The Dim-Post

July 22, 2016

Another exercise in historical myth outsourcing

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:04 pm

Patrick Gower’s stern declaration that Donald Trump should resign reminded me of a legend I’ve heard a few times about a regional New Zealand newspaper who used to regularly lecture world leaders in its editorials. ‘The Gisborne Herald has warned Premier Khrushchev many times in these pages . . .’ sort of thing. Only I don’t think it was the Gisborne Herald. Does anyone know if there’s any truth in the legend?

Update: Tinakori in the comments reckons it was the Grey River Argus who wrote something like ‘We have warned the Kaiser . . .’ There’s a front page from 1914 here. Look at all the sponsored content!

Another update: Apparently it was the Grey River Argus but ‘We have repeatedly warned the Czar . . .’


  1. It was the Grey River Argus, I think. And it began something like, “We have warned the Kaiser……..”

    Comment by Tinakori — July 22, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

  2. Every country has a story like this about a small paper. Argus story apocryphal. Origin seems to be the Skibbereen Eagle in Ireland, which was “keeping an eye on Russia”.

    Comment by Kev — July 22, 2016 @ 1:11 pm

  3. The Tsar, I think. 1880s Russian scare.

    Comment by robhosking — July 22, 2016 @ 1:18 pm

  4. Thanks!

    Comment by danylmc — July 22, 2016 @ 1:19 pm

  5. I think it may be apocryphal though.

    Comment by robhosking — July 22, 2016 @ 1:27 pm

  6. I’m pretty certain I remember a scolding editorial in the Dominion (as it was then) around the time of the Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy about 10 years ago or so. But I can’t now be certain who got said scolding: some international entity though.

    Comment by D'Esterre — July 22, 2016 @ 2:35 pm

  7. Hamish Keith claims it was the Kaiser:

    In 1913 or thereabouts, the editor of a West Coast newspaper famously began a leading article with a stern announcement. “We have warned the Kaiser,” he wrote, “and we warn him again.” Clearly, Kaiser William II was not listening, and went ahead and plunged Europe into the bloodbath of World War I anyway

    But then again, this SMH article suggests such stories are legion and likely apocryphal:

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — July 22, 2016 @ 3:13 pm

  8. I wonder if Paddy Gower would respond to stern declarations that, for the good of the country, he beheads Duncan Garner then commits suppuku in the Press Gallery.

    Comment by Gregor W — July 22, 2016 @ 4:06 pm

  9. I wonder if Paddy Gower would respond to stern declarations that, for the good of the country, he beheads Duncan Garner then commits suppuku in the Press Gallery.

    There’s only one way to find out, do we crowd fund the Katana?

    Comment by Cliff Clavin — July 22, 2016 @ 5:13 pm

  10. RNZ Mediawatch covered this in depth recently. (Couple of years ago?) Audio should be online, but I’m too lazy to look it up for you, sorry.

    Comment by David — July 22, 2016 @ 5:19 pm

  11. I have my doubts about this story. I have, however, found an editorial from the Tablet in 1905 which begins:

    “The ‘ Skibbereen Eagle ‘ once warned the Tsar of Russia that it had got its piercing eye upon him. And now the ‘ Grey River Argus ‘ has gone and done likewise for the King of Spain— but without the friendly warning. It has got one of its cold Grey eyes upon Alfonso, and clapped him under the microscope, and searched him with its X-ray gaze, and found him, on the whole, a rather sorry specimen of a monarch. Alfonso does not (so we are told) ‘ take a tolerant view of Protestantism.’ But what is the evidence for this statement ? The ‘ Argus,’ for all its hundred eyes, saith not.”

    In fact the Tablet seems to have thought this a rather good joke, as their editorials mention it about a dozen times between 1894 and 1919, each time attributed to the “Skibbereen Eagle.” These are the only references on Papers Past that I can find containing the phrase “warned the tsar/czar/kaiser.”

    This suggests to me that a) such stories about provincial papers were already hackneyed at the turn of the last century, and b) the Grey River Argus probably did not have undue confidence in its own influence. It may be because of the gentle malice of the Tablet editors that this story has attached itself to that publication.

    There’s more about the history of the Skibbereen Eagle here:

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — July 22, 2016 @ 11:27 pm

  12. Mediawatch discussion here (at about 9 mins in):

    As others have noted, this seems to be an urban myth as far as New Zealand and Australian newspapers are concerned, but drawing inspiration from the Skibbereen Eagle story.

    Comment by Ewan — July 23, 2016 @ 12:08 am

  13. And what, pray, was the ultimate fate of the Tsar and Kaiser ?

    Perhaps World leaders might start to take the people of Greymouth, Reefton and Westport just a little more seriously in the future ?

    Comment by swordfish — July 23, 2016 @ 12:29 am

  14. God, I love Papers Past.

    Comment by Ovid — July 23, 2016 @ 12:33 am

  15. I’m told Media Watch did something on this a wee while back. They found it isn’t true.

    Comment by Rob Hosking — July 25, 2016 @ 8:40 am

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