The subcommittee reconvened at 2 o'clock p. m., upon the expiration of the recess.
The CHAIRMAN. The hearing will be in order.
The first witness this afternoon will be Dr. Frederic Wertham.
Doctor, will you come forward and be sworn, please.
Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you will give this subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate, will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Dr. WERTHAM. I do.
The CHAIRMAN. Doctor, do you have a prepared statement?
Dr. WERTHAM. I have a statement of about 20 or 25 minutes.
The CHAIRMAN. All right, Doctor, you proceed in your own manner.
Dr. WERTHAM. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Doctor, do you have copies of your statement?
Dr. WERTHAM. It is not written out. I have a statement of my credentials.
The CHAIRMAN. I wonder if you could not in your own way summarize this for the record. Of course, the whole statement may go in the record in its entirety.
Without objection, that will be so ordered.
(The document referred to is as follows:)
Specializing in neurology and psychiatry since 1922.
Certified as specialist in both neurology and psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Have also served as examiner on the board in brain anatomy and psychiatry.
Director, Lafargue Clinic, New York City.
Consulting psychiatrist, department of hospitals, Queens Medical Center, New York City.
Psychiatric consultant and lecturer, Juvenile Aid Bureau of the New York City Police Department.
Director, Psychiatric Services and Mental Hygiene Clinic, Queens General Hospital, 1939─52.
Consulting psychiatrist, Triboro Hospital, New York City, 1939-52.
Director, Quaker Emergency Service Readjustment Center (functioning under the magistrates court), 1948─51.
Senior psychiatrist, New York City Department of Hospitals, 1932─52.
In 1932 organized and became director of the Psychiatric Clinic of the Court of General Sessions in New York, first clinic of its kind in the United States.
1933─36, assistant to the director of Bellevue Hospital; in charge of prison ward; in charge of children's psychiatric ward; in charge of alcoholic ward.
1936─39, director of the Mental Hygiene Clinic of Bellevue Hospital.
1929─31, fellow of the National Research Council of Washington, D. C., to do research in neuropathology and neuropsychiatry. First psychiatrist ever to receive this fellowship.
1922─29, psychiatrist at Phipps Psychiatric Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University.
1926─28, chief resident psychiatrist, Johns Hopkins Hospital.
1926-29, assistant in charge of the Mental Hygiene Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Taught psychiatry, psychotherapy, and brain anatomy at Johns Hopkins Medical School.
Postgraduate studies in London, Vienna, Paris, and Munich. Invited to read scientific papers at the Medical-Psychological Society of Paris and the Research Institute of Psychiatry in Munich.
President of the Association for the Advancement of Psychotherapy, 1943─51; coeditor of the American Journal of Psychotherapy.
Member of the Committee on Ethics of the American Academy of Neurology.
Lectured at Yale Law School, New York University Law School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on psychiatry, criminology, and related subjects.
Reviewed books for law reviews of New York University, Buffalo Law School, Northwestern Law School, etc.
Psychiatric consultant to the Chief Censor of the United States Treasury Department.
Only psychiatrist ever employed by the city of New York who is a member of all three national neuropsychiatric associations: American Neurological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Association of Neuropathologists. Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, of the American Academy of Neurology, of the American Medical Association, etc.
The Brain as an Organ (Macmillan, 1934), used in medical schools throughout the world, a textbook of brain pathology.
Dark Legend. A study in murder. New York, 1941, and London, 1948.
The Show of Violence (Doubleday, 1949).
The Catathymic Crisis (1937), description of a new mental disorder now included in the leading textbooks of psychiatry.
Seduction of the Innocent (Rinehart, 1954).
Articles and papers on psychology, psychiatry, neurology, brain anatomy, etc...
Dr. WERTHAM. I have practiced psychiatry and neurology since 1922. I taught psychiatry and brain pathology and worked in clinics at the Johns Hopkins Medical School from 1922 to 1929.
In 1929 I was the first psychiatrist to be awarded a fellowship by the National Research Council to do research on the brain. Some part of my research at that time was on paresis and brain syphilis. It came in good stead when I came to study comic books.
From 1932 to 1952 I was senior psychiatrist at the New York City Department of Hospitals.
I was first in charge of the Psychiatric Clinic of the Court of General Sessions examining convicted felons, making reports to the court.
In 1936 I was appointed director of the Mental Hygiene Clinic in Bellevue.
In 1939 I was appointed director of psychiatric services at the Mental Hygiene Clinic at Queens General Hospital.
In 1946 I organized and started the first psychiatric clinic in Harlem, a volunteer staff. A few years later I organized the Quaker Emergency Mental Hygiene Clinic, which functioned as a clinic for the treatment of sex offenders under the magistrates court of New York.
These are my main qualifications. I have taught psychiatry in Hopkins and New York University.
I have written both books and papers and monographs. I have reviewed psychiatric books for legal journals, like the Buffalo School Journal.
I have lectured at the Yale Law School, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and in other places.
I am a fellow of the New York Academy and a member of the three national neuropsychiatric associations, the American Psychiatric Association and American Neurological Association and American Association of Neuropathologists.
I am testifying at your request on the influence of crime and horror books on juvenile delinquency.
My testimony will be in four parts. First, what is in comic books? How can one classify them clinically?
Secondly, are there any bad effects of comic books?
