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Explicable Perhaps, but
T WAS NOT as if we had known no better. We had taken pains to get the facts from the highest authority. And then, ignoring facts, we gave currency to a
We had seen the report that a movie dog named Fellow had been exhibited before Professor C. J. Warden's class in psychology at Columbia University by its owner, Jacob Herbert; that the dog would obey the instructions of its master's voice from an adjoining room; that it understood three or four hundred words; and that it had been rated on the level of intelligence with an eight-year-old child.
We communicated with Professor Warden, who is in charge of the Animal Psychological Laboratory at Columbia, and received an explicit answer. Professor Warden said the dog obeyed the commands of the human voice with remarkable speed and facility; but that he was personally of the opinion-though this point was not settled that the dog had learned to associate certain sounds rather than words in the human sense with proper objects and commands; and that he had never made any statement with regard to the mental age of the dog in comparison with a human child. And then we proceeded to print a picture of the dog with Professor Warden, and put under it a caption saying that the dog understood 300 or 400 words and had been given the rating of an eight-year-old boy.
How did it happen? We have not the heart to explain. All we can say is that even under Haughton a Harvard football team occasionally missed a signal.
To errors of this sort the human mind is prone. It wants to believe what is interesting. Between something that is true but complicated and what is erroneous but simple, it tends to choose the simple, even though it is erroneous. To dig out a fact requires patience, and then to examine the fact requires attention. The human mind prefers its ease.
In an essay recently published on "The Standardization of Error" Vilhaljmur Stefansson-"Voyager and Colonizer," as the publishers of his little book call him-studies this trait of the human mind. He points out that there are two kinds of fact-the fact of observation and the fact of definition. Facts of observation change. "What's the good," asks Stefansson, "of an Englishman's learning, first, that all Americans speak through their noses, and, secondly, why they do so, when he has to find out eventually that they do not?" So Stefansson turns to the fact of definition. Two and two make four because that is the definition of fourit "is the name of the sum of two and two. . . . A square is, not by observation but by definition, a four-sided figure with equal sides and equal angles. . . . If any one says that a square has three or five sides we will all reply in chorus: 'If it has three or five sides it is not a square.' Then he turns to the ostrich. The ostrich of literature, Stefansson says, "exists by definition only. He is a bird that hides his head when frightened." Never accepted by zoölogists, hunt
ers, or owners of the domesticated birds, the ostrich of literature is useful, and therefore has survived. If we did not have the literary ostrich, how could we express the idea of willful blindness? By that question he reaches the comfortable conclusion that certain kinds of error are useful.
In order to justify ourselves to Professor Warden we should have to describe the intelligence of an eight-year-old boy as that of the dog Fellow. There ought to be dogs with the intelligence of children. It is simple to think of that, and it is interesting to believe it. All we have to do is to make definitions that will fit our errors.
ILAS BENT-"veteran of the city room," as his publisher's notices describe him-has written a book about newspapers in which he says all the things about his former bosses that he would apparently have liked to say to their faces while he was working for them.
It is not often that a dissatisfied employee both gets the chance to speak his mind in public and can do it in a style that is entertaining for any reason except the fun of watching a man vent his irritation. He has been reporter, "rewrite man," special correspondent, and editor, and he talks about something of which he knows.
A purpose more fundamental than Upton Sinclair had in writing "The Brass Check" Mr. Bent accomplishes in telling fashion where Sinclair failed. For Sinclair wrote from the outside looking in, while Mr. Bent writes from the inside looking in. Sinclair's exposure of the press is a fantastic exaggeration, while Mr. Bent's is a statement of journalistic truth.
Journalistic truth in the sense that it is correct as far as it goes. It avoids the all too commonly committed journalistic sin of inaccuracy. But it omits or fails to recognize some of the sound services of information that the American press performs under difficulties little comprehended outside newspaper walls and performs on the whole as well as any other press in the world and better than any except the British, Dutch, German, and Scandinavian. Mr. Bent's book does this for a reason-the same reason that a cartoonist suppresses some details in order to bring out others. He has in mind one impression, and he conveys it with deadly certainty.
Mr. Bent points his finger at the ruthless hunt for "good copy" and keeps it pointing. He reveals the forces that have made newspapers what they are. All the shameless exploitation of personalities, the engineering of publicity for ends of propaganda and free advertising by "public relations counsels," the invasion of privacy, and the appeal to the hunger for sensation he portrays. Only a man who knows the glare of a city room and the litter of a copy desk when the final five-star edition is going to bed could have written the story as he has done it.
