The Demise of Sensationalism

Having given you a taste of the failed prognostications about the demise of American Christianity, let me share now an even more radical and even less true prediction from another article in the New York Times of 1927. In this case, the author is Edward P. Gates, the General Secretary of the United Society of Christian Endeavor. Unlike most powerful Christians of his day, Gates was arguing against censorship of newspapers and books. He reasoned:

In the case of the printing of the details of the Snyder-Gray murder trial, about which there have been numerous protests, I think the press is justified in doing so for the reason that the public obviously demands this type of news. By doing this the press will eventually nauseate the public on sordid cases of this sort, and the public taste will automatically right itself and demand less sensational stories.

Poor, sweet Mr. Gates. It’s almost a pity that we cannot give him a window into our time to see how inestimably wrong he was. The lack of censorship in the press did not nauseate the public; it desensitized them. Now reality is not nauseating enough, and we must sate ourselves on sensational virtual stories of an increasingly graphic and increasingly public type.

The solution, of course, is not the restrain the press but to restrain the will. Unfortunately, the former is not only more easily accomplished but more likely, even with America’s vaunted freedom of the press. Humanity will let go of freedom before it will let go of sin, an irony and a paradox.

The Execution of Ruth Snyder – Tom Howard, New York Daily Times, Jan. 12, 1928

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