The Top 10 Most Absurd Time Covers of The Past 40 Years

Mr. Luce's mag does satanism, porn, crack, Pokemon, and more!

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.)

As a service to future historians of the long, slow death of the newsweekly, Reason offers this Top 10 list of the most horrifying, silly, irresponsible, or downright ridiculous Time cover panics from the past 40 years.

10. June 19, 1972: The Occult Revival

Why So Worried? Time warns that bizarre occult rituals involving black-draped altars, flashes of fire, and "goat-shaped images superimposed on purple pentagram[s]" are "being re-enacted all across the U.S. nowadays." The article describes "sex clubs that embellish their orgies with Satanist rituals," takes note of the Satanic followers of Charles Manson, and recounts two anecdotal news stories about a grave robbery and an alleged stabbing inspired by Lucifer.

Cue Ominous Music: "There is a danger...in taking the Devil too lightly, for in doing so man might take evil too lightly as well. Recent history has shown terrifyingly enough that the demonic lies barely beneath the surface, ready to catch men unawares with new and more horrible manifestations."

Oh, Just Settle Down: Time's warning that devil worship was sweeping the country was short on supporting evidence. While exact figures are difficult to come by, most estimates put America's satanist population in the range of 10,000-20,000 people. The 1980s saw an explosion not of Wiccans and sorcerers, but of evangelical Protestants. But that only fueled the fear of Mephistopheles, as the decade saw America overcome by scares over the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, Satanic messages inscribed backward on heavy metal albums, and the persistent urban legend about the satanist origins of Procter & Gamble's corporate logo. In the early 1980s, a "Satanic ritual abuse" (SRA) panic swept America and Europe, during which Christian fundamentalists and repressed memory psychiatrists claimed Satanist cults were subjecting children to animal sacrifice, scatology, sexual abuse, and murder. Dozens of questionable prosecutions followed, including the infamous 1984 McMartin preschool molestation trials, in which seven people were charged with 321 counts of child abuse based only on questionable memories psychiatrists claimed to have recovered from children who attended the school. Subsequent studies showed the SRA phenomenon to be without merit.

9. April 5, 1976: The Porno Plague

Why So Worried? Porn, Time says, is sweeping the country, leaving our deflowered Puritan sensibilities in its wake. "The First Amendment may safeguard the rights of pornographers and their audience," the magazine posits, "but surely the majority of Americans who find porn objectionable have rights as well. Must they and their children be under constant assault by the hucksters of porn?"

Cue Ominous Music: The article quotes U.C.L.A. psychiatrist Robert J. Stoller, author of Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred, who warns that porn "'disperses rage' that might tear society apart, but also threatens society by serving as propaganda for the unleashing of sexual hostility."

Oh, Just Settle Down: Time was right about the increase in production and availability of pornography in the 1970s, it was just wrong about the effects. Two years after this cover appeared, the number of reported rapes in the U.S. began a 30-year free-fall, a period over which pornography became increasingly easier to obtain. Today, porn is more abundant and ubiquitous than ever, while incidence of rape in the U.S. is at its lowest rate since the government started keeping statistics.

8. August 6, 1984: The Population Curse

Why So Worried? Using an upcoming U.N. conference in Mexico City as its hook, Time engages in some Paul Ehrlich-style doom-mongering about overpopulation.

Cue Ominous Music: "The consequences of a failure to bring the world's population growth under control are frightening. They could include widespread hunger and joblessness, accompanied by environmental devastation and cancerous urban growth. Politically, the outcome could be heightened global instability, violence and authoritarianism."

