Advertising via lynching

Adelaide, March 1929

This article skillfully toys with the readers’ expectations of the newsworthy and their possible disappointment, a game which starts with the sensationalistic title.

In Adelaide, Ross encounters a mob of people staring at a lynching, which turns out to be  a publicity stunt for a performance in a nearby theater. As the events Ross describes are not very newsworthy in themselves, this tale really is in the telling. Ross positions himself as a foreign observer, not sure how cultured Adelaide’s citizens really are. First he suspects them of having the rough lynching habits of their settler forebears, then he observes their “Australian naiveté” when the announced lynching is revealed to be the crass advertising ploy of a variety artist. (They turn out to be more polite than Ross himself, not daring to use his short-cut through a cafe to get quicker to the artist’s theater performance.)

The latter part fits into broader claims Ross makes in his writing about Australia, which anticipates  an overcultured, Americanized civilization that is eventually to come to Europe. But, crucially, Ross positions himself and his readership as part of the masses being tricked, standing “shocked between waiting people” and expressing slight disappointment when the hanging is a hoax. More importantly, he performs his own con on the readers with the article’s title: “A man is hanged in broad daylight”. Is the artist’s publicity stunt thus equated with Ross’s own journalistic writing in Ullstein’s newspaper Tempo?

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. Ein Mann wird auf offener Straße erhängt. Australische Naivität. 1929 May 15; Tempo; 2 (111); 2.

Topic: Profession: reporter
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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