Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Daily Dissembler, Spring 1902


The Daily Dissembler, Special European Gazette Issue, January 15, 1902

 We make sense of a complicated world so you, dear reader, can enjoy the Gilded Age.




Our Man on the Spot – Ernest Harrington – Reports




Mr. Harrington and his staff.

 As predicted in my last despatch, Europe has erupted into conflict.  Belgium and the Balkans have proved to be the main theatres of war.  

  The suggestion of less experienced, dilettante correspondents that a British force massing in Wales was poised to leap across the Channel proved far-fetched – that was a mere sideshow, easily rebuffed by the French.  The British fleet in the English Channel did have an effect though.  It resulted in the recall of the French fleet and prompted the Germans to march into Belgium ‘to keep the peace’.  Some will assume that England has worked hand-in-glove with the Germans or other powers.  Some will assume that those foolish reporters who trumpeted news of a cross-Channel invasion were victims of a clever bluff aimed at distracting the world’s eye from the Scandinavian Question.

 No less puzzling is what is happening in Southern Europe.  Russia and Turkey have long fought over the Crimea, but on this occasion they seemed to have missed each other completely!  Will either or both drive on into each other’s territory, or will they re-coup?  And what of Austria and Italy?  Either could prove to be the deciding ally in an Russo-Turkish War, but at what price?  Of the two, Austria may seems the weakest, but she is in the better position to wrest concessions from a suitor.

 Whatever happens, be assured that Your Man on the Spot – Ernest Harrington – will report!





In a recent speech to the Weimar Women’s’ Guild His Imperial Majesty the Kaiser made the following declaration.


“It has long been the dearest wish of the German peoples – those within the current borders of our country, and our dear brothers and sisters living outside them – for a peaceful Europe.  We have a long martial history and we know, more than outsiders, what war brings to our doors.


“We will do all that will can to ensure peace!  Even now our trusted diplomats are working to forge lasting alliances.  But know this!  Woe betide those who take our hand in pretended friendship!  For those who betray us will feel the weight of our justified anger!


“As I speak, dear ladies, our troops – your husbands, your sons – have moved into Belgium to prevent that gallant country from being an arena for conflict between England and France.  But do not fear!  Those countries are our friends and We are sure that no such conflict will arise.  Our boys will be back before the autumn leaves fall!”







Our Artist’s Impression of the Battle of Brest


In a significant naval action in the English Channel, a British assault on the French port of Brest has been repulsed.  Following tensions raised by the movement of the British Expeditionary Force to Welsh ports, the British government declared war in all but name.   Ironclads of the Royal Navy exchanged broadsides with French coastal artillery, and succeeded in disembarking Marines and soldiers near the port of Brest.   Over the next week, however, France’s Army of Picardy and squadrons from the Middle Atlantic fought a sustained battle on land and sea before the British were forced to withdraw.  In the House of Commons, loud demands for the resignation of the government have paralyzed parliament, and the British media have criticized the government for a policy of “reckless adventurism”.


Meanwhile, Austrian and Italian spokesmen are being close-lipped about an incident in the Adriatic in November when the two countries’ navies clashed over several days off the Albanian coast.   While the engagement was considerable, it did not prevent the Reggia Marina from landing troops in North Africa.  Nevertheless, several light ships on both sides are said to be lost, and at least one capital ship is said to have returned to her home port of Naples with visible shell damage.     However, neither government has taken a hostile tone since the incident, and an unofficial source in the Austrian naval ministry blames an error in signalling.  “Our ships were ordered to fire a salute in honour of King Victor Emmanuel, and instead the order to Commence Firing was hoisted.  It was a terrible error, and we regret the loss of life.  The signalling ensign responsible has been tried arrested and sadly drowned in custody."




The Austrian Navy in happier days

Finally, naval experts are agog at the Turkish coup de main which seized the Russian Black Seas Fleet’s home port of Sevastapol.  Our in-house naval expert, Admiral Dred Knott, USN (Ret), told this paper that“We had no idea their ships were even seaworthy.  The Turks surprised us all just by getting up steam.  We really underrated them and it looks like the Rooskies did, too.”    According to one rumour, the bold stroke was made possible by an equally bold misinformation campaign by the Turks.   “The Fezzies seem to have spread the word that the Sultan’s harem was starting a European tour”, said Admiral Knott.  “Girls on boats.  Wouldn’t that be a sight, eh?  Heh heh heh.  Mmmmm  ...  hem hem.  But when the gangplank went down and a bunch of hairy bashi-bazouks poured off, that was quite a shock for ‘em.  Clever fellows, them Turks."




General Erasmus Blatt.

The editors are delighted that General Blatt, hero of the Empire’s campaign to subjugate the Midgets of M'bhutto, has agreed to provide commentary on the unfolding events in Europe.  General Blatt’s column is syndicated by the Rioters News Agency.


“The lamps have gone out, but the flames have been ignited!”

Commentary by General Sir Erasmus Blatt for Rioters Press.  January 1 1902.

The turmoil underlying the apparently serene opening to the European troubles as we entered the 20
th Century of Our Lord has broken out into a maelstrom so soon that even your correspondent is finding difficult to navigate.  

