Morals and Media


One reading that we discussed that I found extremely interesting to read were the experts of Traps for the Young by Anthony Comstock. Comstock focused on children in this book and ho the media influences them. He believes that youth is easily influence because “we speak of youth as the plastic state — the period of all others when the human soul is most easily molded and character formed.”[1] With this ease to be influenced Comstock believes that Satan is spreading evil through the media. Print media are “publications [that] are mighty educators, either for good or for evil.” [2] He would not believe that the devil could utilize this medium in such a way if he did not think that it was so powerful and influence on the youth. The Medias that we read in the excerpts that he talks about are newspapers, dime novels, and mail. While discussing these he used examples of how these media are corrupting the youth. In many of these examples he mentions how easy it is for children to get ahold of these things. Whether it is a parent leaving a newspaper on the counter or making novels cheap to buy. One thing that I found interesting was that Comstock, while blog the authors and publisher of these Medias, and also was blaming the parents of young children. To him, they were also making these evil publications easily available to their own children. To Comstock, this was the worst type of parent.

Because Comstock recognized the power that the media has over children, he promoted the use of it to teach children “the good.” Which at this time, the only good was Christian Morales and God’s teachings. He reasoned that it was well known that children are easily persuaded and influenced by the world around them. This is something that Comstock himself has brought up in order to defend his argument and prove that the media is directly affecting the youth.

Though he is very extreme about this it is something that I do agree with him on. Even today people censor what their children can and can’t see, by what they find moral and what they believe in. Parental controls are set today by parents in order to keep moral and belief system in check. Obviously in the 19th century this was not available and again, though he is extreme, I agree that it was probably very easy for children to get ahold of the news.

Looking at Comstock’s work itself I think is an example of just how powerful the media can be and that adults can also be easily influenced by it. Comstock uses a lot of fear and numbers in order to sway his argument. It can be easily seen how this could affect parents and make them fear for their children’s morality. I think most media has bias and has ways in order to get people to believe in whatever side they are arguing for. This is something that has been part of every media type that we have discussed in this class so far.


[1] Anthony Comstock, Traps for the Young, 3rd ed. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883) pg. 20

[2] Anthony Comstock, Traps for the Young, 3rd ed. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883) p. xxii


3 thoughts on “Morals and Media

  1. The point you raise about Comstocks allocation to blame of the spreading of “bad” being left on the shoulders of the parent is a good one. I think it is crazy that we are having similar issues a mere century later! To think that today children have even more access to even worse materials is terrifying. If Comstock were alive today I’m sure he would be livid. This idea also raises the moral censorship duty of parents. Not only was it the governmen who had to protect the ready public from the vices of media but it was also members of the home’s responisbility to make sure that information was only accessibly to the correct hands. I think in a way Comstock really sought to shelter society from evil in a way that he thought would get rid or it where in fact all it did was make the public thirst for more reality in their news.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the feedback! I agree, I bet Comstock would go ballistic if he saw how easily it is today for anybody, especially children, to get a hold of just about anything. I bet his thoughts on the Internet and social media would be 1000x more interesting to read than just his thoughts of dime novels. I thought that Comstock put almost as much blame on parents as he did the actual devil. And I agree that it is insane that Comstocks argument is still relevant today as it was 100+ years ago. I liked your comment about Comstock “sheltering society”, he honestly believed that that is what he was doing. Even though it was a very extreme way of saying it.


  2. Hey! Greet post by the way. I love that you refer to how Comstock talks about parenting, even though he was never a parent himself (Wiki told me). Honestly, how can someone talk about bad parenting and calling parents ‘evil’ when Comstock has know idea what parents, especially working parents, go through? The fact that he is upset enough of people simply leaving NEWSPAPERS around (I am assuming since he reference it in his argument), and using this as a way to say that the parent is making it easy for, basically, the words of Satan to reach the kids is absolutely absurd. It makes me laugh thinking of him in present day, and how he would riot about ‘Keeping up With the Kardashians’ as being Satanism and how people like them and Gigi Haddid are going to burn in Hell. (I am personally not a fan.) His ideas seem a little too radical to me, especially how he references to God. But then again, this is a time when Sunday was for prayer and EVERYBODY was at church. It was a more modest time, but I still think it’s a bit much for him to focus his wrath on parents.


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