Oh, Just Settle Down: Since Time's 1984 cover story, the world's population has increased from 4.75 billion to 6.78 billion people. This year, the World Bank's Poverty Analysis reported, "Living standards have risen dramatically over the last decades. The proportion of the developing world's population living in extreme economic poverty...has fallen from 52 percent in 1981 to 26 percent in 2005.... Infant mortality rates in low- and middle-income countries have fallen from 87 per 1,000 live births in 1980 to 54 in 2006. Life expectancy in [low and middle-income] countries has risen from 60 to 66 between 1980 and 2006." According to the peace advocacy group Ploughshares, the number of armed conflicts across the globe has generally been in decline since the mid-1990s (PDF). As for "authoritarianism," with the fall of the Soviet empire, a far greater percentage of the global population lived under such regimes in 1984 than do today. Even the massive population in China is freer (if not actually "free") than it was in 1984.

7. September 15, 1986: Drugs: The Enemy Within

Why So Worried? This Time cover story simultaneously fans the flames of drug war hysteria while acknowledging it may not be all it's...er...cracked up to be. The article admits that a vanishingly small number of people actually die of cocaine overdoses (just 563 in 1983, out of tens of millions of users), yet still refers to the drug as a "taker of lives." After suggesting that the country might be overreacting to drug use and acknowledging the drug war causes far more problems than it helps, the article concludes, "If Americans are willing to say clearly—to their workmates and schoolmates, to their neighbors and friends, to their communities and to themselves—that drug use is not acceptable...then even all the hype and excess may in retrospect be worthwhile." No, Time, it wasn't.

Cue Ominous Music: "To a nation that espouses self-reliance, drug dependence has emerged as the dark side of the American character, the price of freedom to fail. It is as if America, so vain and self-consciously fit, has looked upon itself and suddenly seen the hideously consumptive portrait of Dorian Gray. The country, it seems, is awash with drugs. Fine white powder pours past the border patrol like sand through a sieve. On busy street corners and in urban parks, pushers murmur, 'Crack it up, crack it up,' like some kind of evil incantation, bewitching susceptible kids and threatening society's sense of order and security."

Oh, Just Settle down: Overall use of illicit drugs has largely remained constant over the years, though individual drugs go in and out of vogue. Crack in particular was singled out in the late '80s; Time called it "the most virulent" form of drug abuse, while one expert quoted in a similar Newsweek article called it "the most addictive drug known to man." As Reason's Jacob Sullum explains in his book Saying Yes, studies show that the vast majority of crack users never went on to become addicts. One 1994 survey, for example, showed that 93 percent of respondents who had admitted to trying crack weren't using the allegedly instantaneously addictive drug as much as once a month when the survey was taken. Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman even theorzied in the Wall Street Journal that it's actually the prohibition of cocaine that gave us drugs like crack, likening the intoxicant to the bathtub gin that soaked the black market during alcohol prohibition.

More to the point, drug scare stories like this one—and Time has run a number of them over the years (see, for example, this one about Ecstasy, also mostly overblown)—have contributed to mass public panics that gave us the nation's odious drug laws, which while producing mass collateral damage, have had little effect on the actual drug supply.

6. May 7, 1990: Dirty Words

Why So Worried? Citing gangsta rap and heavy metal lyrics, raunchy comedians, and radio shock jocks, Time worries that American pop culture has grown too vulgar. The "new crude," Time frets, is different from the old crude of people like Lenny Bruce, because the new crude has no redeeming social message. "Today's sex talk...is almost exclusively from the male-pig viewpoint," the magazine scolds, and it features ample helpings of racism, homophobia, and other bigotry.

Cue Ominous Music: Time quotes a woman who says that after sitting through a comedy routine by Andrew "Dice" Clay, "she felt like a Jew at the 1934 Nuremberg rally."

Oh, Just Settle Down: The Time story offered no actual data that America was getting cruder, much less that it's anything to worry about. Andrew "Dice" Clay, the article's main bogeyman, was last seen getting tossed from Donald Trump's reality show for D-list celebrities. That doesn't mean American society has gone PG. But it's hard to argue that pop culture's comfort with bad language is anything to fret about. Since the Time article ran in 1990, nearly every measurable social indicator has been moving in the right direction, from youth crime to sex crime to teen pregnancy. America has largely grown more tolerant, too, even as ethnic, sexist, and homophobic jokes are widely available on iTunes, the Internet, and basic cable, most notably via Comedy Central's airing of Friars Club roasts. Time would return to the "vulgar culture" theme in 1999, with the cover story, "Are Movies and Music Killing America's Soul?" (Conclusion: Maybe!)

