I was challenged in a comment yesterday about my use of the term, muckraker. Historically, the term was used by President T. Roosevelt in a speech he gave saying, There are, in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life.. The term muckraking therefore meant investigative or watchdog journalism.
Some of America’s early muckrakers were Lincoln Steffens ,Tweed Days in St. Louis– as he uncovered political corruption in the city; Upton Sinclair, The Jungle– an expose’ of the meatpacking industry; Ray S. Baker, Right to Work– exposed the dangers of coal mining; Ida Tarbell, The Rise of the Standard Oil Company– disclosed the workings of unbound industrial giants; Gustavus Myers published three volumes on the history of family wealth in the United States as well as the famous book, The History of Tammany Hall; Jacob Riis shined a spotlight on urban slums in, How the Other Half Lives; John Spargo was the author of, The Bitter Cry of Children– an investigation into child labor; Burton J. Hendrick wrote an article in McClure’s titled, “The Story of Life Insurance.”
Interesting topics that seemingly never seem to fade away. Take Hendrick’s unmasking of the Insurance business, for example. Mitt Romney tells his audiences at every speech that on ‘day one’ he will eliminate the Affordable Care Act- a generous nod to today’s insurance companies. Myers expose’ of wealth in America in 1914 seems new again as we talk of the one-percenters. Baker’s Right to Work ought to ring an alarm bell today as the GOP works hard to eliminate regulations that insure worker safety as well as the safety of the public. Ida Tarbell would roll over in her grave if she knew how corporate America has grown and spread its tentacles into all facets of our government. As would Jacob Riis if he knew that slums were still part of the American cultural scene here in 2012.