Fredric Wertham – not so innocent, but actually a fraud

Research fraud, it’s not just for German politicians anymore.

A new study reveals that Dr. Fredric Wertham, the man responsible for the creation of the Comics Code Authority and reviled among comic fans with a fervour usually only reserved for the likes of Dr. Doom, Lex Luthor, Magneto and Galactus (I turned him or rather a thinly veiled stand-in into a banana in Cartoony Justice), fudged or just plain made up much of the “research” in his infamous book Seduction of the Innocent. Of course, if you’ve actually read the book (physical copies are surprisingly difficult to find, even in university libraries, but luckily the whole thing is online), it’s not much of a surprise that Wertham fudged much of his data (though I wouldn’t have expected it to be so widespread), considering that many of his conclusions are rather far-fetched.

I also found it interesting that Carol Tilley, the researcher who found out that Wertham had fudged his data, also unearthed more than 200 letters by young comic fans written to both Wertham and the Senate Subcommittee supposed to investigate the “danger” posed by comics in an attempt to defend their favourite entertainment. Carol Tilley is now trying to track down as many of those letter writers as she can find.

I don’t find the fact that children did write to Wertham and the Senate Subcommittee all that surprising, because this is exactly the sort of thing that smart kids do when they are still young and naive enough to believe that politicians and other people of influence will listen. I wrote a couple of such letters myself as a teen and preteen. And sadly, it’s not much of a surprise either that no one ever acknowledged those letters. I never got a response to any of mine either.

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5 Responses to Fredric Wertham – not so innocent, but actually a fraud

  1. Carol says:

    Thanks for writing about my Wertham research. No, it’s perhaps not surprising that kids wrote letters, but it’s a testament of some sort that no one has thought them worthwhile until now.

    • Cora says:

      It’s sadly typical that the actual consumers of the media under fire are almost never consulted or heard in attempts to censor media to protect children/adolescents/the vulnerable. There is an ongoing debate in Germany about censoring or outright banning so-called “killer” videogames (mostly first person shooters like Counterstrike), where the voices of Counterstrike players, though organized and mostly adult, unlike the young comic fans of the 1950s, are mostly dismissed and ignored with, “Well, of course they’d defend it.”

      Anyway, good luck with the research.

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