ERIC Number: ED383007
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1995-Jun-24
Reference Count: N/A
Anatomy of the Scopes Trial: Mencken's Media Event.
Harrison, S. L.
The 1925 Scopes trial and H. L. Mencken's published opinions about it provides an excellent example for both scholar and student alike to study issues of free speech, justice, publicity, public relations, and cutting journalistic writing. "Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes was a Mencken extravaganza; he gave the trial its derisive name and described it as "colossal buffoonery." A review of the developments of the trial shows that it is more complex than it is generally understood to be. It sprang from questionable purposes; all parties concerned held dubious motivations and goals. Dayton's townspeople were swindled by an eager desire for fame and greedy hopes for local prosperity from a public relations-backed publicity spectacle. The publicity generated a carnival-like atmosphere that made their town and themselves the laughingstock of the nation. Like the young and inexperienced teacher John Scopes, the people of Dayton were willing, ill-used pawns in an enterprise they did not understand. Nevertheless, the Scopes trial and Mencken's commentary provide valuable lessons 70 years after the event. Civil repression remains abundantly evident and pervasive whether from zealots of fundamentalism, McCarthyism, or modern political correctness and requires vigilant and vigorous opposition. The message of the Scopes trial endures as a monument to Mencken; his legacy provides a metaphor for all individuals to protect and preserve their right of expression--to speak, to write, and to think--against any threat to freedom. (Contains 15 references.) (TB)
Publication Type: Historical Materials; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Controversy; Educational Issues; Historical Background; Media Events; Mencken (H L); Scopes Trial
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Summer Meeting of the Mencken Society (Baltimore, MD, June 24, 1995).