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Saturday, March 28, 2015 

Another citation of Wertham's progressive standings

The Oxford University Press wrote about the history of comics coping with censorship in the 1940s and 50s, and has become another possibly liberal outfit to acknowledge where Fredric Wertham stood politically:
With the uproar over comic books, Congress began holding hearings. The hearings were biased. Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, who harbored presidential aspirations, may have conspired to discredit moderate witnesses, including two female librarians bold enough to say they thought the comic books were basically harmless.

Kefauver enlisted the help of psychiatrist Fredric Wertham. Wertham had impeccable Progressive credentials; his basic thesis that juvenile violence reflected larger social aspects was probably accurate. Historian James Gilbert suggests, though, that Wertham, “deliberately and effectively used comic books as a way to draw attention to his broader agenda of social reform.” Wertham, moreover, was unwilling to restrain his comments and resorted to innuendo and false statistics (including an uncited survey claiming that seventy-five per cent of parents were against comic books). He painted an over-wrought depiction of comic books’ effects upon impressionable young minds.
If Oxford is a left-wing university, then it's incredible they're willing to note where he stood, which was pretty much the same as where sources like them could. There's one reader comment on the article so far, and it says:
Truly ironic how today the political left-wing is the one behind comic book censorship…
Both then and now. Today though, their censoring surely involves a lot more conservative viewpoints than scenes of jarring violence.

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For years, I assumed that Wertham was a right-wing paranoid, looking for communist conspirators behind every bush. More recently, I learned that he was a liberal/Progressive, blaming crime on everything except criminals.

It really should not surprise anyone. Whether the scapegoat is comic books, TV, video games, or whatever, liberalism is based on denial of personal responsibility. And politicians and activists (both liberal and conservative) are all about scapegoats and phony quick fixes.

@Anonymous

What you conveniently forget in that dumb applause line of yours is that there's a difference between Neo-Liberalism and American Conservatism and people who take up either badge themselves

You also forget that doing dumb stuff like that is exactly what you'd expect taking Neo-liberalism seriously and is a lot more shaky on American Conservative grounds.

In other words, you're like a clueless Westernized Muslim who likes to criticize Jihadists when the Jihadists take Islam far more seriously than you do.

This of course begs the question of why would want to be a Neo-Liberal, a disdain for American Conservatives isn't a good answer if you dislike what Neo-Liberalism naturally entails as you seem to do.

But you're likely a rabbit and have already returned to the warren thinking it was built to withstand a direct nuclear strike of 10-20 kiloton nuclear explosion like NORAD, when in reality, Neo-Liberalism was built in a Louisiana swamp and needs serfs you bow to it to constantly push it up, all the while unaware that they are serfs and with a smile on their faces.

I wonder if Wertham ever dreamed of the damage he'd do to comics once he started his corroding testimonies all those years ago...

Recently, I've read "Secret History of Wonder Woman" by Jill Lepore, which explained William Marston and Wonder Woman's early days, plus the early days od feminism. It's a pro-feminist, to be sure, but very informative.

Lepore does get into Wertham's leftism, at least a little. Hence why I'm posting on this, as more people are becoming aware of Wertham's politics. She really gets into Wertham's rival, Lauretta Binder, who not many know about. Binder thought the comics of their day had their use, instructive of moral plays and cope with the darkness of life. (Bender dealt with children who lost parents young, and noted how comics could be one way to cope with that, plus she lost her own children eventually, as well.) Fascinating woman, I wish the comic world would learn of her.

As I recall, didn't Wertham at the end of his life start to recant about what he did, but the comic industry wasn't so keen to heard from him, for obvious reasons?

Either way, yes, his politics are most problematic. And now we can finally explain why he did what he did. Or starting to.

@Emmanuel Mateo-Morales

So who are you, a Spanish Jew? I'm guessing you're the jaded type, the one who found himself facing broken promise after broken promise from what should've been honest people.

We had censorship in saner times, and as we have seen, it wasn't some Nazi tyranny. Few saw the constitution as meaning 'say and do anything.' That largely came along with the 50s-60s. Conservatives, always finding new lines to cross, now often defend what was once a very left wing cause.

I don't know if Dr. Wertham ever actually "started to recant" his anti-comics sentiments, but his views did seem to soften a little. He seemed to have a favorable view of fanzines, and even had letters published in a few of them (and not necessarily criticizing the comics medium).

Dwight Decker wrote about the subject in an article in Amazing Heroes magazine in 1987. It was later reprinted in The Art Bin magazine and may be available online: www.art-bin.com.

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