The recently published “Madness Rules the Hour, Charleston, 1860 and the Mania for War” by Paul Starobin tells the story of how one publisher in Charleston, South Carolina, a strident advocate of secession, created a mythical vision of the North as a wicked predator and the South as virtuous victim.
It played to the prejudices, fears of a slave revolt and perceived economic grievances with the North in such a radical manner that it was avidly read throughout the South and its articles were often reproduced in other Southern periodicals. Even Abraham Lincoln in Illinois subscribed to the Mercury to monitor what Southerners were thinking and saying.
Many believe that the use of contra-facts (misinformation / lies) both led to the British withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) and Donald Trump’s winning the presidency. But compared to what the Charleston Mercury did through fanatical distortions for a readership that had little where else to go for information, Brexit and Trump’s election were only minimally impacted by falsities.
The Mercury accused Lincoln of being a cowardly soldier, a rabid abolitionist (he was not), a traitor to the South since he was born in Kentucky, and even portrayed him as having negro blood. (In those days, that was the worst accusation imaginable!) Since few from Charleston and most of the South had actually met Lincoln who, apart from serving one term in Congress some years back, was a a relatively obscure figure, the Mercury was able to betray him as a monster.
The passions and eventual hysteria that took hold of everyone but a very few in Charleston, SC triggered its withdrawal from the Union months before Lincoln’s inauguration. South Carolina’s secession served to pull along other Southern states that otherwise were inclined to await what Lincoln would do as President.
The Civil War cost approximately 750,000 lives, North and South combined.
Lancaster citizenry should understand that manipulation of public opinion by the monopoly press can be but a matter of degree. Few have the time, interest and economic and social independence to question what LNP sets forth to serve its own real estate investment interests.
The world can learn from the horrific errors committed by the leaders and citizenry of Charleston, S. C. in the year 1860.
The lesson for Lancastrians is speak to friends about the gorging from the public trough of the CRIZ program and work to stop exploitation of current and future tax payers.