The Research That Led to the Comics Code Authority Was Faked

John Farrier 5

Planet Comics

In 1954, the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham published The Seduction of the Innocent, a summary of his studies on the impact of comic books on the moral development of children. He found that comics, as they were published at the time, greatly contributed to juvenile delinquency.

Dr. Wertham's book led to popular outrage at the comic book industry. In order to avoid government censorship, the major companies in that industry adopted a screening organization called the Comics Code Authority. The CCA greatly reduced the violent and sexual content of mainstream comic books. 

If you're not already angry, this may push you there: Dr. Wertham fabricated much of his evidence. Dr. Carol Tilley of the University of Illinois combed through Wertham's files and found that he lied about the results of his research:

For example, in “Seduction,” Wertham links “Batman” comic books to the case of a 13-year-old boy on probation and receiving counseling for sexual abuse of another boy: “Like many other homo-erotically inclined children, he was a special devotee of Batman: ‘Sometimes I read them over and over again. … It could be that Batman did something with Robin like I did with the younger boy.’ ”

What Tilley found in Wertham’s notes, however, was that the boy preferred “Superman,” “Crime Does Not Pay” and “war comics” over “Batman,” and that he had previously been sexually assaulted by the other boy – all information that Wertham left out. [...]

“He does take some things verbatim from the transcript,” Tilley said, “but then he also would take things from different days, from different parts of a transcript, reorganize them, omit words, make small changes that, in effect, change the kids’ arguments or change their viewpoints. He did this in so many instances that it’s hard to overlook.”

I'm proud to note that Dr. Tilley is a fellow librarian. In fact, she's a professor of library and information science--meaning that she teaches people how to be librarians.

Link -via Ace of Spades HQ | Image: Chordboard

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