I may say here on this subject there is practically no controversy.
Anybody who has studied them and seen them knows that some of them have bad effects.
The third problem is how farreaching are these bad effects? There is a good deal of controversy about that.
A fourth part is: Is there any remedy?
And being merely a doctor, about that I shall say only a few words.
My opinion is based on clinical investigations which I started in the winter of 1945 and 1946. They were carried out not by me alone, but with the help of a group of associates, psychiatrists, child psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, social workers, psychiatric social workers, remedial reading teachers, probation officers, and others.
In addition to material seen at the clinic both at Queens and Lafargue, we have studied whole school classes, whole classes of remedial reading clinics, over 300 children in a parochial school and private patients and consultations.
To the best of my knowledge our study is the first and only individual large-scale study on the subject of comic books in general.
The methods that we have used are the ordinary methods used in psychiatry, clinical interviews, group interviews, intelligence tests, reading tests, projective tests, drawings, the study of dreams, and so on.
This study was not subsidized by anybody. None of my associates got any money, ever. I myself have never spoken on the subject of comic books and accepted a fee for that.
This research was a sober, painstaking, laborious clinical study, and in some cases, since it has been going on now for 7 years, we have had a chance to follow for several years.
In addition to that we have read all that we could get hold of that was written in defence of comics, which is almost a more trying task than reading the comic books themselves.
What is in comic books? In the first place, we have completely restricted ourselves to comic books themselves. That leaves out newspaper comic strips entirely.
I must say, however, that when some very harmless comic strips for children printed in newspapers are reprinted for children in comic books, you suddenly can find whole pages of gun advertisements which the newspaper editor would not permit to have inserted in the newspaper itself.
There have been, we have found, arbitrary classifications of comic books according to the locale where something takes place.
We have found that these classifications don't work if you want to understand what a child really thinks or does.
We have come to the conclusion that crime comic books are comic books that depict crime and we have found that it makes no difference whether the locale is western, or Superman or space ship or horror, if a girl is raped she is raped whether it is in a space ship or on the prairie.
If a man is killed he is killed whether he comes from Mars or somewhere else, and we have found, therefore, two large groups, the crime comic books and the others.
I would like to illustrate my remarks by western comic books by giving you an example. This is from an ordinary western comic book. You might call it the wide open spaces.
This is from an ordinary western comic book. You see this man hitting this girl with a gun. It is a sadistic, criminal, sexual scene.
We have also studied how much time children spend on crime comic books and how much money they spend. I should like to tell you that there are thousands of children who spend about $60 a year on comic books.
Even poor children. I don't know where they get the money. I have seen children who have spent $75 a year and more, and I, myself, have observed when we went through these candy stores in different places, not only in New York, how 1 boy in a slum neighborhood, seemingly a poor boy, bought 15 comic books at a time.
Now, people generalize about juvenile delinquency and they have pet theories and they leave out how much time, and, incidentally, how much money children spend on this commodity alone.
Now, as far as the effects on juvenile delinquency are concerned, we distinguish four groups of delinquency:
Delinquencies against property; delinquency associated with violence; offenses connected with sex, and then miscellaneous, consisting of fire setting, drug addiction, and childhood prostitution.
I may say the latter is a very hushed-up subject. I am not referring to what young girls do with young boys, but I am referring to 10-, 11-, 12-, 13-year-old girls prostituting themselves to adults.
Now, nobody versed in any of this type of clinical research would claim that comic books alone are the cause of juvenile delinquency. It is my opinion, without any reasonable doubt, and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency.
There arises the question: What kind of child is affected? I say again without any reasonable doubt and based on hundreds and hundreds of cases of all kinds, that it is primarily the normal child.
Mr. Chairman, American children are wonderful children. If we give them a chance they act right. It is senseless to say that all these people who get into some kind of trouble with the law must be abnormal or there must be something very wrong with them.
As a matter of fact, the most morbid children that we have seen are the ones who are less affected by comic books because they are wrapped up in their own phantasies.
Now, the question arises, and we have debated it in our group very often and very long, why does the normal child spend so much time with this smut and trash, we have this baseball game which I would like you to scrutinize in detail.
They play baseball with a deadman's head. Why do they do that?
The CHAIRMAN. Doctor, do you want to put this up here on exhibition and explain it?
Dr. WERTHAM. Yes, sir.
Mr. Chairman, I can't explain for the reason that I can't say all the obscene things that are in this picture for little boys of 6 and 7. This is a baseball game where they play baseball with a man's head; where the man's intestines are the baselines. All his organs have some part to play.
The torso of this man is the chest protector of one of the players. There is nothing left to anybody's morbid imagination.
Mr. BEASER. That is from a comic book?
Dr. WERTHAM. That is from a comic book.
I will be glad to give you the reference later on. It is a relatively recent one.
Senator HENNINGS. Mr. Chairman, may I ask the doctor a question at that point?
The CHAIRMAN. The Senator from Missouri.
Senator HENNINGS. Doctor, I think from what you have said so far terms of the value and effectiveness of the artists who portray these things, that it might be suggested implicitly that anybody who can draw that sort of thing would have to have some very singular or peculiar abnormality or twist in his mind, or am I wrong in that?
