In the stifling heat of a Bible Belt July a court is sitting in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925 to try a young supply teacher called John Thomas Scopes, accused of teaching evolution in a local high school. Religion seems pitted here in a straight fight against science, the Bible v Darwin, and it has turned into one of the first modern media circuses.
Over 200 journalists have come to cover the story, filing over 165,000 words a day, dispatched to their papers by telegraph. It is the first trial to be broadcast on national radio in the US and film footage of it is also regularly being flown out. The competition to catch the public eye is feverish and, if a fatuous photograph might do that, then OK. William Jennings Bryan, three times a presidential candidate, a fervent Presbyterian and leading for the prosecution, has condemned evolution for teaching that humans are merely one of 35,000 types of mammal, descended ‘not even from American monkeys but from old world ones’. America’s most famous journalist, H.L. Mencken, has christened this the Monkey Trial, so the obvious next move is to set up a shot of Jock, the monkey, listening to it on the radio.
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