Alex Massie

The Pleasures of Moral Panic

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Like Julian Sanchez, I consider Reason's compilation of 40 years of Time magazine's addiction to hysteria a real treat.

This 1972 effort - warning, as you can see, of the inexorable rise of Satanism in the United States - is just the beginning of it.

From there it's but a hop, skip and jump to scaremongering about cocaine use, rap music, population growth, "crack kids" and, best of all, Pokemon. Yes, Pokemon.

I suspect that Reason could have gone much further: surely Time must have warned us that we're all going to die of swine flu? Or was that bird flu?

Pretty much each and every one of these issues are classic examples of moral panic. And in each case, as Reason demonstrates, Time's journalism was only too happy to buy into hysteria based on anecdote and hearsay and rarely upon anything akin to logic or sound research.

But who needs facts or common sense when it's so much more entertaining to predict a new plague that will destroy everything that is sweet and good and true and wholesome about America?

As I say, it's all good fun.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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