certain kinds of people have to be breathed out of a nation and


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other kinds of people have to be breathed in. The way a Presi-
dent appoints men to office is his way of letting a nation breathe.

Online LibraryGerald Stanley LeeCrowds: a moving-picture of democracy → online text (page 34 of 44)