|Click on screenshot to enlarge|
Once upon a time in Louisiana, the Jesuits owned WWL radio and television in New Orleans, and Douglas L. Manship was taking to the airwaves on Channel 2 in Baton Rouge, WBRZ, to editorialize against the lawlessness -- and the folly -- of segregation.
For that, starting in 1960, Manship became accustomed to the sight of burning crosses in his front yard.
|As seen on WWL-TV . . . in 2017|
In 1960, WWL was on the cusp of building a television-news juggernaut in New Orleans. In Baton Rouge that year, Manship and WBRZ were calling for calm, reason and the rule of law as segregationist passions flared over a federal order to integrate the New Orleans public schools.
As it turns out, advocating for civility (and civil society) when the angry mob is at one's door -- not to mention in control of the Legislature -- is a big job when society is under the sway of the aforementioned small minds and small men.
In a 1962 doctoral dissertation at the Ohio State University, John Pennybacker, in a study of Manship's editorializing and the impact on Baton Rouge and Louisiana's segregationist governance, sets the scene for how much at odds the South -- how much Louisiana in particular -- found itself with the notion of civil liberties and the norms of liberal democracy:
Into this emotion-charged atmosphere stepped Dr. Waldo McNeir, a Professor of English at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Dr. McNeir, apparently feeling he had seen and heard enough, sent copies of the following letter to State Senator Wendell Harris and Representatives A.T. (Apple) Sanders and Eugene McGehee -- his representatives in the State Legislature.
Segregation is wrong. Interposition is of no legal value. Louisiana is one of the 50 states that make up this nation. State sovereignty is a dead doctrine. We must live under the rule of law or perish. Reason must prevail.Legislative reaction to this was quick and to the point.
The laws enacted by the state legislature in these two special sessions are a disgrace and a national scandal. They have seriously damaged this country in the eyes of the world. Whatever your personal views, these are the facts. There is still time for you to show statesmanship and rise above your personal feelings.
I was born in the South. I am a citizen of the United States, a legal resident of this state for 11 years, a tax payer, and the parent of a school age child. I urge for you to vote for law and order before tragic results occur.
A House committee Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution condemning a LSU professor for criticizing the Legislature's anti integration program in a letter to his representative and ordered an un-American activities probe at the University.
Representative Mike John had this to say: "By what right does an LSU professor dare to attack the character and intentions of this legislature. I won't stand by and permit such a person to level such an unwarranted attack upon what we are trying to do here."
Or, to quote the more legislator-friendly words of baseball great Yogi Berra, "It's deja vu all over again." "Deja vu," of course, being . . . never mind. The governors, and the governed, of Louisiana may not now (and may not ever) understand, but I assume you get the picture -- in 1960, the importance of segregation was as indispensable to the Southern psyche as the continued existence of Confederate monuments is in 2017.
One might assume, probably correctly, that is due to the ongoing psychic centrality of white supremacy for many Southerners -- the root of "separate but (un)equal" and the reason for the cult of the Lost Cause.
Then, just as now for small individuals in high places, the small minds of the angry unwashed have primacy over the quiet testimony of facts and reason . . . and the impartial demands of the rule of law.
The latter are the prerequisites of democratic self-governance. The former? The lifeblood of despotism. Pennybacker again:
Despite the December ruling of the Federal District Court in New Orleans that the doctrine of interposition was unconstitutional, it soon became evident that the state was not to be deterred in its fight against desegregation. On December 9 Mr. Manship commented on the question of "Civilization and Political Action." In this rather philosophical editorial he pointed out that a mark of civilization "is the willingness of a people to determine their courses of action on the basis of sincere rational discussion conducted calmly by informed and responsible men." This standard was then applied to the actions of the Governor and the Legislature. "To refuse to follow the decisions of the federal courts after they have finally determined what action is required of us under the Constitution is to throw aside the mark of civilization." Finally, after expanding this last point somewhat, he concluded with this appeal. "It is to be hoped that the Governor and the legislature will come to their senses and fulfill their public trusts in a manner befitting officials of a civilized community."
Although, as has been noted, Mr. Manship scheduled a study of the integration problem in September of 1961, his first identified editorial was broadcast on the night of Tuesday, November 1. It was prompted by the vagueness of Governor Davis about his plans' for the first special session of the legislature. Mr. Manship called on the Governor to reveal his plans and give the people of the state an opportunity to voice their reactions prior to legislative action. He concluded the editorial with the declaration that "government by intrigue, mystery, silence and darkness smacks to us of dictatorship."