5. May 13, 1991: Crack Kids

Why So Worried? The children of women who took crack cocaine during their pregnancies, Time worries, have become a "biologic underclass," a generation marred by physical deformities and mental deficiencies that are "sure to put enormous strain on an educational system that is already overburdened and underachieving."

Cue Ominous Music: "Their plight inspires both pity and fear. Pity that they are the innocent victims of society's ills. Pity that the odds will be stacked against them, at home, on the playground and in school. Fear that they will grow into an unmanageable multitude of disturbed and disruptive youth. Fear that they will be a lost generation."

Oh, Just Settle Down: The crack kids myth has been extensively debunked, most recently in the January 2009 New York Times article "Crack Babies: The Epidemic That Wasn't." The Times quoted researchers who've been following the so-called crack generation of kids, and they're finding the effects to be minor and subtle, and virtually indistinguishable from other problems that kids of crack mothers might experience, such as unstable families and poor parenting. Persistent scare stories from Time and other media outlets (including The New York Times itself) made "crack babies" a nationwide moral panic, inspiring a racially fueled push for stricter drug laws. As the Times article explains, the crack baby myth itself may now be doing harm to otherwise normal kids: "[C]ocaine-exposed children are often teased or stigmatized if others are aware of their exposure. If they develop physical symptoms or behavioral problems, doctors or teachers are sometimes too quick to blame the drug exposure and miss the real cause, like illness or abuse."
 
 
 
4. July 3, 1995: Cyberporn: On a Screen Near You

Why So Worried? Time hangs its entire scare on a single study, “Marketing Pornography on the Information Superhighway.” That study found cyberporn was omnipresent on the Internet and led Time to produce one of its most (unintentionally) hilarious covers ever. Time even followed up four years later with the almost-as-ominous cover "Growing Up Online," which included this bed-wetting warning: "At any moment, the same kids listening to...'Baby One More Time' are just a few keystrokes away from Pandora's hard drive—from the appalling filth, unspeakable hatred and frightening prescriptions for homicidal mayhem" that plague the Internet.

Cue Ominous Music: "Perhaps because hard-core sex pictures are so widely available elsewhere, the adult BBS market seems to be driven largely by a demand for images that can't be found in the average magazine rack: pedophilia (nude photos of children), hebephilia (youths) and what the researchers call paraphilia—a grab bag of "deviant" material that includes images of bondage, sadomasochism, urination, defecation, and sex acts with a barnyard full of animals."

Oh, Just Settle Down: The “principal researcher” for the study that inspired Time's cover was actually an undergraduate, and experts began picking the study apart the moment the issue hit newsstands. Three weeks after the wee, wide-eyed web surfer cover, Time backpedalled–on page 57—explaining that real experts say “a more telling statistic is that pornographic files represent less than one-half of 1 percent of all messages posted on the Internet” and that, “it is impossible to count the number of times those files are downloaded; the network measures only how many people are presented with the opportunity to download, not how many actually do.”

In 2009, a study commissioned by 49 state attorneys general found that the scaremongering in Time's "your child and the Internet" stories and dozens like them over the years was way overblown. The creepy-but-wired pedophile who substitutes Internet chat rooms for the van and a puppy is largely a myth. Moreover, most kids who download pornography online, the study notes, aren't innocently typing otherwise-innocuous phrases into search engines. Rather they are usually older male youths actively seeking the stuff out. Nor does giving out personal information online seem to make kids any more susceptible to predation.

