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Finest Hour 152

FINEST HOUR 152, AUTUMN 2011

BY ERICA L. CHENOWETH

Ms. Chenoweth is a science educator and historian for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and an accomplished musician, who earned a B.M. from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a B.S. in Natural Sciences from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She assisted on the forthcoming ISI Books edition of Great Contemporaries. We thank Dale Vargas and Harrow School for permission to publish Churchill's play script

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Finest Hour 152

By Daniel N. Myers

Churchill knew how to use the media to his best advantage. Reticent to grant interviews, he preferred to make news through his tongue and his pen. Whether writing articles early in his career, or books later, or merely striding through history, Churchill recognized that media attention would further his career and his ultimate goals, personal and international.

In May 1913, while First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill sailed for eight months on the Admiralty yacht Enchantress, visiting every important ship of the British fleet and "learning all he could about his 'trade.'" Ever the thorn in a politician's side, Punch published a cartoon showing Churchill, puffing a cigar and reclining in a deck chair next to Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, who accompanied him on part of his journey, reading a newspaper.

Churchill asks Asquith, "Any home news?" The PM responds, "How can there be with you here?"1 Punch's cartoon typifies the Churchill we know from history: prominent not only in the news of the day, he often made the news itself. And news, whether the writing or the publishing of it, figured prominently in the Churchill story from his earliest days.

"No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for money"

When Churchill sailed to Cuba shortly after graduating in 1895 from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, he carried with him his first commission as a journalist from the British Daily Graphic to report the revolt against Spanish rule in Cuba. En route he spent several days in New York City as the guest of his mother's friend, the well known Irish-American lawyer-politician Bourke Cockran.

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ACTION THIS DAY: FINEST HOUR 152, AUTUMN 2011

BY MICHAEL MCMENAMIN

125-100-75-50 YEARS AGO

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AROUND AND ABOUT: FINEST HOUR 152, AUTUMN 2011

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Finest Hour 152

By Richard M. Langworth  

In keeping with the theme of the March Churchill Conference in Charleston, South Carolina, we assembled this issue around Churchill and the Media, introduced by Daniel Myers. A conference paper by Allen Packwood explains how young Winston used the press to make a name for himself.

Warren Kimball's and Admiral Thomson's account of Churchill and the delicate issue of censorship reminds us that the need for qualified secrecy never changes. Today's contentions over the Wiki-leaks scandal, and the all-too-public comments by leaders on the Bin Laden assassination, might be fewer if the states of war, from Korea to Libya, had actually been declared, as in olden time. Perhaps Ministers or Secretaries of Defense should have kept their original titles as Ministers or Secretaries of War, as politically incorrect as war is in America that would leave "Defense" as a more agreeable and appropriate name for the Department of Homeland Security.

"Mr. [Joseph] Chamberlain loves the working man," Churchill cracked in 1905—"He loves to see him work."1 We might say Mr. Churchill loved the media—he loved to see them wriggle, trying to extract from him one single word on actual policies. Read the transcripts of press conferences during Churchill's Washington visits in 1941 and 1943, and our Wit & Wisdom department, for dealings with the press that are a model for today's politicians.

"The Curious Case of William Griffin" is an exception to Churchill's normal media experience. He found it quite impossible to handle Griffin, who sued him for a million dollars. My account, and Michael McMenamin's exception, may produce disagreement, which is what Michael and I hope. "Nothing in the rules or intercourse of the Club shall interfere with the rancour and asperity of party politics."2

Of course the press in his time—then almost entirely newspapers—was much more quiescent, respectful and undemanding than the gigabyted, internetted, hungry, biased and jaded 24/7 media of 2011. You may ponder how Churchill would handle today's media, nurtured in the Grievance Culture, disillusioned by assassinations, wars, natural disasters, presidential and ministerial upheavals, and terrorist attacks on innocents. Well you might.

