ERIC Number: ED362904
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1993-Oct
Reference Count: N/A
Science in the Publicity Laboratory: The Case of Eugenics.
The eugenicists of the 1920s and 1930s aggressively pursued media attention and sought policy change for their cause of improving the human race by selective breeding. Eugenics gained momentum in the United States when the American Eugenics Society (AES) was organized in 1921. Policy formation and information dissemination were central to the movement, which was comprised of a loose collection of various committees and organizations. The AES's Popular Education Committee enumerated print media outlets and outlined a strategy for getting publicity. By 1937, the "Conference on Education and Eugenics" was suggesting that eugenics courses in higher education should not be given under the name of eugenics, but might be called "Human Environment, Heredity and Eugenics." Energy was spent at all levels of government, from the president of the United States all the way down to the local level, to implement AES's legislative goals. As politically motivated as the eugenicists were, it is no surprise that their instructions to student assistants sounded more like campaign literature than scientific research. Two of the AES's most noteworthy publicity stunts to promote eugenics were the "fitter families" contest and the sermon contest. The eugenicists had substantial connections to the mass media of the period, and they employed them. However, the lingering Great Depression, the rise of Nazi Germany, and the outbreak of World War II crippled the eugenics movement. Eugenics thrived when the political climate was opportune and when the press was receptive to its ideas. The science died when the cultural currents turned. (Forty-six notes are included.) (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Information Analyses; Historical Materials
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Eugenics; Historical Background; Media Campaigns; Media History
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Journalism Historians Association (Salt Lake City, UT, October 6-9, 1993).