By Al Benson Jr.
Those who manipulate the news, the spin masters, and those who shape news events to fit their own political agendas have been alive and well in this country at least since the 1850s, and probably before. These are the people who take news events and reshape them so that they say what they want them to say. For them truth is a by-word, to be pushed aside whenever it happens to get in the way of their pet agendas. They are journalistic Marxists—using the “news” they have created to justify the ends they promote.
One of the most famous (or infamous) of these was James Redpath. Early in his career he wrote anti-slavery articles under the pseudonym of “Berwick” and later worked as a reporter for Utopian Socialist Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune. According to Wikipedia: “An early assignment at the Tribune involved compiling ‘Facts of Slavery,’ a regular series of articles gathered from Southern newspaper exchanges. Beginning in March 1854, he traveled in the South to examine slavery for himself, interviewing slaves and collecting material published in 1859 as The Roving Editor: or, Talks with Slaves in the Southern States. The book’s production costs were covered by prominent antislavery philanthropist Gerrit Smith.” That was the Gerrit Smith of “Secret Six” fame, who got himself admitted to a sanitarium after the John Brown affair at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.
According to dlib.nyu.edu “Redpath inaugurated a ‘Facts of Slavery’ column for the New York Tribune, curating slave trade information from the Southern press, and later went South to interview slaves so they could have a forum for relating their experiences in their own words. He later took jobs at Southern newspapers and surreptitiously sent reports back north in the guise of letters to relatives in Minnesota. They, in turn, under prior arrangement, forwarded the reports to editors.” He was later a war correspondent with Sherman’s army. If he was in Georgia with them I’ll bet he had a ball whitewashing what “Sherman’s bummers” did there.
By 1855 Redpath had showed up on the Kansas-Missouri border and was writing for a Free Soil newspaper, the Missouri Democrat, on the problems in “Bleeding Kansas.” For yet another three years he continued to stick his “news media” nose into the situation in Kansas. He had involvement in politics and he continued to write “dispatches” in which he tried to gain support in New England for Free State settlers in Kansas. In 1856 he interviewed terrorist John Brown, supposedly just days after he and his gang had murdered five pro-slavery men at Pottawatomie Creek by hacking them to death with broadswords while their families were forced to stand by and watch the gruesome scene. Folks, I submit, this was 19th century terrorism in living color! After that event Redpath became John Brown’s “most fervent publicist.”
Otto Scott, in his informative book The Secret Six: The Fool As Martyr said of Redpath “One of the magicians of confusion, expert at misdirecting attention, was the journalist James Redpath, who appeared in John Brown’s camp on the afternoon of May 29, 1856. How he found the camp remains a mystery. What he and John Brown discussed remains essentially unknown, except for a fable that Redpath wrote three years later, in a mendacious book about the scene. Here he described Brown as both a Cromwellian figure, all Biblical quotes and stern rules for clean living and high thinking and as chief of noble outlaws sequestered in the forest.” And so we see the “news media” of the 1850s hard at work, turning the terrorist into a saint for the dubious benefit of his Eastern readers.
You do have to wonder, along with Otto Scott, how Redpath located the terrorist camp, and Redpath never really tells. That would be giving out too much news that the public is not supposed to be aware of. However, Otto Scott made an interesting connection here, another one the “historians” don’t really want you to know about. He noted: “At the time Redpath met Brown in his camp, however, there could well have been more than journalistic curiosity involved. Redpath was a friend of the unscrupulous Jim Lane—the Free Soil leader who had escaped the treason dragnet cast out by the territorial government–…Brown, who Redpath and everyone else in the territory by now knew to be responsible for the Pottawatomie murders, was a man who seemed worth contacting, and Lane—according to Charles Robinson later—was in favor of using terror as a means of gaining power and property.” Anyone who has ever read any of the history of the Kansas-Missouri border problems and the “Civil War” in that area is familiar with Jim Lane. If you are not, then do a Google search on him. Lots of stuff out there on old “mad dog” Jim Lane!
However, Lane’s connection to “journalist” Redpath is never mentioned, but in looking at it as Scott has done you can begin to see the connection between terrorist Jim Lane and terrorist John Brown, and the conduit is news media pundit James Redpath.
And Scott has also noted something else the “historians” don’t comment much on. He said: “But it was clear that the murders in the Pottawatomie area had coincided with a series of organizing moves to drive Southern settlers out of Kansas, to destroy Southern settlements…The appearance of such deliberate and coordinated violence, however, could not have been possible, nor could it have proceeded, without a covering legend by Northern newspapermen, who shrouded its significance from the nation.”
So you can see that the “news media” today has a really checkered inheritance to live up to. They are still doing what the media back in the 1850s did—prevarication, waffling, obfuscation (I’m trying to find a nice way to say they were liars). Nothing has changed. But if you begin to get some faint glimmer of what they did back then you might begin to grasp what they are still doing today.