3. Nov 22, 1999: Pokemon!

Why So Worried? Documenting the Pokemon “controversy,” or Pokemania, this Time cover story breathlessly warns that children are printing counterfeit cards, cheating friends and classmates, and even stabbing one another over Pokemon trading disputes. Time doesn’t dwell too long on any substantive data (there isn't any) that might show what sort of sustained violence and mayhem would make Pokemon an “addiction" (Time's word). Instead, it quickly cuts to what the authors see as the real dark heart of the Pokemon phenomenon: crass capitalism! Time works up a lather over the over-saturation of cuddly consumerism, calling Pokemon a “pestilential Ponzi scheme—complete with a fold-out graphic explaining why."

Cue Ominous Music: “But there is a problem: the key principle of the Pokeocracy is acquisitiveness. The more Pokemon you have, the greater power you possess (the slogan is GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL). And never underestimate a child's ability to master the Pokearcana required to accumulate such power: the ease with which they slip into cunning and thuggery can stun a mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer.”

Oh, Just Settle Down: It's unlikely that the kids collecting Pokemon in the late 1990s grew up to be today's AIG execs. The timeline doesn't quite work. But the fad did pass. Near the end of the U.S. craze—and at the beginning of the U.K.’s—the BBC ran a slightly tongue-in-cheek article about Pokemon that found the fad to be a good lesson in economics, teaching children the theories of speculation, supply and demand, exchange rates, and bubble bursting. But one man's good lesson in economics is apparently another's lesson in predatory cunning and capitalist thuggery.
 
 
 
2. March 19, 2001: The Columbine Effect



Why So Worried? Time's short, two-page story is almost incoherent. Its main peg is school shooter Charles Andrew Williams, who killed two and injured 13 at his high school in Santee, California nearly two years after the April 20, 1999 school shootings in Littleton, Colorado. The fear brought on by the “Columbine Effect,” says Time, has adults scrambling for a solution to the problem of school violence: "A reasonable person who read the papers or watched the news last week might conclude that murderous violence could happen anywhere, at any time, in any school in America."

Cue Ominous Music: "Many of us float our children off to school in a bubble, grateful to live in a wholesome town—"We are America," Santee Mayor Randy Voepel declared—and unwilling to admit that the danger could follow us no matter where we go."

Oh, Just Settle Down: Bizarrely, after running off an alarming string of school shooting anecdotes, Time acknowledges the ridiculousness of its own cover by slipping in the story’s only actual statistic: “youth violence is dropping…schools are getting safer" and "fewer than 1% of teen gun-related deaths occur in schools.” Time might also have cited the Departments of Education and Justice's annual report on school safety for the year 2000, which found that “for students aged 12 to 18, overall school crime…decreased by nearly a third to 101 school-related crimes per 1,000 students in 1998, compared to 144 crimes per 1,000 in 1992. As the report concluded, "Violent deaths at school are extremely rare.” But still scary enough to make the cover of Time. Thanks in part to scare stories like this one, dim-witted legislatures and school boards across the country enacted "zero tolerance" policies that led to kids getting arrested and suspended for drawing pictures, or for writing creative fiction about zombies.
 
 
 

Why So Worried: Time lards this pudgy special issue with more than a dozen articles on why America's bulging belly may well portend the end of us. Even America's poor, laments Time, have too much to eat. (Disclosure: Amidst dozens of pages of panic, this article's co-author Radley Balko was given 600 words to argue that what you eat is none of the government's damned business.)

Cue Ominious Music: "Campaigns against smoking and drunk driving have raised the national consciousness about these public-health issues dramatically. There's no reason to think an anti-obesity campaign can't do so as well—as long as everyone involved acknowledges that the problem is real and that solving it will be as hard as anything we've ever done."

Oh, Just Settle Down: In both the magazine and at an accompanying conference with ABC News in Williamsburg, Virginia, Time and its panel of experts reiterated the scary statistics: An estimated 400,000 people per year die of obesity. Obesity-related medical costs stand at $117 billion per year and climbing. Excess fat raises your risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke. At the conference, keynote speaker Risa Lavizzo-Mouro of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation implored government action even in the absence of more reliable data, exclaiming to applause, "We need to act ahead of the science!"

