Friday, July 9, 2010

Written in 1976

"The cheerful acquiescence of the public in the organized dishonesty of most advertising -- and its purposeful offspring, 'public relations,' with all too few honorable exceptions -- is a symptom of the ethically unsatisfying nature of much of our technological life. To be sure, in earlier generations, it was not unknown for a gullible public to be cozened by sharpers. The medicine show, with its spielers, its snake oil, its guttering torches, its 'free entertainment' -- played upon susceptibilities as old as the art of bartering. But the reach was limited and the swindle did not create manners." --
Paul Horgan, from his essay "Preface to an Unwritten Book" collected in
Of America East & West: Selections from the Writings of Paul Horgan. I have no idea whether or not he is known among contemporary readers -- perhaps in New Mexico he is -- but Horgan wrote two masterpieces of history, one about Archbishop Lamy of Santa Fe and one about the Rio Grande. If one can get past their sheer length and often conspicuous prose style, one finds that these are works of great devotion, essential for understanding America's westward movement.

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