The Legislature convened on November 6 and, in the next few days, the plans of the Governor were made clear. On Thursday, November 10, Mr. Manship commented on the program presented. He began by describing the two principal means proposed to thwart the rulings of the court -- inter position and closing the schools. It was pointed out that the first of these would be tenable only if the United States were considered a feder ation of separate states, but "that theory of the nature of our country was settled violently by the Civil War." The second means "would seem to constitute a deprivation of property without due process of law." Finally, he decried the nature of the special session itself, stating his opinion that "some few . . . would seem to be more intent on defying the federal government and seeing their opposition to desegregation gratified than on maintaining the traditional standards of governmental action or . . . the welfare of the people."
On the Saturday prior to the scheduled desegregation of the schools in New Orleans, November 12, Mr. Manship appealed for reason and order. He first pointed out that there were orderly procedures for registering protest of a decision of the Supreme Court. "We may ask that Court to reconsider its interpretation. That remedy having been exhausted, we may seek to amend the Constitution." Any other forms of opposition would be classifiable as rebellion and could lead to the use of force of arms for "the federal government cannot permit a state to flaunt the decrees of its courts." Unfortunately, "already the Governor and the Legislature have surrendered to their emotions." If they persist in their efforts to block integration, great harm could result. He closed with an appeal for wisdom and restraint in the future actions of the Governor and the Legislature.
By November 14 it was apparent that the state government had no intention of abandoning its opposition to desegregation. Consequently, on Monday the 14th, Mr. Manship broadcast an appeal to the people of Louisiana.
This appeal opened with the assertion that the Legislature was inciting the people to violence. Mr. Manship called for order and concluded by (1) urging the Governor to put a stop to the "Tragic comedy now in pro gress"; (2) asking the people of the state to inform the Governor of their views; and (3) urging "that all of us exercise reason and common sense in our handling of this crisis, before murder is committed in the name of freedom."
|Broadcasting, Feb. 13, 1961|
Two days later Governor Davis Issued a call for a second special session to consider the possibility of a tax increase. Reacting to this on Monday, December 12, Mr. Manship raised several questions which were never answered satisfactorily. The questions were as follows:
1. What is the actual anticipated cost for whatever moves are now being planned in the executive sessions of the legislature in this matter of segregation?On December 13 the legislature first heard of the letter from Dr. Waldo McNeir and reacted by ordering an un-American activities probe. Mr. Manship editorialized twice on the issues raised by this action. On Tuesday, December 13, he pointed out that the writing of a letter to an elected representative would seem to be more American than un-American. In addition to this, "it is ironic, too, that the House should hint that there is some thing un-American about urging action consistent with the Constitution and judgments of the United States.
2. What are the future financial plans for education? . . . Can the plans be financed without a new tax?
3. Will this legislature saddle the state with a new tax . . . and then fail in their objective because of . . . the federal courts?
4. It has been indicated the tax is to finance the program . . . for giving money to children who want to go to private schools, to avoid integration. . . . The tax would probably produce $45 million, but the need to finance such a program, if Virginia may be taken as an example, probably will not exceed $1 or $2 million, . . . What does Governor Davis plan to do with the rest of the money?
5. What will be the effect of a new sales tax on the hoped for industrial development of our state?
On December 17, a Saturday, he took a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the state House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of the entire L.S.U. faculty — an investigation to cost $60,000. As a help to the committee he suggested they broaden their investigation to assure "that, in addition to there being no un-American activities at L.S.U., there are also no witches or demons . . . Really, what the state of Louisiana needs more than anything else at the present time is a good, legislatively sponsored and conducted witch hunt."
WHERE, and when, there is evil and lawlessness afoot, sometimes there also are those who stand before the abyss, warning onrushing fools of their impending doom. In the early '60s, in segregation-drunk Louisiana, Doug Manship sat before a television camera to tell Channel 2's viewers that hateful, lawless and self-destructive was no way for a state to go through history.
Today, there is . . . .
I fear all is quiet on the grown-up front. At media outlet after media outlet -- across Louisiana and this fractured, seething land -- the gatekeepers have abandoned their posts, and the mob runs unchecked across website comments sections and media Facebook pages alike.
In the breech, we get filth. Hateful racist filth, with intimations of violence just over the horizon.
