Many Americans consider the classic Hollywood movie Inherit the Wind as a factual presentation of the trial of The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, but it is anything but. Its true purpose was malicious propaganda against Biblical religion, and an assault on Middle America.
An article by James Perloff dissects the movie, laying bare its many errors, or shall we say, departures from fact. The plausible deniability concerning its propaganda value may indeed derive from the argument that no reasonable person would consider this movie fact because it is entertainment, which by its very nature has no obligation to factual fidelity.
The defenders of the movie have a point, but the reality is that this movie has been used for decades to gainsay certain people, their religion, and way of life. The movie was released in 1948 and made into TV movie in 1988, in order to sustain the propaganda franchise of the film and case.
There can be no denying that the screenplay as well as the movie is based on the famous 1925 trial in which Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan squared off against each other in one of the trials of the century. But what would be the point of twisting the story so much if not to score points against Christians by trumpeting evolution?
Perloff runs through the film by comparing movie scenes with actual events from the trial, relying heavily on the court transcripts to set the record straight. Much more often than not, the two tellings diverge starkly.
Contrary to many beliefs, the case was not about evolution or science. It was about whether a school teacher, in this case John Scopes, had violated Tennessee’s Butler Act which prohibited the teaching that man descended from lower forms of animals. That was it. The consequence for violating the law was civil fines – not criminality or jail time – a point over which the film takes great literary license.
One of the interesting facts about the case was its genesis – or shall we say its evolution. The town where the trial was heard, Dayton, had some enterprising boosters who wanted to put the small town on the map to lift its moribund economy.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had been advertising for a challenger to the Butler Act when a local businessman saw the ad, and persuaded his colleagues to enlist John Scopes as the guinea pig for the publicity stunt. Scopes agreed and the rest was pretty much history.
Thus for the city’s economic prostitutes there was no principled interest in the law or justice. But for the Ziocon ACLU it was a golden opportunity to spread its venom against Christians and Fundamentalists, as well as anyone else who didn’t toe the line on evolution.
While the movie depicts the Dayton proxy town filled with wild eyed zealots, the reality was quite the opposite as even Darrow himself admitted concerning the town’s warm reception of him and his northern carpet baggers.
The assertions in the movie that Darrow was the underdog fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way is also another fiction undermined by the facts. Darrow was heavily funded by Northern business interests operating through the ACLU, and flanked by lawyers Arthur Garfield, Dudley Malone, and John Neal, to name but a few.
The court bent over backward to accommodate Darrow’s requests to introduce evidence, including his request to submit experts on evolution who would not be subject to cross examination. Although the expert evidence was heard without the presence of jurors, it was entirely irrelevant to the claims of the state that Scopes had violated the Butler Act.
When Darrow was allowed to call the plaintiff, William Jennings Bryan acting for the state, to the witness stand, it was done under the assumption that Darrow, the attorney for the defendant, would be subject to cross examination. Again, this unusual event was an attempt to humiliate Bryan, but as we shall see, Bryan was denied his day in court so to speak.
Darrow knew that Bryan’s eloquence would more than likely sink his case, and because he did not want to be subject to Bryan’s rapier wit under cross examination, he instructed his client to plead guilty the day following his grilling of Bryan. Darrow’s case was so weak that Scopes, as he stated in his memoirs, could not recall ever teaching evolution in his class, contrary to the carefully coached testimony of the students.
Scopes was a math teacher and football coach who substituted for the biology teacher on the day the alleged legal infraction occurred. In short the defense had no substance from its star performer, except that it perpetrated a hoax and a fraud on the court.
When Scopes was fined 100 USD, Bryan offered to pay the fine, but the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the penalty on a technicality. Scopes was even offered his job back, but that is not what Inherit the Wind teaches.
Thus the main purpose of the ACLU and its masters’ conjuring up this case out of thin air was to stir up a craze of publicity which was essential in its assault on biblical religions. This assault on Western civilization is the animus of Talmudism.
The movie likewise caricatured the event beyond recognition, yet the masses of Americans considered the movie to be based upon historical fact. The truth lies contrary to their beliefs. So while Stanley Kramer pretends to be opposed to bigotry in his movie, he stirs up hatred and contempt for Bryan and the citizens of Dayton and Tennessee with his gross abuse of the truth.
The movie is successful because of its stark dichotomy of good and evil, a typical morality play devoid of any connection to history, save that there was indeed a trial in Tennessee trying Scopes for violation of the Butler Act, but never the quackery of evolution regardless of Darrow’s attempts to do otherwise.
Perloff offers a more detailed account of the movie and reality, a read which is worth the time.
James Perloff, Trial By Hollywood, James Perloff website, nd, accessed 9/14/2014
Copyright 2014 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.