@Readings for February 6

This is the page where you will post one section of your Wednesday Reports for February 6. Find your username below and insert the corresponding response below your name.


Identify at least one concept, event, claim, or proper noun mentioned in the readings that is unfamiliar to you. Use Reference Tools on the Internet or in the library to look up information about it and report your findings, along with the source(s) of any information you find. Anything that could be answered with a fact-check, quick definition, or basic research might be included under this prompt. Be sure to indicate when you are quoting directly from another source by using quotation marks.


When Emmett Till was buried, his mother insisted on an open casket. This allowed everybody coming to see what his murderers had done to him. In spite of the failure of the jury to act rationally and convict the perpetrators, the picture of Emmett’s brutally damaged face became a spark for the civil rights movement. www.emmetttillmurder.com


According to Wikipedia, William Gaines was a publisher and co-editor of the company EC Comics. His father, Max Gaines, was a publisher for DC Comics. Gaines (the younger) was apparently an instrumental figure in inciting a movement that brought an “artistically influential and historically important line of mature-audience comics” to the U.S. He focused primarily on publishing “horror, science fiction, satire, and war comics.” His comics were aimed primarily at children, and due to fact that his specialties lay in the aforementioned genres, his works “drew the attention of the U.S. Congress.”

(^P.S. I know my word choices resemble typical Wiki diction, but in truth I’m merely trying to re-state their facts as best as I can without directly quoting/copying. Unfortunately, I did it in a very roundabout way.)



  1. Entertaining Comics was a comics publisher that published comics ranging from horror to science fiction to military fiction. EC comics were most famous for their Tales from the Crypt series, re imaginings of the Grimm fairy tales, and stories with political messages. Increasing censorship pressure in the 1950’s forced EC to focus on a side project, MAD magazine. Luckily, the magazine became its most successful publication, and EC was eventually folded into the same company that owned DC and Warner Brothers.



1954 Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency: I wanted to research further this subcommittee to see what changes, if any, came from it and the effects these changes may have had on society’s views on how entertainment affects youth violence. I believe these hearings and ones like it are highly relevant in the context of recent events involving gun violence. The subcommittee hearings were highly publicized. They were aired on television, and parts of the transcript we read made it to the front page of the New York Times. The overwhelming negative press from these hearings caused the comic book industry to adopt the Comics Code Authority, a “self-regulatory ratings code that was initially adopted by nearly all comic publishers and continued to be used by some comics until 2011.” The backlash from these hearing was so severe that several publishers were “forced to revamp their schedules and drastically censor or even cancel many popular long-standing comic series.” An example of the severe restriction put in place by the code were clauses forbidding the words “crime”, “horror”, and “terror” in comic book titles. Further research into the Comics Code Authority reveals that some of the more inane restrictions were phased out. By the 1980’s depictions of criminal violence, death, and monsters such as werewolves, vampires, etc. were allowed as long as they weren’t glamorized. By the 2000s the phasing out of so many of the code’s clauses resulted in outright abandonment by many publishers. By the late 2000s the code was non-existent in the industry.


The Atomic Cafe, released in 1982, is a highly cynical documentary of the attitudes toward atomic war during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Stringing together revealing sound bites, training videos, and other propaganda from that era, the film suggests that the general U.S. government and public had erroneously proud and naïve attitudes while preparing for (and towards the idea of) total atomic war. Critics at the time considered the film a “devastating” project that shed light on the mildly ridiculous concepts from the period, like treating “nuclearosis” and constructing nuclear shelters in home economics classes, which suggest the United States was under a veil of “nuclear war optimism.” Further, critics believed the picture “[deserved] national attention,” likely because of the continued cold-war tensions between Reagan and then-leader of the USSR Leonid Brezhnev in the early 1980s. The filmmakers collected the clips for the movie over a five-year period, during which the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, ending the era of Détente. The film, picturing nuclear war as “inconvenient but fun,” was likely an attempt to give the American public a reality check.


Canby, Vincent. “Film: Documentary on Views about Atom Bomb.” New York Times (1923-Current file) Mar 17 1982: 1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2009). 5 Feb. 2013.

Wikipedia, “Timeline of events in the Cold War.”