We used to have the saying, "Freedom of the press belongs to him who owns one." Today, absolute license is the possession of the foul-mouthed, hard-hearted and ill-educated rabble. The rabble gets this no-purchase, no-lease, unlimited-use timeshare in a fool's paradise from him who owns "the press."
And the corporate owners of a depleted media seem to be OK with that, for reasons of malfeasance or out of a desperate, cynical trolling for clicks, with hate as the bait.
Behold, WWL-TV in 2017. These are comments from its Facebook post of a story about the leader of the anti-monument movement pushing New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to further purge the city of Confederate tributes and iconography. For Malcolm Suber, four monuments gone is just a start.
Unfortunately, this also is just a start:
WHAT WOULD the Jesuits do? Well, they wouldn't tolerate this. Not for a nanosecond.
"The planet of the apes (sic) wasn't really about apes it's (sic) was about African-Americans taking over the world"? The Jesuits, d.b.a. Loyola University of the South, not only wouldn't tolerate such toxic waste, they would hunt down one Joey J. Landry and apply the fear of God directly to his racist ass.
WWL television is not alone in its laissez-faire posture toward bigots doing what bigot do on its comments-section and social-media dime. Channel 4 is just the most egregious example at hand, at the moment.
Go to the comments on any race-related story in The Advocate, a newspaper once owned by the Manship family as well, and you'll quickly get the impression you've stumbled into a barroom long past the time when your drunken, racist uncle should have been cut off -- and every seat in the joint is being warmed by your racist, drunken uncle.
In the WWL story on removing public tributes to the Confederacy and the Lost Cause, Suber said Landrieu needed to "finish the job."
On the WWL post on Facebook, Matt Conrad said maybe "the rebels" should "finish the job first."
"These lies against the south (sic) and the confederacy (sic) need to stop," he added. The civil war (sic) was clearly not fought over slavery and this destruction lead (sic) by the misinformed must end and be reversed now!"
|From 'Chris Fullerton of Denham Springs, La.'|
Back in 1960 -- when the Federal Communications Commission still obligated broadcasters to offer the opposing side of an issue "equal time" after on-air editorials like Doug Manship's -- implicit threats, visible-from-space misstatements of historical fact and a basketful of sic-worthy constructions would not have been part of the bargain. Something approaching reasoned argument, free of obvious lying and fit for an all-ages audience, would have.
Neither Manship nor any other responsible media owner in 1960 (or 1970 . . . or 1980 . . . or 1990) would have given raging anti-Semites the airtime or the newsprint to present vulgar smears about how it's all the fault of the Jews.
Channel 4 just did on the planet's biggest social-media platform. It's like buying the beer for your racist, drunken uncle, only the world is his barroom.
|The account of 'Chris Fullerton' may or may not be fake. But the filth is real.|
LAST YEAR, I mentioned to a reporter for the late Mr. Manship's television station, WBRZ, the racist and, frankly, incendiary comments dominating his Facebook live stream of a tense and occasionally violent protest after the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling. If the comments had been screamed at a crowd on a Baton Rouge street corner, surely there would have been arrests for incitement to riot.
The reporter's response -- And, for God's sake, should not a journalist know better than this? -- was "they have a First Amendment right."
No. No, the comment-box filth-peddlers don't. WBRZ has the First Amendment right to choose what it does and doesn't promulgate. And Facebook has the First Amendment right to decide what it does and doesn't allow on its platform.
If the racists of New Orleans and Baton Rouge -- and of Omaha and the rest of the United States -- desire to exercise, unfettered, their First Amendment right to say awful and offensive things, they have their options. They can stand on the corner and speechify. They can write up a manifesto, "sics" and all, photocopy it and pass it out to passers-by.
The combox deplorables of the world even can start their own websites or newspapers to spread their garbage more efficiently. Many have, in fact.
What they don't have the First Amendment "right" to do is make media outlets (or even Facebook) spread their venom for them. Free of charge.
The sooner we find the last actual adult in the news media and convince him (or her) to exercise in full the press' rights under our constitutional order -- including the right to tell the scum of the earth "Not on my dime!" -- the better off America will be.
As previously stated, heat we have plenty of already. It's light that we lack.
Doug Manship, during a period in our history whose echoes we hear today, did not suffer fools in government who thought leadership was as simple as positioning oneself at the front of a racist mob. I cannot believe, were he alive today, that he'd think that providing a free (and very public) rumpus room for the racist mob would be any way to run a media outlet.