Dr. WERTHAM. Senator, if I may go ahead in my statement, I would like to tell you that this assumption is one that we had made in the beginning and we have found it to be wrong. We have found that this enormous industry with its enormous profits has a lot of people to whom it pays money and these people have to make these drawings or else, just like the crime comic book writers have to write the stories they write, or else. There are many decent people among them.
Let me tell you among the writers and among the cartoonists ─ they don't love me, but I know that many of them are decent people and they would much rather do something else than do what they are doing.
Have I answered your question?
Senator HENNINGS. Yes, thank you.
Dr. WERTHAM. Now, we ask the question: Why does the normal child do that? I would say that psychology knows the answer to that.
If you consult, as we have done, the first modern scientific psychologist who lived a long time ago, you will find the answer. That psychologist was St. Augustine. This was long before the comic book era, of course, but he describes in detail how when he was a very, very young man he was in Rome and he saw these very bloody, sadistic spectacles all around him, where the gladiators fought each other with swords and daggers, and he didn't like it. He didn't want any part of it.
But there was so much going on and his friends went and finally he went and he noticed, as he expresses it, that he became unconsciously delighted with it and he kept on going.
In other words, he was tempted, he was seduced by this mass appeal, and he went.
I think it is exactly the same thing, if the children see these kinds of things over and over again, they can't go to a dentist, they can't go to a clinic, they can't go to a ward in a hospital, everywhere they see this where women are beaten up, where people are shot and killed, and finally they become, as St. Augustine said, unconsciously delighted.
I don't blame them. I try to defend them or I try to understand them.
Now, it is said also in connection with this question of who reads comic books and who is affected by them, it is said that children from secure homes are not affected.
Mr. Chairman, as long as the crime comic books industry exists in its present forms there are no secure homes. You cannot resist infantile paralysis in your own home alone. Must you not take into account the neighbor's children?
I might give one more example of the brutality in comic books. This is a girl and they are about to rip out her tongue. Now, the effect of comic books operates along four lines. While in our studies we had no arbitrary age limit, I am mostly interested in the under 16 and the first effect that is very early manifested is an effect in general on the ways of living with people.
That is to say, on theoretical development. One of the outstanding things there is in crime comic books ─ let me say here subject to later questions that in my opinion crime comic books as I define them, are the overwhelming majority of all comic books at the present time. There is an endless stream of brutality.
I would take up all your time if I would tell you all the brutal things. I would like to draw your attention to one which seems to be specific almost with this literature that I have never found anywhere else, that is injuring people's eyes.
In other words, this is something now which juvenile delinquents did which I never heard of years ago. They shoot people in the eye and they throw stones and so on.
As an example, I would give you a book which nobody would testify is a crime comic book if you had not read it. You all know the novels of Tarzan which you all saw in the movies, but the comic book Tarzan which any mother would let come into her home has a story which a little boy brought me in which 22 people are blinded.
One of the 22 is a beautiful girl. They are all white people who are blinded and the man who does it is a Negro, so in addition to that it causes a great deal of race hatred.
How old are the children to whom such things are given? Dell Publishing Co., which publishes this book, boasts that this story is being read aloud to a little girl who─ she is 2 years old ─ now, of course, many other crime comic books have this injury to the eye motive.
In other words, I think that comic books primarily, and that is the greatest harm they do, cause a great deal of ethical confusion.
I would like to give you a very brief example. There is a school in a town in New York State where there has been a great deal of stealing. Some time ago some boys attacked another boy and they twisted his arm so viciously that it broke in two places, and, just like in a comic book, the bone came through the skin.
In the same school about 10 days later 7 boys pounced on another boy and pushed his head against the concrete so that the boy was unconscious and had to be taken to the hospital. He had a concussion of the brain.
In this same high school in 1 year 26 girls became pregnant. The score this year, I think, is eight. Maybe it is nine by now.
Now, Mr. Chairman, this is what I call ethical and moral confusion. I don t think that any of these boys or girls individually vary very much. It cannot be explained individually, alone.
Here is a general moral confusion and I think that these girls were seduced mentally long before they were seduced physically, and, of course, all those people there are very, very great ─ not all of them, but most of them, are very great comic book readers, have been and are.
As a remedy they have suggested a formal course of sex instruction in this school.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the population of this community, Doctor?
Dr. WERTHAM. I don't know the population of the community. I know the population of the school, which is about 1,800. The town itself I don't know, but I shall give it to counsel.
The CHAIRMAN. The Senator from Tennessee.
Senator KEFAUVER. Is there something confidential about the name of the town?
Dr. WERTHAM. Yes. Publicly I don't like to give it, but I have knowledge of it, but I will give it to counsel for the information of the committee.
The CHAIRMAN. That will be in order.
Dr. WERTHAM. Now, they tried to start a course of sex instruction in this school. They have not done it. They have not started it. I wonder what they are going to do. Are the teachers going to instruct the pupils, or are the pupils going to instruct the teachers?
One reason I don't want to mention this town is because the same kind of thing happens in many other places nowadays. Maybe not quite so much, maybe a little more.
Many of these things happen and it is my belief that the comic book industry has a great deal to do with it. While I don't say it is the only factor at all, it may not be the most important one, it is one contributing factor.
