Time Magazine: Merchant of Moral Panic!

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Jeff Winkler and I have a fun piece up at Reason this afternoon that pokes fun at Time magazine for its long history of ridiculously hysterical cover stories.

It’s done in the form of a “Top 10″ list, and includes all of your favorites, including crack babies, porno plagues, Pokemon addiction, and the rise of satanism!

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18 Responses to “Time Magazine: Merchant of Moral Panic!”

  1. #1 |  Aresen | 

    Personally, I find the Time Man of the Year covers in election years – when they always choose the newly elected/re-elected President on the cover – as the scariest.

    (x-posted at Reason)

  2. #2 |  anarch | 

    This one’s suitable for framing.

  3. #3 |  Dave Krueger | 

    To steal a concept from Gordon Gecko:

    Hysteria works.

  4. #4 |  MDGuy | 

    I followed that link to the obesity pro/con argument that Radley wrote for TIME and I found the pro argument to be positively infuriating. From the article:

    “Were people less responsible in 2002 than in 2001? Obesity is a global problem. Is irresponsibility an epidemic around the world?”

    My answer to that is a resounding YES!!! And it’s precisely because every year the government moves more in the direction that we’re really all just totally incapable of managing our own lives
    and that it should all just be handled for us. The mentality displayed by these two authors is exactly what is driving irresponsibilty – the idea that you should be free of consequences for your actions because it’s always someone else’s fault.
    And the comparison to the tobacco companies is ridiculous – McDonalds and other producers of junk food have never claimed their products were “healthy” (as Tobacco companies have in the past). Moreover, health professionals today are well aware of the dangers of junk food (and are quite vocal about them) as compared to doctors in the 40’s prescribing cigarettes and even being smokers themselves. Even during that era, there were plenty of people with common sense who thought to themselves, “I don’t care what doctors/tobacco companies say, inhaling smoke doesn’t seem like a good idea.” You can find plenty of smokers from that era too, who will tell you, “I knew it was bad for me, I did it anyway.” It’s only the self-delusional idiots looking for a hand out who claim, “I really thought smoking (or junk food) was healthy for me! I was totally duped by the big bad corporation!”

  5. #5 |  Mattocracy | 

    I wonder why people even take TIME seriously anymore? This must be what Fox News saw that made them the sensationalists they are.

  6. #6 |  MacGregory | 

    Nice compilation. I don’t even look at that rag when I’m sitting in the waiting room at the doc’s office.

    I liked Pro Libertate’s (Reason) comment:
    “Indeed. I always go to Time and Newsweek when I want to know what the government wants me to believe.”

  7. #7 |  SJE | 

    The funny thing, to me, is that Time still considers itself “serious” journalism, but still resorts to tabloid sensationalism, fear-mongering and general rabble rousing. When the British and Germans want to sell lots of newspapers, they flash pictures of large breasted women on page 3. At least those tabloids are being honest about what they are doing.

    The “old” media complain about their business model, but too many have delivered sensationalist crap for years. I won’t buy them, and its their own fault. I buy “The Economist,” which continues to make a profit, even as a dead-tree magazine.

  8. #8 |  KBCraig | 

    What a bogus list.

    Pokemon should have been Number 1!

  9. #9 |  Tsu Dho Nihm | 

    This must be what Fox News saw that made them the sensationalists they are.

    Nah, the history of sensationalism in media is way too long and absurd to blame Fox News solely on Time.

  10. #10 |  freedomfan | 

    Nice article, Radley. It must have been difficult to limit it to just ten.

    Around Spring of every year, I wonder what that year’s “global health emergency” will be. Flesh-eating virus? SARS? Swine flu? Bird flue? Ebola? E. Coli? Every year, there is some (typically very minor) health scare that gets hyped up into a crisis that we should all be panicking over and that government “leaders” should be wasting our time and money preparing for.

  11. #11 |  justinslot | 

    As the 2006 Time Person of the Year, I’m offended.

  12. #12 |  chance | 

    Pretty good article, but I somewhat disagree with number 8. I may get flamed for this, bt while I agree that the earth has enough resources to support several billion more people than it currently has, I am not convinced that it can support all those extra billions at a **first-world standard of living**. The new green revolution by genetic engineers hasn’t so far panned out as boosters promised, current food production relies on cheap energy, and getting fresh water is a growing problem in many parts of the world. The conventional wisdom from many is basically that technology and innovation will fix any problems just like they have solved many past iusses. Perhaps that is what will happen. Maybe Mr. Fusion will be discovered by some guy in his garage – hell, that would solve half the world’s problems practically overnight. Then again, maybe that won’t happen.

    My point is that gloom and doom is a bad thing, yes, but so is being over-confident about the future. If a problem is on the horizon (even far horizon) some prudent planning and even action may be in order.

  13. #13 |  Neil Eden | 

    Great article Radley. As a grizzled veteran of periodical publication, do you feel any chance of Time responding?

  14. #14 |  ClubMedSux | 

    My point is that gloom and doom is a bad thing, yes, but so is being over-confident about the future.

    I too have had the same thought when people say, “Oh, technology always comes up with a solution.” It’s sort of a secular equivalent of the church that spends money it doesn’t have, rationalizing it by proclaiming that “God will provide.”

  15. #15 |  paul | 

    Good article. I’m sure there are many more that could have got in, but one I’d nominate for it’s pervasiveness is the June 24 1974 piece called “Another Ice Age?” based on anecdotal evidence of a few cold winters. This is endlessly dredged up by global climate change denialists as “proof” that scientists who predict a continued trend of rising global temperature are not to be believed, because after all, in the 70s, they were predicting another ice age.
    In fact, no serious, peer reviewed scientific journal of the time predicted a coming ice age although several did advocate more research.

  16. #16 |  Mattocracy | 

    The next “panic” will obviously be Swine Flu. I don’t doubt Swine Flu is serious. It’s just that with the nanny staters in charge, they’ll make sure that it fucks up your life whether you contract the disease or not. That scares me more than the virus itself, and a legitimate fear that TIME magazine will never address.

  17. #17 |  Spleen | 

    I too have had the same thought when people say, “Oh, technology always comes up with a solution.” It’s sort of a secular equivalent of the church that spends money it doesn’t have, rationalizing it by proclaiming that “God will provide.”

    Except technology actually exists and has solved countless problems for humanity.

  18. #18 |  CHRISC | 

    But the scariest covers of all are the 47 so far paying homage at the altar of obama! Yikes!! I’m really scared now!! Guess I’ll go read a serious rag like Newsweek.

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