In response to:
The Faithless Shepherd from the June 26, 1986 issue
To the Editors:
Midway through his five-page analysis of advertising books and the functions of advertising [“The Faithless Shepherd,” NYR, June 26], Roger Draper inserted a footnote of such inadequate scholarship and questionable taste that an immediate answer has to be made.
Offering his point that the editorial influence of advertisers need not be undesirable, Draper recalls that the Saturday Evening Post back in 1942 published an article called “The Case Against the Jew” and that Albert Lasker, owner of Lord & Thomas, one of the biggest advertising agencies then in business and, in Draper’s words, the “only Jew prominent in the profession” at the time, threatened to withdraw his advertising from the Post and thereby forced it “to apologize for and retract the article.” Draper either does not remember, did not bother to find out, or chose not to mention the name of the article’s author.
Milton S. Mayer was his name. He died three months ago, at the end of a full life of writing and speaking out as an active pacifist, an apostate journalist, and on behalf of practically everyone with problems over a long and widely-admired life as a trouble-maker, Socrates-style. Pastor Martin Neimoller called him “a human person interested in all questions, sharing all problems.” The article that Lasker forced the Post to retract, to his and its shame, was a plea at the time of the Nazi doing-in of Poland that Jews not let themselves yield the meanings and ethics of their religion to such secular values as were to be found, for example, in war societies, military invasions, suburban life styles, most ads, and other such earthly delights. The title, contributed by the Post, was a bad one, designed to provoke, though not in Mayer’s eyes; he meant it honestly, as he meant most things. His article was a good one, written with perception, compassion, and wit, as he wrote everything. The only shame in Roger Draper’s footnote belongs to Roger Draper for not knowing what Mayer said or what he himself was talking about.
One of Mayer’s distinctions (as a lecturer for the Quakers, as a regular columnist and roving reporter for The Progressive, and in a great many other capacities) was that he didn’t hesitate to use himself and his thoughts, wise or foolish, however lofty or however low, in the service of concepts that dwarfed him. He knew that questions were the important thing, and that good answers will (or may) follow if good questions are asked. This is the very characteristic that turns up missing in most of the advertising books that Draper undertakes to deal with in “The Faithless Shepherd.” His title is good and his article isn’t bad, either. But that footnote cannot be ignored. His handling of it dwarfs his whole piece.
November 6, 1986