November 27 1860: Fake News

In November 1860 post election, rumors swarmed throughout the nation.  When we study history we must always bear in mind that the people at the time lack the knowledge that we possess as to not only the outcome of events, but detailed knowledge of the events, often obscured at the time by wild rumors, rumors that sometimes were reported as fact at the time.   Fake news is by no means a 21rst century invention. The Richmond  Dispatch on November 27 attempted to debunk some current rumors from a distinctly Southern viewpoint of course:

The Telegraph and the South

The control which some people have over the telegraphic news for the press enables them sometimes to put forth rumors in a form suitable to their own sentiments and prejudicial to Southern people. When the first vague telegraphic account of Montgomery’s marauding on the Kansas border appeared, it represented that a number of armed pro-slavery men were assembling on the Missouri frontier, and that a considerable body of antislavery men were approaching on the Kansas side, and that bloody doings were anticipated. It was evidently the purpose to impart the idea that the pro-slavery men were giving a provocation that was to bring on “bloody doings.” When the truth does manifest itself in its slow pursuit of the falsehood, there is no such thing as an assemblage of armed pro-slavery men, and the story settles down into the simple statement that the outlaw Montgomery is driving the United States officers out of Kansas Territory, and carrying on just such a war on people and towns as John Brown carried on, but with a larger force than Old Ossawaitomie ever commanded. This attempt to throw the onus of the outrages of Northern emissaries upon the people of the South, is similar to the attempts during the Kansas troubles to saddle the South with the provocation.

We have now another rumor from Washington, by telegraph, of a kindred character. This states that “Letters have been received here (Washington) from many points at the South, stating that the Minute Men were secretly organizing to rally a force at Washington on the 4th of March next, to attack the ‘Wide-A wakes,’ and by a general row to prevent the inauguration of Lincoln.” Does anybody at the South believe a word of this ! Mr. Lincoln will not be disturbed by any such cause. The “Wide-Awakes” will have doubtless a prominent position, and possibly it may be to Mr. L’s taste to be escorted by a hand of men, who, to insult the South, have adopted the name of John Brown’s cut throats, robbers and marauders. Certainly, no body of men from the South will intervene to deprive the President elect of the honor and gratification of such an escort. The scene of the possession of the Capitol by such a multitude, will hardly add anything to the mortification and indignation of Southern people.

Published in: on November 27, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 27 1860: Fake News  
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