In the end he drives home his moral. The press both creates and responds to public desire and opinion. When an awakened and improved public taste demands better newspapers, it can get them.
What Mississippi and Alabama
By DIXON MERRITT
EVERAL Republican candidates for the Presidency have dreamed of breaking the Solid South. None of them ever had a chance. No possible Republican candidate would have a chance now.
None the less the Solid South may be broken in 1928.
A Democratic candidate may do it. The breaking of the Solid South does not mean exactly what it might seem to mean. There is no probability that any State south of Tennessee will, under any circumstances next year, go Republican. But there is imminent probability that in the Gulf group of solidly Democratic States unprecedented things may happen, that a considerable number of State and county and municipal offices may be won by Republicans and independents, and that there may be built up a party in opposition to the Democratic, a party which in future contests may be at least an effective party of protest.
This proposition swings on three hinges: If Alfred E. Smith is nominated by the Democrats, if an acceptable man is nominated by the Republicans, if the temper of the South remains anything near what it is. Perhaps there is a fourth hinge-if a fair measure of prosperity continues. Two of these hinges, or even one, might be sufficient to hold the proposition up and let it swing.
Those Northerners who so long have plotted the cracking of the South may find what pleasure they can in this situation, but they must be on notice that the satisfaction will not be solely theirs. Many Southerners, even among those who wish to see Governor Smith nominated, contemplate the change not merely with complacency but with positive pleasure. The South, no longer fixed in anything else, is becoming irked by fixity in politics.
That feeling is not entirely new. Its effective development has been hindered by the conviction that nothing would be gained by breaking down the one-party system in the South merely to build up a one-party system in the Nation. And it has always seemed that for the South to cease to be solidly Democratic would merely tend to make the Nation solidly
HAT is above written may have raised the suspicion that there is support of Governor Smith's candidacy in the Gulf group of States. The suspicion is quite well founded. There is much more outspoken support of Governor Smith in these States than in Tennessee and Kentucky. A part of that, too, is due to hard horse sense in practical politics. No matter how many Democrats in the Gulf States might bolt Governor Smith, he could still carry them. There is substantially no Republican Party in any of them. Gulf States Democrats who honestly are for Governor Smith can afford to say so. It
To illustrate. In Tennessee or Kentucky a ten per cent switch would be dangerous and a twenty per cent switch would be disastrous to Democratic success. But an Alabama supporter of Smith said, quite complacently:
"Forty per cent of Alabama Democrats would stay away from the polls. Twenty per cent would vote for the Republican nominee. But the remaining forty per cent could handily carry Alabama for Governor Smith by about 10,000 majority."
Republican, to bring about National po-
ernment sectionally and Nationally, but AND that brings on talk about Ala
another part of it is the honest horse
"Handily," he said. Well, I have sat at the feet of political prophets for a good many years, and I have never known one who could play with so short a figure as 10,000 and be sure that he was safe. I believe, however, that Alabama would be perfectly safe for Governor Smith. This man's disaffection figures are high-a little high, not much; not high at all as to the proportion of Alabama Democrats who would hate to see Governor Smith nominated, but a bit high as to those who would actually refuse to vote for him.
Alabama has always been about as solidly Democratic as any State ever was. It has not quite half a dozen counties in which Republicans frequently win. It has only one county solidly Republican, and that is its one county the main part of whose population recently came from Europe. It has no Catholic population worth mentioning except in Birmingham and Mobile, and the number of Catholics is not large in either of those.
Alabama is, or recently has been, the worst Klan-ridden State in America, with the possible exception of Indiana. I have given some study to both of them at close range, and I can't see that one is worse than the other. Scores of flogging cases are pending in the Alabama courts and, when I was in Birmingham. 1 a young man was shot down, after hav
ing been twice flogged, while crossing a city playground park. How many of these deeds were performed by Klansmen nobody positively knows; but if all of them were, all that is proved is that lawlessness in Alabama followed a sort of Southern genius for personal violence, while in Indiana it followed another sort of genius for money crookedness and petty prying into other folks' affairs.
