Economic and political differences among the North and the South eventually turned into cultural differences as well. Due to faster modernization in the North, many northerners began to view their southern counterparts as backward in their outlook. These differences were further exacerbated with the rise of penny press. Local press in each region, trying to generate greater readership, depicted cultural and social institutions of the other region in highly negative terms, with little regard to accuracy and objectivity. “There is no doubt,” Niven writes, “that after a quarter of a century of such constant editorial bashing, the southern and northern publics could believe the worst of each other” (p. 12). Nowhere was such inflammatory rhetoric condemning each other as divisive as it was in the discussion of slavery. And finally the “virus of slavery that had infected the colonies in 1619 was finally incapacitating the Union,” while “the triumph of the Republican party in the presidential election . . .
made a war between the sections virtually certain” (p. 16).
The American Civil War, which cost the lives of more Americans than World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined, is one of the most important subjects in U.S. history. Reminding Americans that the American unity in the years preceding the Civil War was as fragile as to result in the bloodiest war in American history has implications for the present. Very often sectional divisions along political lines today remind us of that fragility, as the representatives of the Democratic and the Republican party turn to unnecessary inflammatory rhetoric, while the press and other media outlets, rather than serving as a moderating force between these sections, exacerbate the divisions because of their tendency to sensationalism. Nivens discussion of how modernization clashed with traditional ways of life in America is important to keep in mind as such a division today may take place.