A SIGN FOR CAIN by Frederic Wertham


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Frederic Wertham likes to take a cause and make it celebre, often by raising his voice. In fact, his windy belligerence is self-defeating. This time he is dealing with the prevalence of violent death (""an end before the end"") in our culture. He rightly relates it to our socio-historical climate, wrongly claims that it is a neglected subject, and attempts to explain the multiple causal and/or contributory factors. They range from lack of communication to too many communications, namely the mass media, commercial advertising for cigarettes or toys in the nursery. He discusses at length war and other mass killings, particularly the euthanasia program-pogrom in Germany; rebuts the Malthusians and the need for killing off to stave off the population explosion; juvenile delinquency; violence in literature and art; and asserts that the contemporary, enlightened view that it is sick people who kill is very injurious. In other words, he externalizes the social climate rather than internalizing the impulse toward violence. As always, he generalizes from his casework, too sweeping a diagnosis from too selective evidence. He prosecutes--he proselytizes--but one suspects, once again, that it is popularization via oversimplification.

Publisher: Macmillan