The experience of the gangster as an experience of art is universal to Americans. There is almost nothing we understand better or react to more readily or with quicker intelligence. In ways that we do not easily or willingly define, the gangster speaks for us, expressing that part of the American psyche which rejects the qualities and the demands of modern life, which rejects ''Americanism'' itself.
Nobody seriously questions the principle that it is the function of mass culture to maintain public morale, and certainly nobody in the mass audience objects to having his morale maintained.
Modern equalitarian societies whether democratic or authoritarian in their political forms, always base themselves on the claim that they are making life happier. Happiness thus becomes the chief political issue -- in a sense, the only political issue -- and for that reason it can never be treated as an issue at all.