I would like to point out to you one other crime comic book which we have found to be particularly injurious to the ethical development of children and those are the Superman comic books. They arose in children phantasies of sadistic joy in seeing other people punished over and over again while you yourself remain immune. We have called it the Superman complex.
In these comic books the crime is always real and the Superman's triumph over good is unreal. Moreover, these books like any other, teach complete contempt of the police.
For instance, they show you pictures where some preacher takes two policemen and bang their heads together or to quote from all these comic books you know, you can call a policeman cop and he won't mind, but if you call him copper that is a derogatory term and these boys we teach them to call policemen coppers.
All this to my mind has an effect, but it has a further effect and that was very well expressed by one of my research associates who was a teacher and studied the subject and she said, "Formerly the child wanted to be like daddy or mommy. Now they skip you, they bypass you. They want to be like Superman, not like the hard working, prosaic father and mother."
Talking further about the ethical effects of comic books, you can read and see over and over again the remark that in crime comic books good wins over evil, that law and order always prevails.
We have been astonished to find that this remark is repeated and repeated, not only by the comic books industry itself, but by educators, columnists, critics, doctors, clergymen. Many of them believe it is so.
Mr. Chairman, it is not. In many comic books the whole point is - that evil triumphs; that you can commit a perfect crime. I can give you so many examples that I would take all your time.
I will give you only one or two. Here is a little 10-year-old girl who killed her father, brought it about that her mother was electrocuted. She winks at you because she is triumphant.
I have stories where a man spies on his wife and in the last picture you see him when he pours the poison in the sink, very proud because he succeeded.
There are stories where the police captain kills his wife and has an innocent man tortured into confessing in a police station and again is triumphant in the end.
I want to make it particularly clear that there are whole comic books in which every single story ends with the triumph of evil, with a perfect crime unpunished and actually glorified.
In connection with the ethical confusion that these crime comic books cause, I would like to show you this picture which has the comic book philosophy in the slogan at the beginning, "Friendship is for Suckers! Loyalty ─ that is for Jerks."
The second avenue along which comic books contribute to delinquency is by teaching the technique and by the advertisements for weapons. If it were my task, Mr. Chairman, to teach children delinquency, to tell them how to rape and seduce girls, how to hurt people, how to break into stores, how to cheat, how to forge, how to do any known crime, if it were my task to teach that, I would have to enlist the crime comic book industry.
Formerly to impair the morals was a minor was a punishable offense. It has now become a mass industry. I will say that every crime of delinquency is described in detail and that if you teach somebody the technique of something you, of course, seduce him into it.
Nobody would believe that you teach a boy homosexuality without introducing him to it. The same thing with crime.
For instance, I had no idea how one would go about stealing from a locker in Grand Central, but I have comic books which describe that in minute detail and I could go out now and do it.
Now, children who read that, it is just human, are, of course, tempted to do it and they have done it. You see, there is an interaction between the stories and the advertisements. Many, many comic books have advertisements of all kinds of weapons, really dangerous ones, like .22 caliber rifles or throwing knives, throwing daggers; and if a boy, for instance, in a comic book sees a girl like this being whipped and the man who does it looks very satisfied and on the last page there is an advertisement of a whip with a hard handle, surely the maximum of temptation is given to this boy, at least to have fantasies about these things.
It is my conviction that if these comic books go to as many millions of children as they go to, that among all these people who have these fantasies, there are some of them who carry that out in action.
Mr. BEASER. Doctor, may I interrupt you just a moment to go back to your Grand Central story?
Assume that is read by an otherwise healthy, normal child with a good homelife, no other factors involved ─ would say fact that would tempt him to go and break into a locker in Grand Central, or must there be other factors present already to give him a predisposition to steal from somebody else?
Dr. WERTHAM. I would answer that this way: I know of no more erroneous theory about child behavior than to assume that children must be predisposed to do anything wrong. I think there is a hairline which separates a boy who dreams about that, dreams about such a thing, and the boy who does it.
Now, I don't say, and I have never said, and I don't believe it, that the comic-book factor alone makes a child do anything.
You see, the comic-book factor only works because there are many, many other factors in our environment, not necessarily the homelife, not necessarily the much-blamed mother, but there are many other things; the other boys in school, the newspaper headlines where everybody accuses the other one of being a liar or thief. There are many, many other factors in our lives, you see.
Now, actually, the answer should be put in this way: In most cases this factor works with other factors, but there are many cases that I know where such crimes have been committed purely as imitation and would have never been committed if the child hadn't known this technique.
In other words, I want to stress for you what we have found, that the temptation, and, of course, we know it from our ordinary lives ─ that temptation and seduction is an enormous factor. We don't have to be materially bad to do something bad occasionally, and, moreover, these children who commit such a delinquency, they don't do that because they are bad. They don't even necessarily do it to get the money or to get even, but it is a glorious deed.
You go there, you show how big you are. You are almost as big as these people you read about in crime comic books.
You see, the corruption of the average normal child has gone so far that except for those who follow this it is almost unbelievable to realize.
I would like to give you one more example. This is one I would like you to keep in mind, that the minimum edition of such a book. I think, is 300,000; probably this is distributed in a 650,000 edition.
Senator KEFAUVER. I did not understand.
Dr. WERTHAM. The minimum is 300,000.
Senator KEFAUVER. Is that a month?
