"Delicious Horrors": Mass Culture, The Red Cross, and the Appeal of Modern American Humanitarianism

This essay analyzes the extraordinary rise of mass humanitarianism in the United States in the early twentieth century. It contests prevailing critical assumptions about the oppositional relationship between humanitarianism and sensationalism, arguing that modern humanitarianism is actually best understood as a creation of an increasingly entertainment-oriented mass culture. Revealing unexpected affinities in the presentation and appeal of American Red Cross promotional texts (especially the society's hugely popular magazine) and pulp magazines, advertisements, and commercial movies, the essay offers fresh perspectives on the cultural production of morality and citizenship in the age of mass media.