Monday, May 14, 2012

Today -100: May 14, 1912: Of amendments, dancing, outrageous romantic lying, and honeyfugling

The Senate Judiciary Committee votes for a Constitutional amendment changing the presidency to a single 6-year term. Yes, it’s aimed at Roosevelt (the NYT editorializes that the notion of a president not being eligible for re-election must have gained “great multitudes of conversions” in the last month). One argument against the amendment is that the American people should be forced to pay attention to public business more often than sexennially.

The House passes a resolution in favor of another Constitutional amendment, for the direct election of senators. It includes a provision for federal supervision of elections, which Southern racists, i.e. the entire Southern delegation, oppose, joined by only two Republicans, Knowland and Kahn, for equally racist (anti-Japanese) reasons.

Italy has succeeded in closing off the Aegean, preventing Turkey sending ships & troops to Libya.

Paraguay defeats a rebellion led by ex-President Alvino Jara, who is killed.

The Methodist church’s conference decides against allowing dancing.

George Bernard Shaw writes to the Daily News against the “explosion of outrageous romantic lying” by journalists and others about the Titanic to fulfill the narrative demands of “romance in a shipwreck,” which filled news reports whether true or not. These demands: That the captain must be a superhero, “a living guarantee that the wreck was nobody’s fault”. “Such a man Captain Smith was enthusiastically proclaimed on the day when it was reported that he had shot himself on the bridge, or shot the first officer, or been shot by the first officer, or shot anyhow to bring the curtain down effectively.” “The officers must be calm, proud, steady, unmoved in the intervals of shooting the terrified foreigners.” Everybody must face death without a tremor, though in reality the crew didn’t tell the passengers that the ship was sinking to prevent a panic, and the band was ordered to play Ragtime to reassure the passengers.

Arthur Conan Doyle naturally responded in the same paper a week later, singing paeans to those very romantic demands. The officers did do their duty and Shaw “tries to defile the beautiful incident of the band by alleging it was the result of orders issued to avert panic.” Shaw responded “there is no heroism in being drowned when you cannot help it.”

Your Old-Timey Vocabulary Word of the Day (from a Taft speech in Ohio): honeyfugle. To deceive or swindle.

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