It was rough and dirty.
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Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell: A True Story of Violence, Corruption, and the Soul of Surfing
Email Address. Review Posted Online: Oct. Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. Email address:. Please provide an email address. Categories of Interest: Select All. Current Affairs. Historical Fiction. In his prime, Pegler was that and more: He understood his job as a kind of combat, and he recognized his enemies as power and authority.
So Pegler bellowed to throw out the crooked union bosses, and the unions too; throw out the politicians and the tax men and the luxuries their collections paid for; throw out the immigrants; throw out the New Deal and bring back the Old, and the golden age would be ours again. In Pegler elaborated this notion on the front page of the New York World-Telegram , where his column occupied the space usually reserved for breaking news stories. Roosevelt or Honest Hal Ickes, the House Dick of the New Deal …or any of those honorary proletarians who swing towels in that corner of the ring sound off in disrespect of the Old Deal I would appreciate it if somebody would refresh my memory on just what was wrong with it.
Yes, I know, the bankers and speculators and hustlers shoved us a lot of wallpaper stocks and bonds, and everybody was knocked in the creek when the wagon threw a wheel. For a long time when I would hear them say Old Deal in that curl-of-the-lip way I went along, too, feeling that, yes, it certainly was terrible, but let me ask you this: How were you doing back in those terrible days, and if this New Deal is going to be so swell when are those boys going to get through that long windup and let us see what they have got on the ball?
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Not that he thought of it that way. Long before most Americans, rich and poor, began to fancy themselves members of the middle class, Pegler was the real deal; he embodied its contradictions and felt its bruised vanity. Pegler truly believed in his lost republic. Caught in the disorder of the Depression, he lashed out to vindicate the dispossessed man in the middle, the guy who resented the freeloaders and always feared getting played for a chump by his betters. P egler was born to hate. His father, a liar, a brawler, and a drunk to whom Pegler remained devoted throughout his life, loathed the rich just as Westbrook would — even as both eventually prospered as well-paid laborers for William Randolph Hearst.
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A British immigrant, the elder Pegler came of age as a member of the Boomers, a hard drinking, wandering generation of journalists known for their inventive writing and their hatred of their own bosses and managers. Hearst, on the other hand, offered spicy treats, news to consume, stories that offered visceral sensation in place of critical perspective.
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Both approaches operated like machines built to produce particular political results, but at least yellow journalism served up some sauce along with its propaganda. Westbrook loved his dad, and from an early age, he dreamed of taking up the same trade. He got his chance at the Republican convention in Chicago, where his career was born in a burst of disillusionment.
The nineteen-year-old Pegler saw the convention as a gallery of the grotesque. In response TR stormed out to stage his own convention just down the street. Morgan; and Taft, paralyzed by the Republican split, stayed silent. He was standing around on the convention floor, he late recalled, when. As in Arthur Brisbane, the jingoistic crook whose one-sentence paragraphs Hearst himself quoted when he wanted to say something he thought was profound.
If Arthur Pegler invented the Hearst style, Brisbane was its master exploiter, using his front-page column to promote real estate schemes — just the kind of greed that Pegler could neither stomach nor ever stay altogether clear of. If that was the moment that the United States went to smash, you might say Pegler tumbled right after. And when Pegler moved from politics to police court later that year, he remembered the lesson. Pegler spent the next several years bouncing from one newspaper job to another, in Des Moines, St. Louis, Dallas, Denver, and New York.
He traveled to Europe to cover the First World War. But with his awkward social graces, he managed to offend every officer and editor necessary to get him booted out of the press corps.
Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell
Back in the States, though, he found a natural — and lucrative — journalistic niche at the ball park and beside the boxing ring. Pegler had never been an athlete himself, aside from a few clumsy attempts at boxing, so perhaps it was his distance from the experience that allowed him to approach it with his eye on the cash register instead of the ball. Readers looked to his byline as much for his skepticism as for the scores. His editors took notice, and put him on a steady schedule of raises. Pegler was getting rich.
In , Hearst himself came courting, but Pegler was sitting so pretty he could afford to turn down an invitation to San Simeon to discuss contracts with the Old Man. Instead, he made a bigger move, from the sports section to the front page of the flagship Scripps-Howard paper, the New York World-Telegram.
The Spelvins of the world were servants, butlers, messengers, clerks, men-on-the-street, and passersby. Union men, uppity women, swells, bubbleheads, and eventually foreigners, blacks, and Jews all gave Spelvin a stomachache. It is the principle of the thing with George, and moreover, being a native American and a veteran of the last war, he has a rather narrow prejudice against being ordered around by guys who talk like they just got off the boat.
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And so he did, again and again, picking losing fights at every turn. His audience loved him for it.
But Pegler failed to grasp that his readers appreciated his rants because they offered a momentary respite from the trials of their daily lives.
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