How do we account, in terms of socio-cultural developments, for the anti-comic book crusade roughly coinciding with the Red Scare during the Age of Affluence? This question reflects David Hajdu's...

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The Age of Affluence, usually identified as spanning 1945 to 1960, was the result of (1) the expansion to corporate America and to its stabilization through conglomeration by taking over businesses in various industries; (2) the development of the industrial-military complex that fulfilled militarily awarded contracts; (3) the effectiveness of labor union negotiation of wage and labor contracts.

The Red Scare was the result of Senator Joseph MaCarthy's investigation into the spread of Communism in US Government and other areas, like the industry industry, through the United States Senate Subcommittee on Un-American Activity, formed as a permanent subcommittee under the United States Senate Government Committee on Operations. McCarthy's subcommittee had no direct relationship to Robert C. Hendrickson's (who was later replaced by Senator Estes Kefauver) US Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency formed in 1954 under the US Senate Judiciary Committee. It is Hendrickson's subcommittee that investigated charges against the comic book industry, particularly against EC Comics.

Seduction of the Innocent is the book that launched the charges against the comic book industry and called the issue to the attention of Hendrickson's subcommittee. Frederic Wertham, a psychiatrist and German-born American citizen, accused the comic book industry of using psychologically damaging images of violence, morbidity, sexuality, drug use and other damaging subtexts. Wertham's book is what launched the anti-comic book crusade. Hendrickson's/Kefauver's subcommittee investigation led to a recommendation that the comic book industry voluntarily regulate its industry with the suggestion that censorship might be imposed if satisfactory self-regulation was not implemented.

The direct socio-cultural development that led to the anti-comic book crusade was Wertham's protest against the psychological damage caused to youths through the inappropriate images in super-hero and gangster comics. An indirect socio-cultural causal development may have been the post-world war psychology that made adjustment to a peaceful American home-life difficult after the experiences of violence and atrocities of world war and warrior training. Another indirect socio-cultural development may have been the indirect influence of McCarthy's investigation in the Subcommittee of the Senate Government Committee on Operations on the formation of Hendrickson's Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Without a causal chain, the anti-comic book crusade cannot be directly linked back to McCarthy's Red Scarism.


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