Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Today -100: October 31, 1917: Of cults of dishonesty, pure camouflage, and Schutzengrabenvernichtaungautomobile

The first American to be wounded in the trenches is a lieutenant in the Signal Corps, which is all the Army is saying about him.

Kaiser Wilhelm names Georg von Hertling, the Bavarian prime minister as the new German chancellor. Although a member of the (Catholic) Zentrum party, he’s more hard right than, um, zentrist, especially on the war, annexations and so forth. He is 74 and won’t have much authority as government functions are increasingly coming under the control of Hindenburg and Ludendorff.

Continuing his high-minded campaign for re-election, New York City Boy Mayor John Purroy Mitchel accuses Judge John Hylan of aiding and abetting pro-German propaganda, of associating with paid agents of Germany and with men denounced by the government as disloyal. He calls Hylan’s campaign a “German attack from within” by which “the Hohenzollern has determined to seize, control, and corrupt the government of New York City,” and calls on voters to prove “that New York is still an American city.” I especially enjoy his continual attempts to portray Hylan as evading his questions, questions which tend to be unanswerable: “Judge Hylan has refused to explain what action of his has attracted to his support the disloyal and seditious elements in this city.” Oh, and Mitchel says Hylan and Hearst are in a “cult of disloyalty.”

Hylan, who the NYT always refers to as the Tammany candidate (there’s an editorial entitled “The Hylan Plot Exposed”), calls the accusations of un-Americanism from Mitchel, Roosevelt etc a “fake issue” to distract from Mitchel’s siding with big business and special privilege.

Socialist candidate Morris Hillquit agrees that the issue of patriotism in this campaign is “pure camouflage.” And he responds to Roosevelt’s calling him an agent of Prussianized autocracy by calling Roosevelt “the most demoralizing influence in the political life of our country”. He says TR supports the war not to spread democracy but as a business proposition for the profit of the rich commercial classes.

There’s also a Republican candidate somewhere, but he doesn’t and won’t amount to much (Mitchel was elected as an R in 1913 but lost the primary this year and is now that annoying New York oddity, a “Fusion” candidate). He claims the newspapers are conspiring to kill his candidacy by not reporting on it. That, the NYT reports, probably just to be sarcastic.

German soprano Frieda Hempel is refused a license for a concert in Providence, Rhode Island until she promises to sing The Star-Spangled Banner.

The Germans have a word for tanks: Schutzengrabenvernichtaungautomobile. It won’t be in use for long (assuming anyone really uses it now: “Franz, look out, there’s a Schutzengrabenvernichtaungautomobile coming...!”) When Germany starts producing its own tanks next year they’ll be called Sturmpanzerwagen. Whether that gets shortened to panzer during or after this war I do not know. Anyone?

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