Media Censures: The Hutchins Commission on the Press, the New York Intellectuals on Mass Culture

Stephen Bates


Around the middle of the 20th century, two groups of American intellectuals turned their attention to the mass media. The scholars on the Commission on Freedom of the Press, chaired by University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins, assessed the American news media. Dwight Macdonald and his fellow New York intellectuals assessed the American entertainment media and other forms of mass culture. On the whole, both groups were appalled. Hutchins et al. and Macdonald et al. inhabited different worlds—the intellectual establishment and the intellectual antiestablishment—yet the two groups developed parallel critiques. Comparing them reveals important aspects of the role of midcentury intellectuals, particularly their attitudes toward mass media and mass society, officialdom and power. It also raises provocative questions about the forces that shape research agendas.


media criticism, culture criticism, media responsibility, intellectuals

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