Mark Twain Weighs In On Journalism and Betrayal From Beyond the Grave

mark-twain-white-hair07082010.jpgPBS has gotten its hands on a previously unpublished essay by noted steamboat pilot and father of American fiction Mark Twain, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Shortly after “The Runaway General” resulted in the firing of Stanley McChrystal, the treachery of a JournoList member resulted in the resignation of ex-Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel, and the treachery of Twitter did in CNN’s Octavia Nasr, Twain has ended years of death-induced silence to grant us a treatise on the stupidity and evil of the journalistic interview.

“No one likes to be interviewed, and yet no one likes to say no; for interviewers are courteous and gentle-mannered, even when they come to destroy,” opines the long-deceased satirist.

At a time when trust has ended and we hate each other because of innovations in communication, Twain’s wise words remind us: Do not broadcast everything you believe; be wary of what you read and, above all, never trust a reporter. 😉

People who find fault with the interviewer, do it because they do not reflect that he is but a cyclone, after all, though disguised in the image of God, like the rest of us; that he is not conscious of harm even when he is dusting a continent with your remains, but only thinks he is making things pleasant for you; and that therefore the just way to judge him is by his intentions, not his works.

The Interview was not a happy invention. It is perhaps the poorest of all ways of getting at what is in a man. In the first place, the interviewer is the reverse of an inspiration, because you are afraid of him. You know by experience that there is no choice between these disasters.

Check out the whole thing, with the scanned handwritten pages, over at PBS.