But the science proved hard for the panic to overcome. In 2005, a team of CDC researchers published a study finding significant flaws with the 400,000 figure. The real number, they said, was closer to 112,000. And when you add in the protective effects of being mildly overweight, the number drops to 26,000. Moreover, while Americans have been getting fatter for 25 years, we still set new life expectancy records each year, and deaths from heart disease, cancer, and stroke have all fallen dramatically over that period. This is of course mostly due to advances in medical science. But obesity isn't exactly bringing on a public health calamity, either. As for medical costs, a 2008 Dutch study suggests what would seem to be intuitive: People who live longer tend to incur more lifetime medical expenses. Meaning that if obesity does modestly shorten lifespans, it does so at a savings to taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Radley Balko is a senior editor for Reason. Jeff Winkler was Reason's spring 2009 Burton C. Gray Memorial Intern.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Time is, and has been, a joke. Maybe it was good once, but I can't remember that time.

    If Time were any good, it would've made Tank Guy the Man of the Year in 1989, not Gorbachev.

  • People Power Hour||

    The last time I, in good conscience, picked up and seriously read Time was back in 1989. I've attempted to read an issue now and again since then, but have been overwhelmed by the spewage outlined here.

    They're obviously desperate for readership to increase, and so tread down the same sensationalist path other once-proud publications (and broadcast entities) have wandered down, to be caught in the same circle--readership declines because of the shite, increase shite, readership continues to decline, ad infinitum.

    They seriously jumped the shark long, long ago....

  • ||

    Oh, ProL. So naive. Sucking up to statists is the raison d'etre of Time.

  • Syd||

    The Satan cover is an interesting blend of medieval goat man and a five-year old with a red crayon.

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    Indeed. I always go to Time and Newsweek when I want to know what the government wants me to believe.

    I like the porn cover from the 70s. Little did they know that the Internet would make their quaint concerns, well, quaint.

  • ||

    Extra-black O.J. is my personal favorite.

  • Xeones||

    Yo, Time cold has a peter in its mouth.

  • ||

    I don't get the whole bed wetting thing for identifying some one as a scaredy-cat. When is wetting the bed due to irrational fears?

    On the other hand, sheer PANT wetting terror over things irrational perceived as terrifying would seem more appropriate.

    2 cents.

  • creech||

    "Time" has no time for such nonsense lately, what with having to put one Obama or another on every cover.

  • ||

    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.

  • Fascitis Necrotizante||

    The shocked little boy from the cyberporn cover is how I picture Tony/Chad.

  • Warty||

    We first got the internet when I was 14, and it took about 2 minutes for me to find porn. I did not make that face.


    Hell, I think I knew there was so much porn because of media pants-shitting stories like that one.

  • AlmightyJB||

    There was no internet when I was a kid but that certainly didn't prevent us from seeing porn.

  • ||

    Yeah, what's up with that? Maybe Oprah should give the Obamas O, The Oprah Magazine, with a slight tweak of the name.

  • ..||

    I blame the dentists.

  • Warty||

    You anti-dentite bastard.

  • cricket||

    Warty (porn never did me no harm) Palms:

    If you didn't make that face, you didn't find the right porn; that's all I can say.

  • Xeones||

    cricket, you're not taking into account everything Warty was exposed to BEFORE he turned 14. He is the way he is because of Circumstances.

  • ||

    This is an awesome article -- nice job. Please compile a similar one on Oprah's big scares too (I know Newsweek recently gave it a try but they weren't very comprehensive). After all, Oprah is kinda like Time Magazine was back in the day; she sets various agendas and is worth tackling.

  • ||

    The cover that should have been: "Rainbow Parties: How come I'm not getting any!"

  • ||

    Next year's version of the Scaring the Hell Out of You top 10 should all have Obama covers. He makes up all kinds of shit to scare people. There have been at least 10 Obama covers so far, right?

