There is a mighty tide of resentment rising in this nation against the corruptive influences of the moviesâ€”and the movies are largely a Jewish industry.
One is inclined to make ample allowances for the shortcomings of this industry. It is relatively new, still largely experimental, with few traditions and protean standards. It is essentially an industry which manufactures and sells entertainment to the masses for profit. Like all American industries, it is “rationalized” to the scheme of mass production and mass consumption. Accordingly it must appeal to the popular taste and mentality and it must take its subject matter from the dominant interests and goal range of the multitude.
Nevertheless the motion picture industry cannot be absolved of its tremendous social responsibilities. Willy-nilly it is an educational factor of prime and critical importance in the life of the nation today. It does not sell merchandise but ideas, and a people cannot remain permanently indifferent to the quality of ideas which are so vividly and forcefully purveyed daily to millions of its citizens, young and old. The movies are a school for conduct, for popular tastes and attitudes, whether they are aware of it or not.
Over seventy-five million people attend the motion picture theatres in this country every week. Of these, twenty-eight million are under twenty-one years of age and eleven million are under thirteen. The influence of the movies upon the mental and emotional life of children, so sensitive to impressions and so imitative, has recently been studied quite exhaustively in a four-year survey made by the Payne Foundation at the request of the Motion Picture Research Council. The conclusions arrived at are quite alarming.
The movies seem definitely to be contributing to crime and sexual delinquencies among young people. More than one-third of the pictures are “loaded with scenes of either crime or violence” and these, together with the sex pictures, are directing many boys and girls to delinquent and criminal careers. Young people, generally, do not escape the morally bewildering influences of the false values, emphases and goals which the moving pictures present and which are so sharply in conflict with the basic values which the school, the home and the church endeavor to inculcate.
Adults, too, do not escape the vulgarizing process of the movies which daily invite them to spend their leisure, recreative hours in a tinseled world of cheap sophistication, peopled mostly with shoddy folk, criminals, racketeers, gold-diggers and hierarchically graded prostitutes, a world of distorted standards in which the trivial and the inane are exalted and in which the real business of living, and the continuing tasks and struggles which absorb the energies of the millions of “non-theatrical” men and women who make up this nation are largely ignored. To be sure there are some very fine pictures but they are the exception. They throw into bold relief the badness of the over-whelming majority of them.
The American public is becoming increasingly aware and apprehensive of the anti-social tendencies in the present-day movies. It is growing recentful of their general tone and atmosphere as well as of the lurid and pornographic advertisements which frequently accompany them. It is not turning puritanical, but is beginning to demand a standard of decency and a measure of good taste and a degree of social responsibility which have hitherto been lacking in the movies. The American people will not be persuaded that this industry is “giving the public what the public wants.” Rather is it becoming convinced that it has been degrading the morals and tastes of the public to the lowest common denominator for the sake of revenue. The protective propaganda screen which the pious Presbyterian Will H. Hayes has thrown around it has not deceived it.
This resentment will make itself felt more and more, and it will, quite naturally, soon seek its human victims. The Jewish people will then again serve as the convenient “whipping boy”. It will be saidâ€”it is already being saidâ€”that the officers and chief executives of the moving picture industry in this country are mostly Jews and that, therefore, it is the Jewish people, though its deputized brethren in Hollywood, which is corrupting the manners and morals of the American people….
Is it asking too much of these Jews from Hollywood, whose private business affairs have now become matters of vital public concern, and the by-products of whose enterprises may prove of such serious moment to the whole body of American Israel, to set about cleaning house?…
These men might have been an incalculable asset to American life and a great credit to the Jews of America. They have been neither. They might have brought to the new cultural field which was theirs to plow and to seed something of the moral earnestness and the social vision of their people. Instead, they sowed an unclean spirit in the land and they are today an ominous liability to us.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.