Violence against the Press: Policing the Public Sphere in U.S. History

By John Nerone | Go to book overview

6
Violence and Minority Media

At the base of public discourse in the early Republic was a dialectic between liberalism and republicanism. Republicanism emphasized consensus and civic virtue while liberalism emphasized individual self-interest. The mechanisms of government were constructed according to the laws of liberalism, but citizens and civic leaders often used the rhetoric of republicanism to explain and apply them. There was a built-in possibility for contradiction here: the notion of republican virtue could be used to justify majoritarian limits on individual liberty--as for instance in the crusade against abolitionism.

By the end of the Civil War, republicanism was outmoded. The war fostered a Darwinian view of society, where individual initiative was lionized over social direction, where the virtues of the warrior were emphasized over those of the statesman, at least rhetorically, where the metaphors of warfare were applied with increasing literalness to the realm of production: captains of industry battled armies of employees and so forth. Industrial capitalism replaced republican notions of civic virtue with Darwinian individualism just as it replaced island communities with modern cities. 1 The language of republicanism came to sound increasingly archaic, anachronistic: the phrases had a ritual familiarity, but no longer connected with a vital sense of social reality. No one pretended that General Grant was Cincinnatus.

Two particular types of groups were left out by the now dominant ideology of industrial individualism, however. One was the working class, left out first because industrial individualism justified ruthless employer practices, second because it denied the legitimacy of "class" identity. Republicanism had fostered a "producer ideology" that affirmed the centrality of labor in economics and underscored the obligations of proprietors to their workers. Republicanism also had projected a notion of corporate or civic responsibility, along with traditional notions of just prices, wages, and working conditions. Industrial individualism substituted the amoral mechanism of the market for these older moral controls. At the same time, individualism removed justifications for class action or consciousness (which had

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Violence against the Press: Policing the Public Sphere in U.S. History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - The Press and the American Revolution 18
  • Conclusion 50
  • 3 - Antipress Violence and Politics in the Early Republic 53
  • 4 - The Crusade Against Abolitionism 84
  • Conclusion 110
  • 5 - The Civil War and Civil Liberties 111
  • Conclusion 126
  • 6 - Violence and Minority Media 128
  • Conclusion 163
  • 7 - Labor-Related Violence 165
  • Conclusion 195
  • 8 - Recent Violence Against the Mainstream Press 196
  • Conclusion 211
  • 9 - Conclusion 213
  • Appendix A - Survey Questionnaire 219
  • Appendix B - The Flow of Antiabolitionist Violence 221
  • Notes 231
  • Index 293
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