  • Ed C||

    "I sold a Charizard 1st edition for 36 bucks in 7th grade."

    I remember 1st edition Charizard selling for $125 at one point. I do agree with Time magazine when they say that kids would rip other kids off. I know cause I did it and had it done to me. But I'm not sure how that can be considered Capitalism since fraud and stealing would still be illegal in a Lassiez-Faire society.

  • alan||

    I never understood the appeal of the card games like Magic: The Gathering. There was even a longish bit about it in Cryptonomicon when the modern protagonist is in Seattle and the Bill Gates like friend is playing it, and that seemed odd as I associated the card games with The Up and Coming Degenerate Whippersnappers (there's a cover title for you, Time!).

  • ||

    Stay tuned for the follow up on this in 10 years devoted entirely to Global Warming.

  • ||

    The shocked little boy from the cyberporn cover is how I picture Tony/Chad.

    Yeah, complete with the absurdly small hands. TF? With hands like that the kid is going to have a difficult time getting a date later in life. Maybe pron is good for him.

  • alan||

    modern protagonist Hint to those who have not read it, there are also two non modern protagonist in this novel.

  • JB||

    'Time' should be changed to 'Shit'.

    Then again, it is better than Newsweak, but that isn't saying much.

  • alan||

    The article quotes U.C.L.A. psychiatrist Robert J. Stoller, author of Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred, who warns that porn "'disperses rage' that might tear society apart, but also threatens society by serving as propaganda for the unleashing of sexual hostility."

    Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred

    Hmm, and all this time I thought I was just using visual aids while busting a nut to maintain a healthy biological cycle. Little did I know, I was both victim and malcontent.

  • ||

    But you have to hand it to Time for recognizing the Pokémon menace...


    but more seriously Pokémon _is_ afterall one of those "little brother" things and thus beneath contempt.


    ..."Get OUTTA my fuckin' room you you little dipshit!, I mean fuck, dont you ever knock. .... None of your God-damned business what magazine I am looking at. OUT! NOW!.... Moooooommmmm!!"

  • herp derp||

    so true

  • ||

    I like the secondary story for 1984 - Bank Bailouts

  • ||

    1. I think there is too much swearing and crude language these days.

    2. Illicit drug use, including marijuana, is a detriment to our society

    Your blog article is very opinionated. They reflect only your views, which are not the views of sensible citizens.

  • malletdiction||

    But they missed this one...

    PARIS (AFP) - A force known as orbital chaos may cause our Solar System to go haywire, leading to possible collision between Earth and Venus or Mars, according to a study released Wednesday.

  • ||


    Matthew Ota | June 10, 2009, 5:59pm | #

    1. I think there is too much swearing and crude language these days.



    Well, so do I, but I don't get the vapors because someone drops an F-bomb.


    2. Illicit drug use, including marijuana, is a detriment to our society



    Throwing people in jail for it is a lot worse detriment. So is the fact that the drug laws promote violent criminal behavior.


    Your blog article is very opinionated. They reflect only your views,



    Uh, I thought blogs were SUPPOSED to be opinionated


    which are not the views of sensible citizens the obsessive farts I hang around with.



    fixed that last phrase

  • ||

    The article quotes U.C.L.A. psychiatrist Robert J. Stoller, author of Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred

    Based on the title alone, that guy needs a good old fashion slapping-to-death.

  • axl||

    Nothing in that article says that "meth mouth" is a myth. (Fun to say, though.) Instead, it says that the supposed *reasons* for meth mouth are poorly documented.

  • ||

    I never understood the appeal of the card games like Magic: The Gathering.

    They are an outlet for that segment of nerd society that doesn't quite feel outcast enough yet, but who don't have the imagination and attention span to LARP.


    And, it is quite obvious to me that Matthew Ota is the porn kind from Time all grown up.

  • ||

    porn "kid"

    Stupid fingers.

