FDR’s Secret Handshake with the Press

compliant_newsJeff Pelline has an excellent post on his blog today, “Obama-Fox press war doesn’t compare with FDR media feud,” in which he cites Jack Shafer’s commentary in Slate to the effect that FDR’s war against the press was much more relentless and successful than the Obama administration’s recent tepid attacks against Fox News.

In support of Shafer’s point, I would only add this footnote:  the press in FDR’s day so thoroughly buried the story of Roosevelt’s incapacity from polio that most American’s knew nothing about it. FDR achieved this miracle of deception by a “secret handshake with the press,” in the words of Dan Brooker of Grand Central Station.

FDR achieved a compliant media in his day by winning over the press, a personal accomplishment. Modern presidents today usually achieve — or attempt to achieve — a compliant media by managing access to the administration, an institutional accomplishment.

In the following brief BBC interview with Brooker, he shows us the secret platform underneath Grand Central Station, built especially for and used only by FDR as part of his method of concealing his infirmity from the public.

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