Dr. WERTHAM. This is only one comic book. In order to make any kind of profit the publisher must print about 300,000 copies.
In other words, when you see a comic book you can always assume that more than 300,000 copies of this particular comic book have been printed.
In other words, you would not go far wrong if you assumed that this comic book is read by half a million children, for this reason, that when they are through with it and have read it, they sell it for 6 cents and 5 cents and then sell it for 4 cents and 2 cents.
Then you can still trade it.
So these comic books have a long, long life. We have studied this market. We know there is a great deal of this trading going on all over.
Now, this is a heroine. This is a woman who kills a man. You see, he has blood coming all over the man's face and she says, "I want you to suffer more and more and more and more."
Then the final triumph, she takes this man's organs and serves them up as dishes like a housewife and you see her "famous fried brains, famous baked kidneys, famous stuffed heart."
Next to that is the remainder of this man.
All I say is that quite apart from the disgust that it arouses in us - and I am a doctor, I can't permit myself the luxury of being disgusted ─ I think this kind of thing that children see over and over again causes this ethical confusion.
Senator KEFAUVER. That seems to be the end of that comic book story.
Dr. WERTHAM. Yes. I should add that it says here, "The End." "The End" is this glorious meal, cannibalism.
Senator KEFAUVER. So it did not have a very happy ending.
Dr. WERTHAM. Well, the comic book publishers seem to think it did. They made a lot of money.
Mr. Chairman, we have delinquency of the smallest kind. I have seen children who have stolen a quarter. I have seen children who stole $30,000. And they have to know some technique; they have to, for that.
But there are other crimes which you can commit in which you can take the ordinary kind of violence, for instance, there is an awful lot of shooting, knifing, throwing rocks, bombs, and all that, in combination.
On the Long Island Railroad at present I think three times a day children throw rocks through the windows.
Recently an innocent man was hit in the head and had a Concussion of the brain and had to be taken to a hospital.
I have been for 12 years in Queens. I know these kids. I have seen quite a number of them who threw rocks. I can't see why we have to invoke highfaluting psychological theories and why we say these people have to have a mother who doesn't give them enough affection.
If they read this stuff all the time, some of them 2 and 3 hours a day reading, I don't think it is such an extraordinary event if they throw a stone somewhere where it may do some harm.
I want to add to this that my theory of temptation and seduction as I told you, is very, very vague. That is known to the comic-book publishers, too. They don't admit it when it comes to delinquency, but when it comes to selling stuff to children through the advertisements in comic books, then they have these enormous advertisements. This is from the Superman comic book. It says, "It is easier to put a yen in a youngster."
You see, I am still answering your question. It is easier to put a yen a youngster when he comes from a normal thing. It is easier to go and commit some kind of delinquency.
Certainly it is easier to commit some kind of sexual delinquency. Now, this leads me to the third avenue where they do harm. That is, they do harm by discouraging children. Mr. Chairman, many of these comic books, crime-comic books, and many of the other ones have ads which discourage children and give them all kinds of inferiority feelings. They are threatened with pimples. They worry the preadolescent kids about their breaths. They sell them all kinds of medicines and gadgets and even comic books like this one, and I am very conscious of my oath, even comic books like this have fraudulent advertisements and I am speaking now as a medical physician. The children spend a lot of money and they get very discouraged, they think they are too big, too little, or too heavy. They think this bump is too big, or too little.
These discouraged children are very apt to commit delinquency as we know and have known for a long time.
Now, the fourth avenue I shall not go into in detail because that includes not only the crime-comic books, but that, includes all comic books.
We have found ─ and in response to questions I will be glad to go into that ─ we have found all comic books have a very bad effect on teaching the youngest children the proper reading technique, to learn to read from left to right. This balloon print pattern prevents that. So many children, we say they read comic books, they don't read comic books at all. They look at pictures and every once in a while, as one boy expresed it to me, "When they get the woman or kill the man then I try to read a few words," but in any of these stories you don't have to have any words.
There is no doubt this is blood and this man is being killed. There no doubt what they are going do to this girl, you know, too.
In other words, the reading is very much interfered with.
The CHAIRMAN. Doctor, the original of all of those are in color?
Dr. WERTHAM. Yes, these are photostats I had made for your benefit.
Now, it is a known fact, although it is not sufficiently emphasized, that many delinquents have reading disorders, they can't read well. There have been estimates as to how many delinquents have reading disorders.
We have found over and over again that children who can't read are very discouraged and more apt to commit a delinquency and that is what Mr. Beaser meant, if there is another factor.
There is another factor.
Mr. BEASER. Many other factors.
Dr. WERTHAM. Yes, many other factors. We have isolated comic books as one factor. A doctor tries to isolate one factor and see what it does and tries to correlate it with other factors which either counteract it or help it or run parallel.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I have put the results of this investigation into several documents. One of them is an article in the Ladies Home Journal which gives a number of cases.
Another one is an article in the Reader's Digest which came out today.
The third one is a book.
I would like, Mr. Chairman, to draw your attention to the illustrations, but I would like to say that I am perfectly willing inasmuch as I have written this book with the greatest scientific care and checked and rechecked, and I am perfectly willing to repeat every word in there under oath.
The CHAIRMAN. Doctor, these documents will be made a part of the subcommittee's permanent file, without objection. Let that be exhibits Nos. l0a, l0b, and l0c.
