Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 11  Num. 19
                     ("Quid coniuratio est?")


Between 1870 and 1880, consequent to the "Crime of 1873" (abandonment of the 1792 silver standard; see CN 11.07), the numbers of homeless had doubled in the U.S. Josiah Flynt, born in 1869, grew up in those times. Josiah, from a well-off family, nonetheless spent his youth going on "tramps." Josiah, in those hobo times, did not lack companions. The trains and roads swarmed with tramps. After each adventure, Josiah was "wiser than he had been before, and bolder in his dealings with the criminals and tramps who were his companions." (The Muckrakers by Louis Filler. ISBN: 0-8047-2236-6)

Young Josiah called his wanderings "an insatiable longing for The Beyond." He enjoyed meeting people "as they really were when stripped of conventions." Friends later described how Josiah "could take them with him to the slums of a city, then change completely before their eyes merely by shifting his gait, altering the movements of his hands and eyes, and talking rapidly in a strange, unfamiliar [slang] language." (ibid.)

Josiah Flynt's chameleon talent later helped him in two ways: (1) he was able to easily penetrate the "Under World" (his term) and write about it; and (2) when, for example, the New York police didn't like what Flynt wrote about them and threatened to "get" him and "give him the Third Degree," Flynt simply melted away before their eyes.

In his book, The World of Graft (1901), Flynt enriched our language by introducing the argot of the criminal to America; words like "graft" and "underworld" come to us via Flynt. Flynt used his Jekyll & Hyde ability to gain the confidence of the criminal element, and got them to talk openly, from their perspective, on how various U.S. cities really operated. His book passes along what he'd learned.

The World of Graft describes the two key elements in any city: the "Under World" and the "Upper World." When one in the "Under World" got lucky and "made his 'pile,'" he went "up-town" to "put on the ritz" and pretend to be "high class." When the aristocrat, inhabiting the "Upper World," needed money, he'd head "down-town" and scrounge up a "pile" of his own.

Chicago is described by Flynt as an "honest" city, and New York, he says, is a "dishonest" city. In Flynt's nomenclature, this means both cities are corrupt, but Chicago is honest about it. "Reform" comes and goes: "When the present administration finishes its operations in the city, it is the opinion of the Under World that a reform administration will be necessary in order to save something for the next City Hall clique to spend." Regarding then-excitement in another city about various scandals, one of Flynt's sources opined "that the present (1901) excitement in the city concerning corrupt policemen, gambling dens, and disorderly houses, is simply a passing manifestation of public curiosity... the citizens will get tired before long of the chatter about vice, and the town will then settle back into its customary indifference to such matters." (The World of Graft by Josiah Flynt)

Sure enough, that is the way of America: it gets fired up one week, then next week moves on to something else. Last week it was anger at the Internal Revenue Service. This week it's "shock" about videotapes of White House fundraising. Next week it's ________________. Lincoln Steffens, in The Shame of the Cities (1904), takes what Flynt dug up and carries it one step further, into "The Beyond" that young Josiah had been insatiably longing for. Steffens says that our corrupt government IS REPRESENTATIVE OF US:

The defeats and the grafters also represent us... the corruption that shocks us in public affairs we practice ourselves in our private concerns... the bribe we pay to the janitor to prefer our interests to the landlord's is the little brother of the bribe passed to the alderman to sell a city street... The spirit of graft and of lawlessness is the American spirit... the "corruption which breaks out here and there and now and then" is not an occasional offense, but a common practice.

Steffens ends the introduction to his book with a dedication "in all good faith, to the accused -- to all the citizens of all the cities in the United States."

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

For related stories, visit:

       Views expressed do not necessarily  reflect  those
       of Conspiracy Nation, nor of its Editor in Chief.
        I encourage distribution of "Conspiracy Nation."

New mailing list: leave message in the old hollow tree stump.
Want to know more about Whitewater, Oklahoma City bombing, etc? (1) telnet (2) logon as "visitor" (3) go citcom
Aperi os tuum muto, et causis omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt. Aperi os tuum, decerne quod justum est, et judica inopem et pauperem. -- Liber Proverbiorum XXXI: 8-9