When I grew up, in the distant Middle Ages, none of these events was seriously conceivable. Perhaps the loss of innocence and the disillusionment that comes with age is a recurring process. Churchill had similar regrets when he wrote of his own youth in the Victorian age, "when the strength of our country seemed firmly set, when its position in trade and on the seas was unrivalled, and when the realization of the greatness of our Empire and of our duty to preserve it was ever growing stronger." The "dominant forces" in those days "were very sure of themselves and of their doctrines. They thought that they could teach the world the art of government, and the science of economics....Very different is the aspect of these anxious and dubious times."3

Martin Gilbert's "Churchill and Eugenics" was written to destroy the myth that an "ashamed" Randolph Churchill covered up his father's embarrassing ideas. Some critics use the issue to place Churchill on the Holocaust level, alongside Hitler, who not only rounded up the feeble- minded but put many of them to death. Like most lies, this one involves a kernel of truth: Churchill in the early 1900s did reflect a conventional belief of his time, that the "feeble-minded" should not be allowed to reproduce. But Randolph never covered it up; he simply never saw the documents.

In "Churchill and Sterilisation" (FH 131), Paul Addison wrote: "Churchill's intentions were benign, but he was blundering into sensitive areas of civil liberty." And yet, Addison continued, "It is rare to discover in the archives the reflections of a politician on the nature of man. Churchill's belief in the innate virtue of the great majority of human beings was part and parcel of an optimism he often expressed before the First World War. In his view, sterilisa- tion was a libertarian measure intended to free unfortunate individuals from incarceration." 

Endnotes 

1. Herbert Vivian in Pall Mall, April 1905, quoted in Richard M. Langworth, Churchill By Himself (New York: Public Affairs, London: Ebury Press 2008, reprinted 2010), 329.
2. Rule 12 of The Other Club, the political dining club founded by Churchill and F.E. Smith, Lord Birkenhead, in 1911.
3. Winston S. Churchill, My Early Life (London: Thornton Butterworth, 1930), 9-10


CHURCHILL QUIZ: FINEST HOUR 152, AUTUMN 2011

BY JAMES LANCASTER

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FINEST HOUR 152, AUTUMN 2011

BY WARREN F. KIMBALL

Professor Kimball, author of several important books on the two leaders in World War II, is a senior editor of Finest Hour. The author thanks Allen Packwood, director, Churchill Archives Centre; and Bob Clark, super-archivist at the Roosevelt Library, for kind assistance in research. This paper was first delivered at the 27th International Churchill Conference in Charleston, South Carolina, in March 2011.

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DATELINES: FINEST HOUR 152, AUTUMN 2011

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THE VALIANT YEARS AVAILABLE AGAIN 


BAYONNE, N.J. AUGUST 8TH— Larry Kryske notifies us that Jack LeVien's famous 26-episode documentary of Churchill in World War II, "The Valiant Years," has been remastered in a 7-disk DVD, offered for $44.49 from MediaOutlet.com. It can be ordered here.  Although hagiographic, LeVien's epic is widely admired. The film footage is simply fantastic, providing a real insight into Churchill and the major war of the last century. The narrator is Richard Burton, who despised Churchill politically, but a job's a job. Burton's dislike is not apparent in his narrative—nor was it in his later role as WSC in the original "Gathering Storm" production.


CHURCHILLFLORA


LONDON, JULY 14TH— The second breed of hybrid tea rose named for Sir Winston, developed by Churchill College to mark its 50th-anniversary last year, was planted in the garden at Ten Downing Street by Prime Minister David Cameron. The first "Rose Sir Winston Churchill," a pinkish orange variety with strong fragrance which blooms throughout the year, was developed in 1955 by Alexander Dickson III. The new Churchill rose, developed for Churchill College by Peter Beales Roses in Norfolk, a peach-coloured variety, debuted this year at the Chelsea Flower Show.

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DESPATCH BOX: FINEST HOUR 152, AUTUMN 2011

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FINEST HOUR 152, AUTUMN 2011

BY MICHAEL MCMENAMIN

Mr. McMenamin, FH contributor, novelist, attorney and writer for Reason and other journals, assisted with research but draws a different conclusion.

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