(The documents referred to were marked "Exhibits Nos. l0a, l0b, and l0c," and are on file with the subcommittee.)
Dr. WERTHAM. Mr. Chairman, I would like to point out to you in conclusion that mine, in my own opinion, is not a minority report. I don't feel that way.
I would like to tell you that the highest psychiatric official in the Federal Government, who is also consulted when psychiatric problems come up in the Federal Government, Dr. Winfred Overholser, the Superintendent of Saint Elizabeths, has written that the evidence in my book is incontrovertible evidence of the pernicious influences on youth of crime comic books.
Prof. C. Wright Milt, a famous sociologist, a professor at Columbia, similarly agreed.
I would like to read you a word from the director of the juvenile delinquency project of the Children's Bureau in Washington, who has written:
In comic books we have a constant stream of garbage that cannot fail to pollute the minds of readers. After reading Dr. Wertbam's book I visited my local newsstand and found the situation to be exactly as he reported it.
Senator KEFAUVER. Who is it that wrote that?
Dr. WERTHAM. Mr. Bertram M. Peck, the director of the current juvenile delinquency project in Washington.
The CHAIRMAN. He was before the subcommittee earlier in the hearings.
Dr. WERTHAM. Now, there are quite a number of other people who feel the same way. I would like to quote to you what the Minister of Justice of Canada said. In the beginning of this month they had two long sessions in the House of Commons, devoted almost entirely to my report on comic books and the Minister of Justice said:
I doubt if there is a single member of the House of Commons who dissents from disapproval of crime comic books.
In Canada, of course, they have the same situation. They get American comic books, not only directly, but they get them in plates. They can't help themselves.
Senator KEFAUVER. Dr. Wertham, while you are on the Canadian matter, Canada, of course, has a law, which was probably passed largely on the testimony you gave the House of Commons in Canada, which bans the shipment of certain horror and crime books.
What has been their experience with the reflection, or the result of that law upon juvenile delinquency? When was the law passed first?
Dr. WERTHAM. I am not quite sure. Maybe 1951. The information I have is based on the present official report of these debates on April 1 and 2. I judge from that that the law didn't work; that they made a list of crime comic books and they didn't know how to supervise it, in fact, they couldn't, and I doubt it can be done in that form.
They have more bad crime-comic books than they ever had. They never could get them off the stand.
The latest proposal on the 2d of April that I have is that they want to put the crime comic-book publishers in jail, but they can't do that, for one thing ─ we have them.
I don't think that would work. So that experiment is not yet completely evaluated. All I know is that they are very much worried about the effect of comic books on delinquency, that they have not been able by this one amendment to the criminal code to curb this situation.
Stating that mine is not a minority report, Mr. Chairman, I would like to quote one more critic, Mr. Clifton Fadiman, who says that he senses the truth in my presentation as he sensed the truth in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
I don't know the man personally.
Now, what about the remedy? Mr. Chairman, I am just a doctor. I can't tell what the remedy is. I can only say that in my opinion this is a public-health problem. I think it ought to be possible to determine once and for all what is in these comic books and I think it ought to be possible to keep the children under 15 from seeing them displayed to them and preventing these being sold directly to children.
In other words, I think something should be done to see that the children can't get them. You see, if a father wants to go to a store and says, "I have a little boy of seven. He doesn't know how to rape a girl; he doesn't know how to rob a store. Please sell me one of the comic books," let the man sell him one, but I don't think the boy should be able to go see this rape on the cover and buy the comic book.
I think from the public-health point of view something might be done now, Mr. Chairman, in conclusion, if I may speak in seriousness about one suggestion that I have, I detest censorship. I have appeared in very unpopular cases in court (defending such novelties as the Guilded Hearse, and so on, as I believe adults should be allowed to write for adults. I believe that what is necessary for children is supervision.
But I would like to suggest to the committee a simple scientific experiment, if I may, in great brevity.
I am not advocating censorship, but it is the comic-book industry which at the present moment tries to censor what the parents read. This enormous industry at present exercises a censorship through power. Ever since I have expressed any objection about comic books based on simple research done in basements on poor children whose mothers cried their eyes out, ever since then I have, been told by threats by libel suits, of damages; it is a miracle that my book was published considering how many threatening letters these lawyers and people have, written to my prospective publishers. They have even threatened with a libel suit the Saturday Evening post and even the National Parent Teachers, which is a nonprofit magazine.
Senator KEFAUVER. While you are on that subject, Dr. Wertham, may I see that thing, anybody who opposes comic books is a Red?
Dr. WERTHAM. Yes; that is part of it.
Senator KEFAUVER. I have read a number of your writings. I have read your Seduction of the Innocent. You remember a number of years ago I had several visits with you and you told you about the pressure they tried to apply on you in connection with this.
But I noticed here this thing, that anyone who opposes comic books are Communists. "The group most anxious to destroy comics are the Communists."
Then they have here the statement:
This article also quoted Gershon Legman (who claims to be a ghost writer for Dr. Frederick Wertham, the author of a recent smear against comics published in the Ladies home Journal) - This same G. Legman, in issue No. 2 of Neurotica, published in autumn 1948, wildly condemned comas although admitting that "The child's natural character must be distorted to fit civilization * * * Fantasy violence will paralyze his resistance, divert his aggression to unreal enemies and frustrations, and in this way prevent him from rebelling against parents and teachers * * * this will siphon off his resistance against society, and prevent revolution."