Mosinee is a city in Wisconsin that was predominantly Republican, and its main industries were its paper mill and farming. On May 1st, 1950, the city of Mosinee was taken over by Communists (as show in the clip of “The Atomic Café”), staged as a mockery to show the city and the country what would happen if Communists were to take over. As part of this experiment, the chief of police was “liquidated,” according to a New York Times article from the following day, and the town Mayor was brought to the city’s new “Red Square” at gunpoint to surrender his power to “Commissar” Kornfedder. Kornfedder, a former communist who quit the ranks of the USSR in 1934, announced to the city that industries would be nationalized, churches abolished, and authority given to the “U.S.S.A.” As a part of this demonstration, prices for most goods went up. The New York Times article writes that suits rose in price from forty-two to fifty-two dollars, while coffee rose to four dollars fourteen cents per pound, showing economic deterrents of communism. The town’s newspaper for this day was called “The Red Star,” and purveyed communist propaganda. Following this false invasion, the mayor of the city had a heart attack, and died a week later, possibly due to “the excitement and exertion.”

Source: (New York Times, May 2, 1950) http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.rice.edu/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/111370778/13C141AAFCE1E3645B3/1?accountid=7064 http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.rice.edu/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/111366205/13C141AAFCE1E3645B3/4?accountid=7064 http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.rice.edu/docview/111402508/pageviewPDF/13C14495BBD33E786A9/1?accountid=7064


The articles regarding Emmett Till reflect some of the greater social trends in the South regarding white and African-American relations. The “laws” that governed these relations were known as Jim Crow Laws, and they essentially applied a legal mandate for de jure segregation in any areas that they were created. They were designed to keep African-Americans in the South in disadvantaged social, economic, and educational situations, in order to secure white supremacy in the South. The successor of the 19th century Black Codes, Jim Crow laws essentially mandated the same rules, but this time in the name of “equality”, as the concept of separate but equal facilities was now the federal legal mandate (even if the facilities set aside for African-Americans were very rarely equal to the facilities designated for white Americans). Jim Crow laws were not fully overturned until the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1964 and 1965 respectively.

research: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_laws


Look Magazine. After reading the story of Emmett Till’s murder and the confession written in Look Magazine, I wanted to do some further research on the magazine to find more information on its history and popularity at that time and to see if this was the best way to release this magnitude of information to the public. Look was co-founded in Des Moines, Iowa by Gardner Cowles Jr. who was the executive editor of The Des Moines Tribune and The Des Moines Register. It was a bi-weekly, general interest magazine from 1937-1971 with more emphasis on photographs than articles. It was very successful and sold 705,000 copies in just the first year. Within weeks more than a million people bought each issue. Circulation reached 3.7 million by 1954 and escalated even further throughout the years. It ceased production with its issue of October 19, 1971 due to television cutting deeply into its advertisements, a slacking economy and increasing postal rates. After its closure, six Look employees created a fulfillment house using a computer system newly developed by the magazine’s circulation development. The company, CDS global, is now an international provider of customer relationship services.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look_(American_magazine)


The fifth column refers to a group of people within a country who attempt to undermine that country’s solidarity. These people often infiltrate the government, attaining positions of importance and influencing policy to the benefit of the enemy. Fifth columnists, as they are frequently referred, often use scare tactics and fear to obtain their ends. The term itself was coined during the Spanish Civil War, referring to those Nationalists who had infiltrated the current government with the aim of undermining it, thereby supplementing the efforts of the Army’s four columns. The term was vague and could refer to any subversive force depending on what the times called for. During WWII, the Japanese, for instance, could have been fifth columnists, while communists were the fifth columnists of concern during the McCarthy era. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/206477/fifth-column



William Gaines was a publisher and editor of EC Comics. He also published the magazine Mad for over 40 years. His father was also in the comic book business, inventing the first successful woman superhero in Wonder Woman. Bill Gaines oversaw a push towards comics with a more mature bent. His comics incorporated elements of horror and satire. This shift towards mature themes brought him to the attention of the U.S. Congress. His testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1954 drew large attention from the media. Mr. Gaines remained largely unapologetic and defensive of the material he published. Gaines lost EC Comics, converted Mad to a magazine, and published it until his death in 1992.

Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Gaines


The NSC, or the United States National Security Council, was created in 1947 as a result of the National Security Act. It was first created in order to ensure the coordination between different organizations of national security policy, such as the Navy and the CIA, of the Central Intelligence Agency, also created by the National Security Act. The National Security Council is comprised of the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Treasure, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs along with other members and serves as the President’s principal forum for considering foreign policy matters and national security with other cabinet officials. The Council also serves to coordinate foreign polices among a number of government agencies. First founded by President Harry S. Truman, the NSC is now chaired under President Barack Obama and works to provide advice and assistance in domestic and foreign affairs. Other current members include Joe Biden, John Kerry, Leon Panetta, and Thomas E. Donilon. It is part of the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

Source: Wikipedia; Whitehouse.gov: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_National_Security_Council; http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/nsc

Answering Old Questions

Identify one of the Questions raised in earlier weeks that one of the assigned readings or media clips helps to answer. Then explain why you think this source sheds light on this specific question.


How have views of comic books changed over time, and why? The view of comic books has changed from children having to hide them under their beds and inside of their textbooks, to being used as classroom material, because cartoonist have made strong efforts to bury a “message” within their stories. All of that being said one thing has not changed, in the fact that comic books are primarily directed at children, and not adults. Even after the hearings in the 1950’s the view of more “adult” comics was still very confused and many thought they were inappropriate for children, not the audience the comic was intended for. This issue was solved when many comics joined the Comics Code Authority and began to prohibit the mature material found in these “adult” comics, and many outlets will not sell these “adult” comics without the CCA’s permission. To answer the question simply, the view of comics has more and more been directed to children.


In 1955, two white men were accused of kidnapping and murdering Emmett Till, a black youth. However, they were convicted to be not guilty by an all-white jury. In addition to this being racially unfair, the court was segregated in which negroes were placed in the back. According to one of the articles, the results of the trail brought strong criticism of the state’s white supremacy practices from other sections of the country. This shows that a push for social change towards racial equality was in the making in 1955. Yet, it wasn’t strong enough for a jury to convict white men murdering a black youth. However, one year later Emmett Till’s murderers confessed their crime and told the whole story. Although the two men had committed murder, the majority of the white people in Mississippi either approved of their actions or didn’t disapprove enough to convict them. This sentiment reinforces that 1956 was not a time in which the entirety of America, particularly Mississippi, was ready for racial equality. Although, we are unable to answer what was so special about 1961, we can say that an event in between the murder of Emmett Till and Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925 must have been a tipping point that spurred change for social equality.


The source material helps to answer the question regarding how have views of comic books changed over time. As stated by William Gaines in the article entitled, “Testimony of William M. Gaines before Congress (1954)”, Entertaining Comics had previously published comics with titles such as Picture Stories from Science, Picture Stories from World History, Picture Stories from American History, and Picture Stories from the Bible. It appears that controversy only arose when graphic crime and horror comics started being published. Even though the source material does not give us information stating that this is the reason why views on comic books have changed over time, we can definitely see that this was a contributing factor. We see that views on comic books gradually changed over time because the actual comic book material had made a drastic change from the norm.


The information from the comic book hearing with William Gaines helps to gain a better understanding of how comic books shifted to a more propaganda type focus as we saw with Supergirl and seatbelts in 1987. This is in great contrast to the blood and gore published by William Gaines prior to the Comic Code of 1954. Here we see that comics as seen in 1987 were not always so censored, but regulations put in place (such as the Comic Code) forced these publishers to adapt their content to what the lawmakers deemed appropriate. Thus we see that the views of comics changed from being accepted while gory (pre-1954) to being vilified for being so. From this reading we know that people were uncomfortable with horrific scenes of blood and gore as well as presentations of criminals as deserving of empathy in 1954. This view of comics led to the creation of more conservative comic books that often just reinforced some proposition the government did approve of (i.e. wearing seatbelts). This reading does not though tell us how comic books arrived at the more controversial portrayals we see in Gaines’ comic and if there were many other comics of the sort at the time.


“How have strategies of combat and means of warfare changed since the advent of nuclear weapons, and what role have nuclear weapons played in those changes?”

The National Security Council document partially addresses some of the basic ideas behind this question. In the terms of grand strategy, the memo outlines the “world order”, so to speak, prior to the advent of the bipolar post-WWII era. No one nation had sufficient power to project influence over the entire world, a coalition of nations was always enough to do so. The document lays out the fear that the government has that if US does not stand against the Soviet Union then they could control the entire world. The memo attributes much of its projections/beliefs to cultural/societal aspects of the Soviet Union and the US, but it does make mention of atomic weapons. It implies the current stalemate occurs because of these weapons and the world polarized around the two powers that possessed them. This necessarily influenced the military strategy, forcing both nations to use other countries as proxies.


