Journalistic Hagiography

BERNSTEIN, DAVID

Journalistic Hagiography G FOR GOD ALMIGHTY By David Farrer Stein and Day. 176 pp. $5.95. THE IDEAS OF HENRY LUCE Edited by John K. Jessup Atheneum. 405 pp. $12.50. Reviewed by DAVID...

...But he was not, for heaven's sake, a philosopher...
...That was part of Luce's purpose, part of the time...
...A bedraggled Daily Express poster proclaiming "There Will Be No War" was the opening shot of Noel Coward's war film, "In Which We Serve...
...The Daily Express, the Sunday Express, the Evening Standard-all were hugely successful...
...That was a more difficult, arid a greater, achievement...
...Pungency was all...
...David Farrer, who served as one of Beaverbrook's two personal secretaries, repeatedly insists that his boss was a great and brilliant man...
...He could praise God in bouts of devout hymn-singing, but not by mending his ways...
...Henry Luce was Beaverbrook's friend-but a different kind of man...
...He then offers several hundred pages of those ideas, contradicting his contention...
...Unlike Beaverbrook's, Luce's sins were never defiant...
...It is of course possible for a journalist to write for future readers, but it does not happen often...
...To put together this collection of excerpts from his speeches and memos may have been a labor of love, and for all I know, it is required reading on some floors of the Time & Life Building...
...And there was a time when many people thought he was hankering for the Republican nomination himself...
...No paragraph, in the revised version, lasted more than six lines...
...He was simply practicing his craft, producing in the Daily Express a newspaper that was "easy to read, succinct, and sensational," telling "its mass audience of unsophisticated readers-with a sop to the intelligentsia in the form of Osbert Lancaster's cartoons-exactly what they wanted to hear...
...He gave this up to become the apostle of appeasement...
...Jessup writes: "An instructive comparison has been drawn between Luce's Calvinism and that of his older friend Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, who came from a more fundamentalist Presbyterian background in Canada than Luce's in China...
...It was Luce's style to give an evangelical flavor to almost everything he wrote, whether he was telling the advertising agencies why they should buy $100 million worth of space in Life magazine or explaining to the American people why the rest of the 20th century was theirs to dominate and improve...
...Beaverbrook became a member of the War Cabinet for a while...
...Here we have two such hagi-bgfaphers eager to prove that Lord Beaverbrook and Henry Luce are men worthy of sainthood...
...Beaverbrook was indeed a great popular journalist of a bygone day, but that is all he was...
...The reason for this unhappy effect is that Luce's ideas are not sufficiently profound to still seem fresh after the passing of the years...
...John K. Jessup, a kind of lifetime philosopher-in-residence at Time, Inc., makes the opposite mistake...
...In the decade before World War II, he crusaded for "Empire Free Trade," for which no one else in the Empire cared a farthing...
...Lord Beaverbrook, a flamboyant Canadian, came to London and established a British version of the Hearstian newspaper empire...
...Yet he writes an entire book about him without offering any example of either greatness or brilliance other than his one frenetic success of stepping up British aircraft production after the fall of France in 1940...
...To meet them again is not to be intrigued but to be somehow annoyed...
...And it is a waste of time to read this superficial memoir unless one is vitally interested in great popular journalists of bygone days...
...He had some ideas that were new in their time...
...Reviewed by DAVID BERNSTEIN Editor, Binghamton "Sun-Bulletin...
...Luce abhorred Beaverbrook's use of the press to gain power, yet he certainly tried to exercise power through his own magazines...
...And Beaverbrook, who admitted that he published newspapers for the power they gave him, used them to be wrong on virtually every issue he chose to examine...
...and in the English language as written by Beaverbrook's newspapers there was one unbreakable rule-If a sentence didn't begin with 'and' it should start with 'but.' Rereading this article today, it seems to me riddled with fallacies and half-truths, as so much of Beaverbrook's thinking on the nation's finances always was, but carries a punch that made an esoteric and abstruse subject highly palatable to a general reader...
...Even though Churchill gave him the one governmental job he did well, Minister of Aircraft Production, there came a time when Beaverbrook schemed to succeed Churchill, the man he professed to adore...
...Unlike Beaverbrook, he was not satisfied to give a mass audience what it wanted to hear-he set about creating a mass audience that would become interested in what he wanted to tell...
...He was altogether a spoiled, objectionable individual...
...Why must people who have worked with, or under, or for well-known and interesting men inflate their bosses to twice their known size...
...Unlike Beaverbrook, Luce felt that works as well as faith and election had some bearing on personal salvation...
...Giving equal time to all this Old Testament prophecy is now, in a different era, almost ludicrous...
...and in the effort to fulfill such a purpose, Luce became one of the 20th century's great journalists...
...they even had some measure of influence on public affairs...
...That is what happened to Luce, by and large, and it is why this book seems to have so little to offer now...
...Farrer tells how Beaverbrook went about reading a timid little article Farrer had submitted: "The blue pencil reigned supreme...
...But was it really necessary to make of Henry Luce the one thing neither he nor his magazines could ever manage to be during his lifetime: a bore...
...As a missionary's son and a born teacher, Luce felt something like contempt for Beaverbrook's cynical claim that his sole purpose as a journalist was 'power-power -^and more power!' Yet when these friends parleyed, in New York or London or on the Cote d'Azur, they spent as much time discussing the Westminster Confession as they did on journalism or politics...
...He assures us in his Introduction that Luce had both an unusually subtle mind and ideas meriting the permanency of a book...
...He possessed the vision to recognize the joy, the power and the importance of good reporting...
...Luce never held public office, although he tried to make one man President (Wendell Willkie) and helped make another (Dwight D. Eisenhower...
...At no time did Beaverbrook let it be known that he had edited Farrer's piece...
...At the age of 18 Luce decided he would be a journalist because, he said, he could "by that way come nearer to the heart of the world...
...None of this diminshed Luce's greatness as an innovator, a man who enlarged the methods of conveying more information to more people...
...But he was a craftsman...
...Luce liked Beaverbrook enormously but also reserved for him an adjective he seldom used: wicked...
...He once told a suburban women's club: "To round up a mass of confused arid conflicting facts in some stinking back alley or in a clean-swept marble-tiled Foreign Office and to make a clean, coherent narrative out of either a murder or a peace treatyŚ¦ to cope somehow with the million little chaoses of raw news and make some sense out of them which shall be true and accurate at least for the split second on the screen of time?that for some men is the greatest of satisfactions, the fullest kind of self-expression...
...It probably happens least often to the journalist who is able, by virtue of his huge success, to gain an approving audience for his ideas at the time of their formulation...
...Beaverbrook was a rigorous predestinarian who believed that he himself was damned and who acted in the belief...

Vol. 52 • December 1969 • No. 23


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.