It's not every day that George Will editorializes about the history of the comic book industry. However, he did so yesterday and I'm glad he did. Few outside the uber-geeky circles I frequent have ever heard of Frederic Wertham of the 1950s investigation into comic books. Those who have tend to portray the tale as a predictable case of uptight "family values" conservatives infringing on artists' creative freedom. But, as Will informs us, Wertham in many ways represented the progressive ideal of the crusading social scientist seeking to purge society of all that wasn't good for it. Surely all of the decent, right-thinking progressives of the time lined up behind Wertham.
The Wertham case puts me in mind of an article I wrote some ten years ago, published in 2001 in the Historian. Entitled "Gigantic Engines of Propaganda", it posits a link between the progressive investigations of the motion picture industry in the 1900s and 1910s, and the late-1940s hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee.