An Introduction by T. Herman Zweibel Publisher Emeritus
Any collection that contains the greatest news-writing of the epoch should be approached with humility, gravity, and not a little awe. How-ever, having built The Onion
news-paper up from a mere market-gazette into the finest source of printed news-matter in our Republic, I have no illusions concerning the so-called romance of journalism. The collection you are holding is a sham, a fraud, and a waste of your hard-earned money. This material was intended to sell advertising space when it first ran, and now that it has served its purpose and is no longer relevant, you lot have paid for something that was initially free!
But this collection also fills my coffers with money, so I cannot object too strenuously to its printing. It also illustrates a point I often tried to make in my Publisher's Address columns in The Onion
news-paper: I cannot believe the use-less things upon which you rabble will spend your precious few coppers! Wax-cylinder-recordings of the minstrel-men who sing while dressed like Negroes. Postcards of the French persuasion illustrated with daguerreotypes of ladies who are, against all common decency, from France. The medical quackery that is Mr. Salk's so-called "polio vaccine." I suppose, all things being equal, that you could do worse than to spend your meager funds on the journalistic pearls writ herein.
Which brings to mind a question often posed to me: Why do I permit people to be taught to read? After all, being a news-paper-man, I am in a better position than most to observe the results of wide-spread literacy, and I long ago concluded that letting the man on the street know what is going on in the world does far more harm than good. Is it wise to work the commoners into a lather by making them literate? Many still living remember how close this continent came to bloody, flaming destruction just a few years past, when it seemed that every brick-layer and ditch-digger would learn letters and ciphers at the iron-shod feet of that fulminating sow Laura Ingalls Wilder. Only the extreme measures of blinding her sister and putting her house to the torch were finally enough to stop that mad-woman's crusade.
Yet the damage had been done, and publishers such as myself were forced to re-work our papers. What were once organs of information serving the ruling elite now cater to a public that seems to think itself possessed of a right to know the day-to-day goings-on of the world. Thankfully, however, no matter how strenuously these squealing puddings demand to be informed, their actual desire to be informed is as slight as ever. Ruth-less plutocrats such as myself have slept much easier since deducing that the average citizen will not stir an inch to remove his rectum from the ream, so long as he is provided with sporting-pages, Sunday funnies, and gigantic, quivering bosoms somewhere above the front-page fold.
Yes, I once repented me of my news-paper-man's trade. But now, with more printed matter around than ever, I realize that my repentance was as silly and point-less as repentance always is. Now, knowing full well the common-man's taste for minstrelsy and penny-dreadful dramas, I do not fear to place the gems of daily reportage into general circulation. Instead, I took a lesson from the Mother church: By deluging you, the reader, with all manner of conflicting tripe along with a few small grains of truth, I have distracted you into settling for a much more worth-less and hope-less world than you might otherwise. This, of course, pays great dividends, as it seems to cause you to run about stabbing and looting and raping and burning, making my paper more enjoyable and exciting to read, which in turn increases sales to those like yourself.
Therefore, you will be proud to learn, you are partially responsible for what you will find in these pages as you rediscover the manifold joys and horrors of Onion
issues past. Not so responsible as am I, of course, because you are but sheep and I a stone-hearted millionaire and, yes, a great employer of shepherds.
Now leave me alone!
Excerpted from Dispatches from the Tenth Circle by Robert Siegel and The Onion. Copyright © 2001 by Robert Siegel and the Staff of The Onion. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.