The Press Gang

Henry Lawson, 1892

      Poets talk of "darker ages", of the reign of Tyranny,
      Of the days before the toilers had the name of being free.
      Poets say the world is rolling through the "regions of the dawn",
      And they think it is a blessing that the ancient times are gone;
      But I rather think this planet must have been a better place
      When the sons of Greed were honest, and the "tyrant" showed his face;
      He thought that he was in the right, and he, at least, was brave,
      And the lord was called the master, and the slave was called a slave.

      But the lord degenerated as his arm (through vice) grew weak;
      He's a hypocrite and liar, and a coward, and a sneak;
      He will pay the "hired assassin" to protect his cherished gold,
      But he will not face the music as he used to do of old —
      As of old, when rebels threatened to attack his precious hoard,
      And he marched with his retainers — argued matters with his sword —
      He dare not draw it now and help to raise the "battle din",
      For his castles and his acres and his concubines and tin.

      Now the wealthy have discovered that the pen's the strongest tool,
      So they fight in lying "leaders" to preserve the ancient rule;
      Or they organise, from members of the journalistic trade,
      A newer and a finer kind of "Shoot-'Em-Down" Brigade.
      Now they know the wrong their fathers called the "right divine" must die,
      And they know that truth would damn them, so they lie, of course, they lie;
      They LIE until they think it truth, they lie until it ends
      In the wealthy loafers posing as the "working people's friends".

      We're commencing with digression, you will think; but what we say
      Leads us on to "lying leaders" in the papers of today:
      And before we start exposing, we would like to give a hint
      To those who have a great respect for what they see in print.
      The journalist is mortal — he must earn his bite and sup,
      And the comps are earning tucker while they set his copy up;
      There's a sort of halo round us, and, perhaps, you'll think it queer,
      That the present writer's rhyming for his bread and cheese — and beer.
      (And here we might apologise, because our voice is rough —
      You cannot wait for grammar when you're rhyming for the "stuff".)

      The majority of papers, I am very much afraid,
      Only go to make a modern kind of "Lay-'Em-Out" Brigade;
      And I think the Southern papers, to the outskirts of the bush,
      Mostly crawl beneath the fingers of the "Bunkum Boodle" push.
      There are brilliant exceptions, which, of course, we mustn't miss;
      There are straight and honest papers (cast your optic over this);
      But I think the vast majority of any country's rags
      Have to pander to the wealthy, being ruled by money-bags.

      Now we'll take the case of "Sweater", and suppose that he has tin,
      And plenty influence behind the Daily Rake-It-In.
      Now, suppose the men at Sweater's should be treated very bad,
      While the Rake-It--In is subsidised by Sweater's column ad.,
      Would the rag support the workmen if they struck in Sweater's shop?
      Would the rag come down on Sweater? (Catch a flea upon the hop!)
      Yet a lot of constant readers would declare the strike a sin,
      Being influenced by leaders in the Daily Rake-It-In.

      And a syndicate of papers, scattered broadcast thro' the lands,
      How can they support the workman, or the right that he demands,
      When the syndicate employs him, and the crawling, sneaking rags
      Represent the fat employers, represent the money-bags?
      Yet the wooden-headed reader blames the journalistic tribe,
      While the family for tucker is depending on the scribe;
      Like the workman he's a victim of the worshippers of pelf,
      And his bed is very stony — be a journalist yourself.

      If a bunkum boodle paper told the truth, it soon would die,
      For it lies to live — you understand — because it lives to lie.
      And it sinks to paltry lying; here's an instance, if you like:
      Let the workmen hold a meeting that's in favour of a strike,
      And the thousands who attended — as was known beyond a doubt —
      Will appear in print as hundreds when the Rake-It-In comes out.
      I've respect for people's feelings, and I only want to hint
      That a lot of paper-owners tell the damnedest lies in print.

      Now, a Tory reads a leader in the paper of his heart,
      And he thinks the leader-writer stings the "agitator" smart;
      While a "Son of Light" who's reading in the Dawn of Liberty
      Thinks if all were like his writer this old world would soon be free.
      Yet, perhaps — as often happens in the world of pen and ink —
      Both the leaders emanated from a solitary "think",
      Written by a single writer for his bread and cheese and "rint".
      Yet a lot of knowing people put unbounded faith in print.

      But you mustn't blame the writer; he must live, you understand;
      P'r'aps he'd yell as loud for freedom as the reddest in the land;
      He perhaps, when young and frisky, raves of Liberty and Truth,
      But he learns that empty stomachs rather quench the fires of youth.
      If they offered him a billet on an anti-progress rag,
      Would he say, "I am no liar. I would rather hump my swag!"
      Would he sing a song of freedom as he passed the billet by?
      No! I rather think the verdure ain't apparent in his eye.

      He has got to slave for Mammon same as lumpers have to do,
      And I think he'd take the billet — and I think you'd take it too;
      You would slobber on her Gracious, you would bless the Prince of Wales,
      You would say that agitators should be hung or put in gaols;
      You would damn the common people in the leader every time,
      And the strength of England's greatness would be running thro' your rhyme.
      You would mingle with the Tory; seek the smiles of jewelled dears,
      Till a Civil Service billet buttered your declining years.

      Yet a mighty lot of people think that "Truth" is never ripe,
      Till a sheet of common paper has been jammed agin the type;
      They'd be very much astonished, to discover that they knew
      just as much as many writers on the Bunkum Boodle do.
      When you read a "business paper", you must bear in mind, my lad,
      That the truth will never answer to support a cause that's bad.

      The Truth