But the Klan is on the wane in Alabama, as it has been for some time in Indiana. I have never found anywhere a man who would admit membership in the Klan. But I have found in several places some who admitted that they once were members. From one of these in Alabama came information of a Klavern, once numbering among its members. fifty-six Protestant ministers, which now has a total membership less than that number.
This is mentioned because it lays the ground for one of the chief objections raised in Alabama against Governor Smith's nomination.
It may be taken for granted that all Klansmen are opposed to Smith. But many active anti-Klansmen in Alabama are opposed to him because, they say, his nomination would afford the Klan
THE TRADITIONAL SUNNY SOUTH A scene in Biloxi, Mississippi
the opportunity of recruiting its membership, and thus would prolong the State's agony for years and make it necessary to do the job of house-cleaning over again.
nomination. They fear what may happen if he is nominated and defeated.
This fear exists in equal degree in the other States of this group. Indeed, it is even more general in Mississippi than in Alabama. Most of the things that apply to Alabama are accentuated in Mississippi. And I am convinced that, of Mississippi Democrats, a larger proportion would stay at home or vote the Republican ticket. Even this, however, would not even threaten turning the State Republican, for there is even less of a Republican Party, comparatively, in Mississippi than in Alabama.
MONG these objectors to Smith's nomination are not a few who believe that his election would have a beneficial effect. If he could serve four years in the White House, with the Pope still living in Rome and with no cardinal coming from the Vatican to serve as private secretary to the President of the United States, they believe that the bugaboo of a Roman menace would be
laid and that, in a large measure, relig- T
ious prejudice would be dispelled. But they see no such result from Smith's nomination and defeat. They believe that the rejuvenated Klan would then, with some show of reason, claim credit for the defeat, that it might be able to perpetuate itself, and certainly would be able to continue its activities for years on the plea of necessity for Klan organization to prevent Catholic domination.
If the Democrats of Alabama were sure that Smith could be elected, a great many more of them would favor his
HERE is, however, another difference which might serve to even things up, to make the proportion of disaffected Democrats about the same in the two States.
Mississippi is purely a rural State. It has no cities and few manufacturing plants of much size. Most of its voters have the rural Democratic view-point, traditional in the South,
Alabama, on the other hand, is an important industrial State. Its iron mills, for instance, are among the largest in the country. Most of its large for(Continued on page 309)
OU will come out with a lump in your throat from John Galsworthy's "Escape."
You will find yourself asking how it is that individuals feel not at all and act not at all the way they-as societyare supposed to act and feel. You will be conscious, too, of a thrill of admiration for the English conception of fair play and the so-called "gentleman's code." And you may not be at all sure how much of this you owe to John Galsworthy's play and how much to Leslie Howard's fine acting in the leading rôle.
For an English gentleman, escaped from prison-an unfortunate accident, which resulted in conviction for manslaughter has put him there has just given up his gallant attempt to outwit his pursuers: constables, prison guards, farmers. He has sacrificed his chance to make good his escape because his success will mean that the parson of a village church must stultify himself in the eyes of God, and his flock, by telling a lie. And that is not "cricket."
It is not fair play. He has no right to ask the parson to do that. In the village vestry, where the parson has allowed him to hide while his pursuers searched the church, the Englishman steps from behind the vestments and gives himself up.
"It's one's better self, one can't escape," he says.
And Captain Denant's run for freedom is over.
Which sounds trite, and perhaps moralistic in print, but in the theatre is dramatic and compelling enough. In fact, at the end of a heartbreaking hunt over mist-hung moors, down into trout
A Review of the New York Theatre John Galsworthy's "Escape"
streams, out of valleys into the mountains, through inn bedrooms, cottage tains, through inn bedrooms, cottage parlors, gravel pits at the end of all this, Captain Denant seems very much the thoroughbred Galsworthy evidently considers him: the Englishman to whom life is a sporting event, and observing the rules of the game of more value than success or failure.
English all the way through, in its presentation of different types of society and the way each faces the problem of helping or hindering a man hunted by the police, the play itself is built very simply upon a variation of the question: What would you do if a friend of yours committed what you considered an excusable murder?
In Galsworthy's instance, Captain Denant strikes a plain-clothes man in Hyde Park because the officer is unnecessarily nasty in arresting a harmless prostitute who has simply held a conversation with the Captain on a park bench. In falling, the officer hits his head on an iron railing-and Captain Denant is faced with manslaughter. The blow has killed.
