Francis and the Press

An excerpt from Francis where the mule hammers the press.
In my opinion the same things can be said about the media today.


© David Stern III, New York 1946

Eric’s note about the part(s) you are about to read:

Francis, the Second Lieutenant and the Commanding General (CG) just completed a press conference where the CG told the press core, the mule could talk and was responsible for giving the Second Lieutenant important information regarding a host of incidents. The CG ended the conference explaining that the mule told him he would refuse to talk to anyone except the 2nd Louie and he the CG. Of course this puts the CG at the mercy of the press and reduces the Lt. to a state lower than whale do-do.

From the book:

“Well Francis,” I (the 2nd Lt.) said, “you’ve certainly cooked our gooses.”

“Geese,” said Francis.

“I hope you realize,” I said, “that you have just sent your Commanding General and me to an insane asylum for life.”

“Nonsense,” said Francis. “They’ll keep you there just long enough for a good rest. Then the excitement will die and they’ll realize you’re tolerably sane and let you out.”

“You’re smart, aren’t you Francis?” I said bitterly.

The mule didn’t answer me.

I looked around. Some of the correspondents had just entered the room. There were eight of them, a rather nondescript group looking ill-kempt in their badly fitting khakis.

The men wandered over to the mule, stood around looking at the animal.

One of the Associated Pressmen was talking:

“…I tried to figure what the Old Man was up to, but it’s over my head, way over. Speaking to us he seemed sane enough. But they tell me certain types of paranoia give that impression…”

An International Newsman interrupted, “Might be someone took the Old Boy for a sleigh ride, the kid here. It’s been done to CGs before.”

“Doesn’t sound logical to me,” said a New York Times man. “A general in a Theater of this sort is under quite a strain. Climate gets you. And it’s been touch and go with the Japs for a hell of awhile. Me, I’m inclined to the bats-in-the belfry school of thought.”

A second AP man was looking at Francis. “You know,” he said, “one of the wildest aspects of this damned story is that they didn’t pick a better-looking animal.

I saw Francis’ ears begin to rise.

“Sorry-looking beast, isn’t it?” said the United Pressman. “Sort of a four-footed Sad Sack.”

Francis was as stiff as a board.

“Stinks, too,” said the first AP man.

“All mules stink,” said the New York Times man.

Francis was trembling.

“What I can’t understand,” said the International man, “is why they chose a mule for the stunt. Mules, you know, are the stupidest hybrids in existence.”

“Pathetic beasts of burden,” agreed the first AP man.

But not dumb enough to work for a newspaper!” The words cracked out like whip snaps.

As one man the correspondents pivoted.

“Who said that?” asked the AP man.

I did!” Francis was shaking with anger. “You want to make something of it?”

The newspapermen were speechless.

The mule fixed them with a glare. “I have listened to twaddle in my time,” said Francis. “I have heard more than my share of fool remarks! I have tuned in on radio commercials where men try to be funny about laxatives! I have heard the ravings of delirious men on the battlefield! There was a time when I endured the stupidity of half-baked recruits. But, by the tail of my great-aunt Regret who won the Derby, I have never suffered through such disgusting hogwash as you so-called newspapermen are spouting!”

Foreign correspondents are supposedly the most sophisticated of human beings. They have seen everything, heard everything, done everything…twice. To shock them takes some doing.

Francis did it.

All eight of the men stood rooted to the floor, their mouths hanging open like open bomb bays on a B-29.

“Gentlemen of the press! spat Francis. “A hey nonny nonny and a nuts to you!”

“You can talk!” said the AP man in a whisper of awe.

“I hope to kiss a duck I can talk!” said Francis. “You just heard the general say I could talk. But oh no, you gentlemen of the press are too smart. You know everything. You even know about mules. Stink, do I!”

“Maybe we’re nuts?” said the New York Times man.

“No doubt about it,” said Francis.” “A man with sense would never spend his life scrounging for a newspaper. What a stinking profession. And you had the nerve to suggest I stink!”

The dialogue continues – the press want to ask questions and started in. Ultimately it comes to this.

The gentlemen of the press were enthralled. The more Francis insulted them, the more engrossed they became.

The mule was thorough. First he took up the wire associations, pointed out they were corrupt, prejudiced, untrustworthy, and managed by men of little wit and less mental weight.

Then he hopped quickly from magazines to radio to motion pictures.

Francis didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t miss a man in the room. He did a professional job of ripping to threads the entire publicity channels of the world.

Some more banter and finally:

“Why, general,” Francis waved his tail airily, “those fellows are sucker for bunk. If I’d been impressed, they wouldn’t have been. I wasn’t. They were. They went for it the way natives go for Spam. A couple of more sessions, general, and I’ll be the hero of the press.”

The general was looking a Francis with awesome respect.

“Don’t worry, general,” the mule said, “I have everything under control.

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