“Last September in Sumner, Miss., a petit jury found the youth’s admitted abductors not guilty of murder. In November, in Greenwood, a grand jury declined to indict them for kidnapping.” – From Reading 2: Emmett Till’s Murderers Confess in Look Magazine (1956) A petit jury is also known as a trial jury, which is the most common type of jury justice. A petit jury is made up of citizens that are brought together to hear to evidence presented “by both the prosecution and defense in the matter of a criminal proceeding and the plaintiff and defendant in a civil trial.” http://www.wnyjury.com/eriecounty/petit_jury.htm


Gaines’ testimony before Congress provides evidence that could be applied to the question of “how have views of comic books changed over time, and why?” The testimony gives us Congress’ (or at least the Congressional committee’s) view on comics in 1954. Although Gaines suggests that comics are protected by the 1st amendment and that only Communists want to ban them, the politicians still pointed out how violent the cover pages seemed to them. That shows a negative, conservative view on comics in 1954 – that they were violent and (just like some people would argue about video games today) could incite kids to commit crime.


How have views of comic books changed over time, and why?

Article 4: Testimony of WIlliam M. Gaines before Congress (1954) gives us an interesting view into the perception of comic books in the 1950’s. In this article, we learn that the issue of comic books negatively influencing the youth of the day had become so prominent that members of Congress were interviewing some of the key members of the comic book industry. We learn that in that day comic books were not all about superheroes, but instead occupied a variety of topics ranging from the Bible to stories of capital crime. We also learn that horror comics were seen to be in such bad taste from members of the government that they considered making such depictions illegal. However, we learn that there were many members of the general public, William Gaines in particular, that saw these comics as a harmless escape from reality. He saw them as just another form of entertainment for the youth of the day, and also implied that censoring comics in the way being implied by Mr. Hannoch was a step towards communism.


“There was a large amount of polarization within NOW with respect to the Equal Rights Amendment. Some members believed that the strategy and timing was not right to attempt to pass it. Given that the proposal was originally written in 1923, why did it not pass Congress until 1972?”

The article “The League of Women Voters Outlines Policy” answers part of this question, specifically why there was much resistance to such an amendment, leading to the delay of its passage. These women argue that even with the passage of such an amendment that it is too simple of a solution to this problem. The proposed ‘equal rights’ are far too vague and could be interpreted in many ways, leading to further issues. Law cases and legislation, even the Constitution, would have to be altered to comply with this new amendment. Furthermore, they point out the issue of the federal government impeding on the jurisdiction of the state governments to effectively enforce this law. However, it is unclear whether or not this amendment is the same amendment (or rather the same form) that the women of the 1960s were still debating fiercely. It is possible that changes to this amendment could have occurred within these years, but the article does not make any reference to if changes were made.



“Emmett Till’s Murderers Confess in Look Magazine” gives some insight into “How have views of race and/or methods of racial discrimination changed over time.” Emmett Till was basically beaten and murdered for talking to a white woman what was considered an inappropriate way. The article sheds lights on the “change over time” of views of races. What happened to Emmett Till is unimaginable today. It is unacceptable to murder someone for “acting out of their race” in today’s society, and the killers will be not acquitted with no consequences. More importantly, the article shows that a change in the general view of race already started shifting in 1956. Emmett Till has “had white women” in Chicago, and he supposedly had a white girlfriend. It shows that some racial equality was already coming into place in some parts of the country. Emmett Till was not scared when he was kidnapped by two white men because he did not believe they would kill him. This shows the disappearance of white supremacy, more specifically, that white people can get away with anything. That view, however, is obviously not shared everywhere This shift, or the lack thereof in some places, in views on races is what got Emmett Till killed.


In what situations in the past 150 years has America acted as the “world police” and in what situations have we been more isolationist, and how have our actions affected those countries’ attitudes towards us?

The top-secret document prepared for President Truman in 1950 on the Objectives and Programs for National Security helps us gain a better understanding of the US acting the role of the “world police” during the Cold War by preventing the spread of communism through a policy widely known as “containment” outlined in NSC-68. The tone in this section of the brief is not so much tactical, but rather a justification for NSC-68, and thus a justification for acting as the “world police” in the 1950s. It paints the situation between the US and the USSR as a picture of black and white, good vs. evil, free society vs. authoritarianism. This excerpt from NSC-68 better outlines the rational justifications of the US to act as the “world police” in the beginning of the Cold War to contain Soviet expansionism through military buildup- a concept that would eventually lead to the development of the Marshall Plan that would prove to be widely successful in terms of influencing other countries to ally with the US and democracy.