As a prisoner, naturally, he feels no moral obligation to repent while society punishes him. Instead, at work in a fog on the prison farm, he toys with the idea of escaping, and, given opportunity, does so. Once away from his guards, in the fog, he runs like a hare, only, however, to run in a circle and encounter one dangerous, breathless situation after another; never knowing how any one will other; never knowing how any one will act, growing always hungrier, more desperate, more fagged, but never losing his sense of humor, never casting overboard his philosophy of fair play.
Through nine exciting, totally different, unexpected scenes; for forty-eight starving, pushed, frightful hours-night and day-the prison siren sounds in the distance behind him like the baying of a great hound. During all this time his pursuers clatter after him, beating the coverts, roping the roads, searching the village. And through it all he staggers and runs, hides and escapes, invariably failing to disguise his identity, and so being forced to depend upon his wits; invariably finding friends in the fair sex and enemies in the stolid, unimaginative middle class; but always keeping his head up and his nerve unshaken—until in the end his own sense of honor defeats him and he surrenders in the village vestry.
This is the instance Galsworthy presents. It is manslaughter, not murder, to be sure. And the people of the play are not friends of the Captain's; they merely know the facts in his case through the newspapers. But the question is really the same. Captain Denant, as becomes a proper hero, enlists your sentimental sympathy because he is in reality a victim of circumstances, because he fought for the country which now punishes him, because he is a Sir Galahad of the playing fields of Eton, because he is of an excellent wit and polish, and because he represents intelligence and good breeding persecuted by stupidity and officialdom.
Because of all this, we sympathize with him and identify ourselves with him. Which makes of the play a special instance, and one which it is not quite fair for us to use in pointing a moral, or drawing a philosophical conclusion, or
answering a question! The fact remains nevertheless that Mr. Galsworthy has written an excellent play, about a particularly engaging gentleman in a perfect devil of a situation. It is fair to call it a romantic version of "Justice," done technically in the "Emperor Jones" manner, with episodic scenes, full of keen, truthful observation and witty, human dialogue, written by a sensitive, artistic man who has an excellent perception of theatre values and a real knowledge of the dramatist's art. Though strung upon a thin thread and never striking very deep, it is nevertheless the most satisfying play upon Broadway. F. R. B.
What Mississippi and Alabama Think of Al Smith
(Continued from page 307)
tunes have been made in manufacturing plants, and most of its ambitious younger men expect to make their fortunes in those plants.
Among these men there is a feeling of distrust of Governor Smith, a feeling that he is too much the traditional Democrat, that he would be disposed to throw the tariff completely into the discard. They are Democrats, but they are not free-trade or extremely lowtariff Democrats. They believe that almost any Democrat who might be elected President would act in accord with their view, but they fear that Governor Smith would not.
I do not know how long these men will stay in the Democratic Party. I believe many of them would bolt any other nominee as readily as they would bolt Smith if the tariff should be made the paramount issue of the campaign.
All of these things are elements in the cpposition to Governor Smith, but all of them are of comparatively minor proportions. The big objections are that he is wet, and that he is a Catholic, or un-American, or provincial, or whatever name the particular individual chooses to call his objection by. There is somewhat less objection to him here on the basis of his wet record than there is in the two States north, but there is probably somewhat more religious feeling against him.
'XCEPT in the northern ends of the two States, it is difficult to get the sort of survey here that I got in Tennessee and Kentucky. The men working in the fields of the plantations are mainly Negroes, who do not vote. And the country stores are mainly plantation or company stores, about which the hangers-on are not typical voters.
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Generally speaking, however, it is hard to find much Smith sentiment among Alabamans and Mississippians whose only interest in politics is to vote. Most of his supporters are men who expect from politics some more direct personal benefit than good government. But by no means all the men whose interest in politics is personal are for Governor Smith,
Those whose eyes are on Federal jobs -I mean the eminently "practical" kind, for whom the job is the main thing are inclined to favor Smith because they think he would be more likely to win than would any other Democrat. But the eminently practical politician whose eye is on the local job is likely to be opposed to Smith because his nomination might so upset things that the local jobs would go to Republicans. They say that in selecting a nominee for the Presidency the party must consider the interests of the numerous men who will be on the ticket with him in State and county contests. They see insuperable difficulties in making the welkin ring for a wet for President and for drys for the local offices. And Alabama and Mississippi are overwhelmingly dry in their local affairs.
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