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"A Fog of Journalism"

Three by Chesterton II

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Londoners live in a fog of journalism, out of which there looms from time to time a figure, who strikes certain spectral attitudes, and then vanishes in the fog and is forgotten. Not many years ago we saw start out of the mist, like the pale face of a fiend, the face of a traitor. He was reeling and ragged as if torn by patriot mobs; a golf-club was broken in his hand; as if it had been broken across his head, when he was expelled for treason from his club of fashionable golfers. He had been detected in a dastardly effort to escape to Stockholm and make a treacherous peace, and was only frustrated by the gallantry of our British tars. He was the wildest ruffian of the I.L.P. and wore a red tie, which had certainly been sent to him secretly from Moscow. Well, this person, after throwing himself into a few bodily postures expressive of moral baseness and political perfidy, vanished in the fog and was never seen again. This was the infamous James Ramsay MacDonald, of atrocious memory. Only, as it happens there has been a slight lapse in the memory. The crowd waiting in the fog, however, has had other diversions. There even burst upon it just recently a beautiful and ennobling vision: a stately and handsome presence, clad almost entirely in Union Jacks, with a few patches of tartan, and wearing the ancient Civic Crown; ob cives servatos: the Saviour of the State. For this being was indeed that noble statesman who became the head of the National Government, sacrificing Party to Patriotism, and triumphantly routing the traitor Henderson. This was the heroic James Ramsay MacDonald, of immortal memory, so long as he is remembered. There had once been another person called Henderson who had been a Patriot; when the other person called MacDonald was a Traitor; but neither of these persons could possibly be remembered. Perhaps it is quite right that they should none of them be remembered; for none of them ever really existed at all. There never was any traitor named MacDonald who betrayed his country to its enemies, any more than there ever was any patriot called MacDonald who preferred his country to his party. All these shadows in the shadow-pantomime of London politics have no reference to the respectable, rather vain, very serious, self-respecting "Scotsman on the make" who has risen in the profession of politics rather less scandalously than most. That is what I mean by the London fog....

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From "Back in the Fog" in The Well and the Shallows (1935), The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, Volume III, pp. 455f.

Substitute "Washington" for "London", and some current names for those of Chesterton's contemporaries, and... well... you get the idea. :-)

Lane Core Jr. CIW P — Sun. 05/14/06 12:18:59 PM
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