Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley

... was a fictional Chicago bartender at the turn of the (previous) century, when "the mass media" consisted of daily newspapers--the height of communication technology, with information gathered by telegraph, set in type by machine, printed by high-speed steam-powered presses, and delivered by an army of newsboys shouting "Extra!"

  As a bartender, Dooley was the next line of "mass communication": He was a combination broadcaster and editorial commentator, reading the headlines and arguing about the news of the day with the patrons of his tavern. (He "spoke" in Dunne's typographical equivalent of a stage-Irish brogue.)

  How important was the newspaper to the people of the 1890s, back before radio, television and the Internet?

  One day Mr.Dooley summarized the role of the newspaper in a column titled "On Newspaper Publicity," including the following passage:

Th' newspaper does ivrything for us.

It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks,

commands th' milishy,

controls th' legislachure,

baptizes th' young,

marries th' foolish,

comforts th' afflicted,

afflicts th' comfortable,

buries th' dead,

an' roasts thim afterward.

If the "comforts..." passage in that quotation sounds famiiar, it may be because you heard it spoken by a different Irishman at the movies (ironically, the Irish actor is playing a character generally agreed to be based on a German-American from Baltimore, H.L. Mencken). Or perhaps you saw it in one of many other places, from the page to the pulpit. If you find an earlier source of a "newspapers comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" quote (that is, before 1900), please let me know! My address is on my home page

--for the full text, see pages 227-231 in
Mr. Dooley at his Best
by F.P. Dunne;
ed. by Elmer Ellis,
Anchor Books, 1969 (selections from one of Dunne's earlier anthologies)

Also available as Newspaper Publicity in Observations by Mr. Dooley (originally published in 1902 as an anthology of Dunne's newspaper columns), republished in digital form at Project Gutenberg.


Web-published by bob stepno, for "Digital Culture," October 2000, plus a few links over the years.
(Note: Anyone named Dunne or Kelly probably would recognize the source of inspiration for Dooley's list.)