Record #1232

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Carl E. Milliken
Howard A. Timbrell, Editor, The Record
Reel 8
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Influence of screen - actual cases

Lengthy refutation of claims that imitation of motion pictures leads to criminal behavior in the young.list of newspaper stories about child shootings allegedly inspired by movies, together with evidence of their inaccuracy -- juvenile delinquency crime


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30 January 1930 Letter from Milliken to Howard A. Timbrell, Connecticut editor, re. allegation of movie influence on juvenile crime -- cites cases where allegations have been disproven: "In out boyhood days, the 'dime novel' was blamed for all youthful cussedness. but today that 'menace' had found an honored place in the New York Public Library where there is an exhibit of these 'terrible' novels on display to represent a distinct period of American literature. Following the dime novel the bicycle became the 'ruination of youth,' but that has been crowded off the highways by another 'menace' the automobile. The 'menace' of the cigarette has been removed by 'toasting' and by the 'discovery' (all in advertisements in newspapers and over the radio) that it removes double chins and that instead of being a 'coffin nail' it actually prolongs life to the obesity inclined. ... Your newspaper with others of the country have a code of ethics and so does the motion picture industry. Your newspaper is printed for the primary purpose of furnishing reliable news to the public but incidentally it contains much that is educational, uplifting and valuable from a religious standpoint. Your newspaper gives the bad with the good. There is a noisy minority, however, that thinks stories of crime and sex troubles as printed in the average newspaper cause young people who read them to be influenced to wrongdoing and therefore, the printing of such stories should be stopped. Your reply to such opinions would be about as impatiently uttered as that of the motion picture theatre owner who feeling that he was pleasing the public would probably say: 'The motion picture theatre is not an asylum for mental deficiencies, a place to 'park' children while parents are attending bridge parties, an uplift agency, an educational or religious institution, although incidentally the motion picture does perform much of that public service, but the motion picture theatre is a place of entertainment for the normal minded where the dramas of life present the bad with the good and from which each normal minded person is expected to draw his or her own moral.' "... In your editorial you suggested that there ought to be a law enforcement against permitting children to go to certain types of pictures. How would that solve the problem when there is a school of thought among parents that rather encourage children to know about the things of life. A recent survey in Chicago among 10,052 school children showed, says the report, that only 1% of the parents of those children decided what pictures were suitable for their children to see. It suggests the Government taking over the raising of children as in Russia when a law is proposed to stop children going to picture shows for adults when the parents are disinterested. ... There is no excuse for people saying they do not know about wholesome pictures. The industry is furnishing them and providing means for the public to know about them, and whether the supply will continue to increase is up to those who are criticizing the pictures which the public in general patronize." Once again, Milliken's tone here is reasonably assertive, certainly not ameliorating his or the MPPDA's position or apologizing for mistakes -- which is perhaps the thing that is most noticeably missing from this. The other is the extent to which they are making direct address to the questions and arguments being raised, rather than simply producing a list of their good works. There's a positive quality to the position being taken here that is not always present at other times. We probably need to try and date the changes in tone, somehow.

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