The Emperor’s plans have been sabotaged – whether or not with malice aforethought – by the Kaiser; Russia, after its apparently disastrous loss of Sevastopol might not be so poorly placed after all; France, without any loss to deplore, and a victory to its credit, might well be finding 1902 a more interesting year than is strictly desirable.  Turkey has made a solid beginning and pulled off a stunning coup de main as well, Austria-Hungary might feel some disappointment with its modest successes in 1901; Italy ends the year on a sound footing, and Germany?  Germany has confounded us all, with a brilliant seizure of the Low Countries in their entirety, but what is that Army doing in the Tyrol?

The Porte seems to be recovering some of the energy that fuelled the Ottomans’ former greatness.  To accompany a stolid slow absorption of Bulgaria, The Black Sea Fleet has seized Sevastopol, and left a Russian Army stranded in the mountains of Armenia. That guaranteed the Sultan two builds this winter: an Army recruited in Smyrna, and a reinforcement to the Black Sea Fleet.  Henceforth, the Russian Fleet will have its work cut out to maintain a presence in these waters.  Before turning to Russia’s position, this writer was a little surprised that an Army was raised in Smyrna, rather than a Fleet.  A Mediterranean Fleet (it seemed to me) would have offered the Porte a more flexible approach to the Balkans.  All the same, Turkey bids fair to become a major player in that part of the world.

Russia’s position is by no means as compromised as the loss of Sevastopol might suggest.  One begins indeed to wonder if there is a subtle and brilliant mind advising Russia affairs.  Matters have been so arranged in the south that Turkey cannot maintain its hold upon the Donbas and Crimea (i.e. “Sevastopol”).  Can Russia still hold Romania, then?  That remains to be seen.  If the Sultan and the Emperor are in cahoots, the Tsar will not long retain control in the south.  But it is clear that he will get Sevastopol back in the spring.  Turkey can not hold it.  Perhaps there was never any expectation that it could.

One observes the building of the Fleet at Murmansk (St Petersburg, North Coast) with considerable surprise, having expected an Army to be raised at Moscow.  To be sure, an Arctic Fleet makes sense, but unless he is planning to strike at once to seize Norway… Ah! There we have it.  There have been persistent rumours of a sage head upon young shoulders, a junior official in the Foreign Office, a certain Vladimir Putin, having the ear of the Tsar.  England is in no position to defend Norway in the spring, nor, in all likelihood, to recover it in the following autumn.  With such slender resources, Russia seems poised to strike England a mighty blow.

Now, with whom has Russia reached an accord?  If with Germany, a certain move by one of the Kaizer’s Armies begins to make sense.

In an earlier commentary, I remarked that what appeared to be differences of opinion between England and France were likely to redound the advantage of Germany.  So it has proved.  Distracted from carrying out its traditional plan of securing Belgium as well as the Iberian Peninsula, La Republique could manage but one build going into 1902.  Given its successful repulse there of the attempted invasion by a British Fleet, the raising of a second Fleet in Brest might not have been the wisest course.  An Army in Paris would have been the more flexible option – unless France has good reason to place the highest level of trust in Italy’s resistance to temptation.  There is some very low hanging fruit in Marseilles.  Italy has merely to stretch forth its hand, and Marseilles may be plucked.

England’s aggression against France has yielded the Island Nation few dividends.  Norway has fallen to her lot, as anticipated, but the fleet occupying that country is isolated, without hope of support until the second half of the year.  Russia is well placed to exploit that very circumstance.  Indeed, that the Tsar is planning the occupation of the whole of Scandinavia north of the Skaggerak is the sole explanation for his raising an Arctic Fleet.  Once in Norway, Russia’s Arctic and the Baltic Fleets will be mutual supporting, and not to be dislodged any time soon.

So much for the edges of the Pan-European strife.  Now for the Central Powers.  Germany has done very well for itself in conquering the whole of the Lowland  States.  Unoccupied as yet, Denmark will enter Germany’s growing hegemony during 1902.  But a large question mark raises itself over why a German Army entered the Tyrol.  Had it invaded Burgundy instead, then, together with Italy and possibly England, Germany might have been able to pick over France’s bones.  Closer investigation, however, suggests that Italy stood to gain most from such an alliance, and even England might have benefited more.  

But what lies behind the Tyrol invasion?  There was never much hope of seizing Vienna, nor yet Venice.  One feels that Germany has some, so far secret, deal with one of the Asiatic States: the Turk, or the Muscovite, most likely the latter.  The Army in Tyrol is intended as a distraction to the Hofkriegsrat Oesterreich, keeping Austria’s armed forces away from Russia’s borders.  

It is not altogether inconceivable that, if talks haven’t taken place already, the Eastern Powers might patch up their differences, end the Black Sea war, and divide between them the Balkans and the Austria-Hungary Empire.  Germany might be rewarded with Vienna. Italy, if it is part of this alliance might receive the long-coveted Trieste.  I don’t really think whatever agreement exists in the East extends quite so far west, but it is not impossible, nor even unlikely.  Be that as it may, it is clear  that more than one pair of hungry eyes are fixed upon the  Austria-Hungarian Empire.  

