October 6, 2016
David Cole: Every journalist’s favorite expression comes from a satire MOCKING journalism
David Cole writes (read the whole thing):
And there we have it in a nutshell. “Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” That phrase, it should be pointed out, is not what “they” say it’s a journalist’s duty to do. That phrase was satirical, uttered by the fictional Irish bartender “Mr. Dooley,” the 1893 creation of Chicago Evening Post humorist Finley Peter Dunne. It was not intended to be taken seriously. Here’s the phrase in its original context: “Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.”
It was a satire of newspapers, not a how-to manual for journalists. Yet that is exactly what Jackman—and, I would wager, the majority of his crusading colleagues—has turned it into. And let’s just ruminate for a moment on what that means. Afflict (“cause pain or suffering to”) the comfortable (“those who are free from worry or pain”). In other words, give pain to those who don’t have it. What a motto, what a career description. Forget the five Ws, forget just telling the truth. Journalists are here to give pain to those they feel are too pain-free. And of course the press takes it upon itself to determine just who is comfortable enough to deserve affliction.
It was Dorothy Day’s favorite (non-Biblical) saying, too, and even at my most Catholic I found her and her weird friend Peter Whatsit pretty repellent.