Puck magazine (1871-1918), the well-known political humor magazine, was at its height under original founder and creative director cartoonist Joseph Keppler. Here is a February 23rd, 1881 Keppler political cartoon depicting Jay Gould, the telegraph monopolist, and Cornelius Vanderbilt the railroad baron.
The point of the cartoon is the way those two Robber Barons – allied with like-minded newspaper tycoons – abused their wealth and political influence to bind the United States (represented here by Uncle Sam) to their will.
Joseph Keppler was outraged at the power so unethically wielded by such figures to cloak themselves in righteous, philanthropic public images while in reality they – in Keppler’s words – clutched “the United States and all its institutions by the throat.”
This is similar to the way the Silicon Valley and Social Media Robber Barons of today cloak themselves in “socially conscious” public images while in reality clutching the United States and all its institutions by the throat.
The Robber Barons criticized by Puck magazine exerted their ugly influence on behalf of right-wing politicians. The Robber Barons of the 21st Century tend to exert their ugly influence on behalf of left-wing politicians. The end results are equally totalitarian. Continue reading