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Opening Arguments

Danger, danger!

Reason Online provides a valuable public service by choosing the "Top 10 most absurd Time magazine covers of the past 40 years."

From William Randolph Hearst's ginned up hysterical stories about marijuana to the "10-cent plague" comic book scare of the 1950s to The New York Times warning of "cocaine-crazed Negroes" raping white women across the Southern countryside, the media has always whipped up anxiety and increased readership via thinly sourced exposes of the next great threat to the American way of life.

And since the British sociologist Stanley Cohen defined the moral panic phenomenon in the early 1970s as hysterical overreactions to imagined threats to social order, no publication has done a better (by which we mean worse) job of scaring the crap out of post-baby boomer America than Time, the top-selling newsweekly that's dropping subscribers like the mythical meth mouth drops teeth. (Hot tip to Time: If you're looking for a cutting-edge panic to get those ad rates up again, we hear people have been freaking out about "sexting" lately.)

Most of the covers try to scare me about things I never really worried much about, such as The Occult Revival (Satan Returns!), Dirty Words (American's Fould-Mouthed Pop Culture!) and Overcoming Obesity (Why We Eat So Much!). But there is at least one legitimate issue that I still lose sleep over. It's . . . well, just look at the cover and see for yourself. Make sure to have a tranquilzer and the phone number of a good therapist handy.

Posted in: Current Affairs