The Kingdom of Italy finds itself, without at all overextending its resources or straining towards the unachievable, in an immensely powerful and influential position.  Marseilles is there for the taking, and will be held through to the fall.  Furthermore, Italy has as much chance of seizing Greece as has Austria-Hungary, by, say convoying the Tunisia Army thereto.  But will Italy want to do that?  Italy might prefer, indeed, to support and Austrian Army there, leaving the Empire to form a bulwark against Turkish expansion, whilst Italy pursues a westward policy.  If England, and possibly Germany, can be induced to apply pressure from the north, there is no reason why Italy might not conquer the Iberian Peninsula and become Master of the Western Mediterranean.

The turbid surface of European affairs hides, I think, even more tangled webs of subterfuge lying beneath.  One suspects that behind England’s opening moves has been the Kaiser’s honeyed words and poisonous intent; that Germany and Russia have at least a covert ‘understanding’ if not a formal alliance of a aggression; that Turkey and Russia might possibly be playing a double game of deceit to mask their real policies.  It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Austria-Hungary has been marked out for dismemberment by the four surrounding powers.  Urgently needing friends are France and Austria-Hungary.  France won’t find one in Italy, and will have to look north. England is as parlously placed, and Austrian-Hungary will have to do some very fast talking with Italy and at least one other of the surrounding Powers.

1902 is shaping up to be a very interesting year

Sir Erasmus Blatt


Miss Amelia Roosevelt.

Reports from Paris indicate that our reporter, Miss Amelia Roosevelt, and her governess, Mme. LaBonq, have been arrested in Paris.   French gendarmes confirm that the duo were taken into custody when the morality squad conducted a raid at a well known nightclub in the Moulin Rouge entertainment district.   The authorities gave no reason for the arrest, but noted that the two women were dressed as showgirls and could not verify their identities when the club was raided by police.  One source in Paris expressed surprise to us, saying that “I was shocked that the French have a morality squad!.

Le Chic Chat, the nightclub where Miss Roosevelt was arrested.  The editors deny that publishing this image is in any way gratuitous.

The editors are sure that Miss Roosevelt’s reputation and integrity, as a representative of both this fine journal and of American femininity, are intact and above reproach.   Our Parisian lawyers, Messrs. Chirac, LeHacque, and LaWacque, expect to file a demand for her immediate release and the dismissal of all charges, since Miss Roosevelt was in Paris for the sole reason of pursuing her journalistic duties.

Dear Sir:
I think it is just marvellous that your staff includes Miss Amelia Roosevelt.   In this day and age, when women are coming into their own, it is high time.    All of my sorority at Radcliffe follow her exploits with the greatest admiration.  Why just the other day we were discussing her exploits last year, like, when she went in disguise to foil the White Slavers of Zanzibar and the foul Count Orloff - I mean, that guy was a disgusting creep!  So gross!   But, we think it a great shame that you use Miss Amelia to encourage the fairer sex to buy your paper, which, like, we totally do, but you have TOTALLY avoided the issue of our time, which is Votes for Women.   Come on, DD, do the right thing!  You know Miss Amelia would agree with us!
Sally Suffragette from Sewanee

Dear Sir:

I am quite livid at the shocking bias your paper shows to Germany.  It seems like every edition there is a favourable mention of that tinpot tyrant, the Kaiser, and his latest lurid pronouncement.   The Hun’s annexation of the Low Countries is a huge security threat.  If America does not support Britain, our most loyal and truest friends and cousins, then she will fall, and then what?  The Kaiser’s warships off Manhattan, goose steppers in Times Square, and mandatory Kraut lessons for our kids!  And where will your precious freedom of the press be then?  It’s time the DD stood for Britain and a sensible foreign policy and supported Donald Trumpett’s call to build a wall on the coast - an Atlantic Wall to keep out the Germans!
Britlover in Boston


  1. A big thank you to Ion Dowman (Archduke Piccolo) for his terrific game analysis as Sir Erasmus Blatt. Terrific stuff!

  2. Egad! The Old World is once again a conflagration! I say, Old Chap, would you happen to have any marshmellows?

  3. I was enjoying an evening at the Archduke's the other night and he showed me your map over a cup of tea. Its rather interesting being a fly on the wall and discussing someone Else's game.


  4. I agree with Jacko - much more fun. You might suppose Sir Erasmus would be taking a more partisan (i.e. pro-British) line, but apart from a certain scrupulous regard for objective reporting, the general has other motives. He still awaits, hope fading with each passing year, his promotion to Field Marshal and the accompanying elevation to the Peerage. It has been represented to him that his brilliant campaign against the Midgets of M'bhutto was already fading into the mists of history, and that the laurels already bestowed for that campaign were perhaps overgenerous against a people whose average adult height is three foot six. So if Sir Erasmus seems less than strictly loyal, explanations are not far to seek.

  5. I printed this out for use as reading material during my travels to Seattle this past weekend. There might have been a guffaw or four on Alaskan Airlines Flight 268 Saturday evening coming from the bald Brit near the front of the plane. :)


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