This seems to be an effort to tie you up in some way as Red or Communist. Is that part of a smear?
Dr. WERTHAM. This is from comic books. I have really paid no attention to this. I can tell you that I am not a ghost writer. Like this gentleman who criticized it severely, they know I don’t have a ghost writer.
Gershon Legman is a man who studied comic books. He is a man who tried to do something against comic books, so they tried to do something about him.
That is just one of time ordinary kinds of things. But, Mr. Chairman, they do something quite different which is much more serious. The comic-book industry at time present moment ─ and this is the experiment I would like to suggest to you ─ the comic-book industry at time present moment interferes with the freedom of publications in all fields. They have their hands on magazines, they have their hands on newspapers, they threaten the advertisers; they continually threaten libel suits and action for damages.
The experiment I suggest to you is the following: My book has been selected, Seduction of the Innocent, which is nothing but a scientific report on comic books in that I tried to make in understandable language, that is what it is except that it includes areas other than juvenile delinquency.
This group was selected by a group of men of unimpeachable integrity, Christopher Morley, Clifton Fadiman, Loveman, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, John P. Marquand; they selected this book on this account of its truth, and I suppose its writing, and it has been announced all over the country that it is a Book of the Month Club selection.
The contracts have been signed. The question I would like to put to you is this : Will this book be distributed or will the sinister hand of these corrupters of children, of this comic─book industry, will they prevent distribution? You can very easily find that out and then you can see how difficult it is for parents to defend their children against conic books if they are not allowed to read what they contain.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Kefauver, do you have any questions?
Senator KEFAUVER. Yes, I have one or two, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Wertham, I assume more than any other psychiatrist in the United States ─ perhaps I should not be asking this ─ but you, over a long period of time, have interviewed children, you worked in hospitals, clinics, and schools, observing the reaction to crime and horror comic books.
Could you give us any estimate of how many children this study has been from ─ from which you derive your conclusions?
Dr. WERTHAM. Yes. I figured out at one time that there were more than 500 children a year come to my attention, or tried come to my attention during the bulk of this investigation.
Now, I cannot say, however, that every one of these children has as complete as a study as I think they should have. I mean, some of them I saw a few times; some have all kinds of tests, good social services; some had been before the court; some I saw privately considered in great detail, but by and large I would say that we have seen hundreds and hundreds of children.
Senator KEFAUVER. Any way it runs into many thousands?
Dr. WERTHAM. Some thousands. I would not say many thousands.
Senator KEFAUVER. You have actually asked and tried to develop from many of these children how it was they happened to try to commit, or how it was they happened to commit this, that, or the other crime; is that correct?
Dr. WERTHAM. Senator, that is not exactly correct. For instance, if I have, a child sent to me ─ I remember the commisisoner of the juvenile aid bureau of the police once came to visit me to see how I examined a child because he had a good report of my clinic in Queens. This was a child who had committed some delinquency. I spent an hour talking to this child. I didn't even mention the delinquency. I didn't say a word about it.
The commissioner asked me afterwards, "Why didn't you mention it?"
I said, "I don't want to put him on his guard. I don't want to tempt him to lie to me. I want to understand this child. I want to understand the whole setting."
The judgment that these comic books have an effect on children, that is not the children's judgment. They don't think that. The children don't say that this does them any harm, and that is an interesting thing because it has been so misrepresented by the comic-book industry and their spokesmen in all the biased opinions that they peddle and that they hand out to unsuspecting newspaper editors.
They say I asked the child, "Did you do that because you read a comic book"
I don't ask the child "Why do you have the measles?", or "Why do you have a fever?" No child has ever said to me this excuse, "I did this because I read it in the comic book. I figured that out."
The children don't say that. Many of these children read the comic books and they like it and they are already so corrupt that they really get a thrill out of it and it is very difficult.
What you can get out of them is this, "For me, this does not do any harm to me, but my little brother, he really should not read it. He gets nightmares or he gets wrong ideas."
The actual proof that a child can say, "I did this because of so and so," that is not at all how my investigation worked.
Senator KEFAUVER. I do remember you showed me one example of a horror book with a child with a hypodermic needle and you related that to some crime that you had known something about.
Dr. WERTHAM. I have known children, in fact, if I may say, Your Honor, I notice in the room the reporter who brought to my attention one of the earliest cases of children ─ may I say who it is ─ Judith Crist, who works for the New York Herald Tribune. She brought to my attention a case in Long Island where children stuck pins in girls or something. I told her then that I have found where they stuck pins in much worse places than the arm.
I told her of the injury to the eyes. You can very rarely say that the boys said exactly, "That is what I did because this is what I wanted to do."
I have had children who told me they committed robberies. They followed the comic book, but they said, "That is not good enough, the comic books say you go through the transom."
"But," they said, "you go through the side door."
Children nowadays draw maps and say, "This is the street where the store is we are going to rob; this is where we are going to hide and this is how we are going to get away."
That is in many comic books, and they show me in comic books that is how they are going to do it.
