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The Pen and the Sword by Michael Foot
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The Pen and the Sword

by Michael Foot

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Anyone bemoaning the declining standards of the British press should be forced to read this book. It is the story of the beginnings of a newspaper industry, with particular reference to Jonathan Swift, its first feared protagonist.

Newspapers grew from pamphlets distributed by people keen to air their prejudices upon the general public and, from the out set, newspapers were little more than a collection of such bias rancour. Nowadays, the fact that a journalist is paid to set out views with which he may not concur for financial reward is accepted: Swift was something of a first in this field: he started out as a Whig supported but, was all too easily lured, by money and the illusion of being an equal in the Tory ranks, into assisting Harley, and then, when his influence waned, St John, to destroy the Duke of Marlborough, for Tory political ends. What has changed in three hundred years?

Michael Foot takes a surprisingly friendly attitude to Swift perhaps because his own political sympathies moved away from the Liberal Party, the modern home of Whig views. Foot treats Swift as a great writer, which he undoubtedly was, but also as a bit of a scallywag, which sells his treachery to former friends a little light, in my humble estimation. A good read, non the less. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Jun 22, 2014 |
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