Posing New Questions

Identify any new questions raised by the readings that have not come up in class. (Using information from the readings to revise or improve one of our previous questions is acceptable here, too.)


Given that in Look Magazine’s article by William Bradford Huie it is mentioned that the “The majority… of the white people in Mississippi 1) either approve Big Milam’s action or else 2) they don’t disapprove enough to risk giving their “enemies” the satisfaction of a conviction” whereas, a New York Times article on the same topic by John N. Popham claims that “the slaying of Emmett Till… brought strong criticism of the [Mississippi’s] white supremacy practices from other sections of the country”, is it fair to say that race relations differed across the country? Do we similar inconsistencies throughout the country when it comes to civil rights and other social activism throughout the 1960s and 1970s?


Given that the government was able to effectively censor violent publications in the form of comic books in the 1950s, what changed to allow the violence we see in movies, comic books, and video games to come to be?

The story told by Look magazine painted a clear picture of the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till by Bryant and Milam. Given that a kidnapping and murder was committed, and judging by the story told not much was done to conceal that truth, why was the true story never told to the public or even to the jury? How responsible are the media and criminal justice system for the prevalence of cases like the Emmett Till murder prior to the Civil Rights Movement?


Given that religion is still a core part of American culture and politics even now, how has the shift in the portrayal of religion in popular culture changed since the 1940’s.

The conservative movement was full swing in the late 1960’s. However, this also coincides with a time when MAD magazine was at it’s peak! How do we resolve the fact that they were able to coexist in the 1960’s but Bill Gaines’ magazines created more controversy in the 1940’s?



How have successive conflicts (World War I/II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, today’s drone strikes, etc.) redefined the definition of enemy combatants and acceptable treatment of U.S. Citizens considered to be potential enemy spies or sympathizers?


What was the White House’s reaction to the murder of Emmett Till? How has women’s wages changed since the special labor law for Women stated that they would work maximum hours and receive minimum wage?


Given that Americans did not view the Communist USSR as a threat before World War II, what changed to make the United States view Communism as such an inherent threat after the war?

Given that isolationism was viewed as successful before World War II, why did the United States believe that only America could prevent future worldwide conflicts after the war?


An existing question reads, “Given that racial, religious, and gender discrimination was rampant long before the 1960s, why was an attempt at equality only made in 1961?” The Till murder begs a more specific version of that question: Till’s murder was hardly the first unjustified murder of a black man, but what made his case nationally relevant (even before the confession of his killers) while other cases remained relatively obscure?


Given that the US became very involved in “protecting” countries from Communism after World War 2, why wasn’t the same response elicited by the rise of Nazism in the 1930’s?


In what ways did the Japanese living on the West Coast during WWII respond to the racism present among the American population at the time? How did Japanese response change as the course of the war turned?

How did government censorship of entertainment resources evolve after the testimony of William Gaines and the introduction of less conventional genres and topics?

How did the rise of the Conservative movement affect the intent or purpose of forms of entertainment like the comic book (i.e. did comic books become a way to assert agendas or did they stay as a form of entertainment)?


Given that America emerged from World War II in an economic upturn and in a position of world power (at least more so than before), what role did propaganda play in allowing America to make shrewd foreign policy decisions in supplying then entering the war that might otherwise have been unpopular with the people? Similarly, what role did propaganda in the Cold War allow for freedom in foreign policy decisions?


Despite America’s involvement in World War II, the liberation of the Western world from the Nazis, and the Nuremberg Trials for Holocaust criminals, did the threat of totalitarian dictatorships from Nazi Germany and Shōwa Japan act to increase racism, discrimination, and oppression in post-War 1950s America?


The comic book case in 1953 and the violent videogames case in the present are both situations were a surge of crime was blamed on representations of violence in entertainment. In both cases the government created a committee to examine the matter. Are there earlier instances like this, and were the media or television and the movies actually investigated in the same manner? Aside from create codes or rating systems, has the government ever restricted or banned any form of entertainment or media thinking it would stop crime? Why is entertainment blamed so often? Has anyone studied other possible causes, such as the influence of abusive parents?