I would not say in such a case this is the only reason why this child committed delinquency, but I will say that is a contributing factor because if you don't know the method you can't execute the act and the method itself is so intriguing and so interesting that the children are very apt to commit it.
Senator KEFAUVER. In some of the comic books the villain made one mistake, he almost committed the perfect crime, but he made one mistake and he got caught. We found some cases where they are trying to eliminate the one mistake so that they can make the perfect crime.
Dr. WERTHAM. That is absolutely correct. That is the whole philosophy of comic books. The point is don't make any mistakes. Don't leave the map there. Don't break the light aloud, put a towel over it.
Senator KEFAUVER. Would you liken this situation you talk about, showing the same thing over and over again until they finally believed it, to what we heard about during the last war of Hitler's theory the story over and over again?
The CHAIRMAN. The "big lie" technique?
Dr. WERTHAM. Well, I hate to say that, Senator, but I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry. They get the children much younger. They teach them race hatred at the age of 4 before they can read.
Let me give you an example of a comic book which I think is on the stand right now. It may have disappeared the last few days.
You know at the present moment New York City and other cities have a great social problem in integrating immigrating Puerto Ricans. It is very important to establish peace in these neighborhoods where friction may arise, or has a risen.
This particular comic book that I am referring to now has a story in which a derogatory term for Puerto Ricans, which I will not repeat here, but which is a common derogatory term, is repeated 12 times in one story. This greasy so and so, this dirty so and so. It is pointed out that a Spanish Catholic family moved into this neighborhood ─ utterly unnecessary.
What is the point of the story? The point of the story is that then somebody gets beaten to death. The only error is that the man who must get beaten to death is not a man; it is a girl.
Senator KEFAUVER. I think we ought to know the name of the comic book.
Dr. WERT1IAM. I shall be glad to give it to your counsel.
Senator KEFAUVER. Can you tell us?
Dr. WERTHAM. I don't have it in my head.
Senator KEFAUVER. I am not sure that Dr. Wertham is one who could tell about this, but I have heard it told that some people feel that comic books are harmless and respectable and don't pay much attention to them because they are certified to, and in some cases even recommended by high-sounding committees, with, of course good names on the committees who give them an excellent bill health.
Did you not make some investigation into whether or not a great many of the people on these so-called nonpartisan committees were actually in the pay of the comic book industry itself?
Dr. WERTHAM. Senator, I would have to mention individuals but I think it is to be assumed, and I suppose one knows that people whose names are on these comic books are paid ─ there are people who say, "Well, they are paid, they are biased.”
I have a hard time understanding how any doctor or child expert or psychologist can put his name to that. That is not the important point, because the names usually are not known anyway.
What happens is that in Kalamazoo, or in North Dakota, or in the little village in Pennsylvania where I spend part of my time, they read the names of these institutions which sound very well, the so and so association, or so and so university. That is what influences the people.
Of course, these same people write articles which I have tried very hard to take at their face value. But when I found that they have misstatements, when they say articles sent out by one of the associations, the person who writes it and endorses these books for money, when they write a survey of all the comic books, you see all kinds of little ones, nothing of the real ones, it misleads the people.
But I think that is not as important a problem, Senator, as the problem right now that the industry itself is preventing the mothers of this country from having not only me, but anybody else make any criticism.
This tremendous power is exercised by this group which consists of three parts, the comic book publishers, the printers, and last and not least, the big distributors who force these little vendors to sell these comic books. They force them because if they don't do that they don't get the other things.
Mr. HANNOCH. How do you know that?
Dr. WERTHAM. I know that from many sources. You see, I read comic books and I buy them and I go to candy stores.
They said, "You read so many comic books." I talk to them and ask them who buys them. I say to a man, "Why do you sell this kind of stuff?"
He says, "What do you expect me to do? Not sell it?"
He says, "I will tell you something. I tried that one time."
The man says, "Look, I did that once. The newsdealer, whoever it is, says, 'You have to do it'."
"I said, 'I don't want to'."
"'Well', he says, 'you can't have the other magazine'."
So the man said, "Well, all right, we will let it go."
So when the next week came, all the other magazines were late. You see, he didn't give them the magazines. So his was later than all his competitors, he had to take comic books back.
I also know it another way. There are some people who think I have some influence in this matter. I have very little. Comic books are much worse now than when I started. I have a petition from newsdealers that appealed to me to help them so they don't have to sell these comic books.
What they expect me to do, I don't know. Of course, it is known to many other people. It also happens in Canada.
I know it for more reasons. I don't want to mention journalists, but I can tell you of big national magazines, the editors of which would very much like to push this question of comic book problems. They can't do that because they are themselves being distributed by very big distributors who also do comic books, and then they suffer through loss of advertising.
That is why I gave you one example of the Book of the Month Club because I think that could nail it down once and for all, what these people do deliberately.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Hennings, have you any questions?
Senator HENNINGS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have no questions.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Hannoch, do you have any questions you want to ask?
Mr. HANNOCH. No questions.
Senator HENNINGS. I must say that I have the doctor's book, and I am reading it with great interest.
The CHAIRMAN. Doctor, we are very grateful to you for appearing here this afternoon.
Dr. WERTHAM. Thank you.
Mr. BEASER. William Gaines.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you come forward, Mr. Gaines?
Will you be sworn?
Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you will give to this subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate, will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. GAINES. I do.