  • alan||

    Your blog article is very opinionated. They reflect only your views, which are not the views of sensible citizens.

    Well, as a crude tongued non-sensible sort, all I can say, is Godspeed to all of that. Ride that straight and narrow path all the way to Nirvana if you think it will get you there.

  • anarch||

    Nice, Aresen 6:21pm. That's why I keep coming back here, against my (and likely not only my) better judgment.

  • ||

    I think the whole article is setting us up to recognize the scare tactics and junk science of the global warming alarmists. I call it the "Scooby Doo" theory of scary stories - Shaggy and Scooby are always scared, but after so many years when it's ALWAYS a man in a costume or with a projector, why don't they start to assume it probably is again, and not get scared? We've had environmental scares every couple years since "Silent Spring". Global Warming is no different.

  • ||

    For the first time in forever, I can't disagree with these covers. These are not the most absurd. Anything with Obama on it is the definition of absurd.

  • ||

    Before Al Gore was going to save us from global warming he was going to save us from explicit rock lyrics.

    No wonder he flunked out of divinity school... there is only room for one savior at a time.

  • phalkor||

    My comment got disintegrated! Is it because I did not produce a snarky comment about Time's awesome scaremongering tactics? Nah, that comment had an embarrassing admission, I'll let it slide.


    I do LOVE this article having seen all of the post 1991 covers and actually having read those articles. I remember the palpable fear columbine instilled in my 6th grade teacher. I remember a teacher confiscating a Magic card from me because it contained a burning pentagram. There's always something out there that will destroy our way of life as we know it.

    This chronology is so choice because it shows us what scared the sh!t out of people in the past came and went and we are doing just fine. You heard me. We're doing fine.

  • ||

    Matthew Ota | June 10, 2009, 5:59pm | #
    1. I think there is too much swearing and crude language these days.

    2. Illicit drug use, including marijuana, is a detriment to our society

    Your blog article is very opinionated. They reflect only your views, which are not the views of sensible citizens.



    Brilliant, just brilliant. This is art people. You're casting pearls before swine here, Mathew. I'm going to be laughing at this for WEEKS.

  • ||

    My favorite TIME scare drug cover story was the "How We Get Addicted" cover with a piscoid human (or was it a humanoid fish?)going after a baited hook. (Follow the article link.) It's so absurd I bought a oopy off the newsstand as a souvenir. I still have it.

  • mike||

    Good article, but you may not want to use school crime data from 1998 to debunk the Columbine effect when Columbine happened in 1999.

  • Gustavo Arellano||

    This is one of the most original, hilarious articles I've read in a long time...

  • ||

    I think the common trend of these articles is a lack of research or faulty statistics and no common sense.

    If anyone had actually double checked what Pokemon was about, they would have seen good environmental responsibility, teamwork and loyal friends, moderation and some of the cleanest tv/video games out there. Honestly, it's kind of sickening how wholesome it is. Plus, the TCG was probably no worse than baseball cards throughout the mid-century.

    As for the internet, isn't it *for* porn? (see: Avenue Q)

  • ||

    "after the April 20, 1999 school shootings in Littleton, Colorado."

    The Columbine shootings were not in Littleton - Columbine isn't even in the same county. Littleton was a dateline on the stories as filed and the nearest bulk mail center and so used on some mail addresses.

    This matters because number of moves correlates with behavior and Littleton is a settled community - Columbine is a new community where everybody was from someplace else.

  • Mike||

    I can certainly say that Reason's best cover was Miss October 2006, Ova for Sale. We need more of those penetrating covers.

  • Adam S||

    Carl over at behaviorgap.com has been posting up Time covers with economics stories. Some of them look pretty hilarious in hindsight.

    http://www.behaviorgap.com/

  • ||

    Indeed. I always go to Time and Newsweek when I want to know what the government wants me to believe.

    Agreed. That's pretty much the only reason I occasional check it out. To see what the orthodox position is at the moment.

  • Tang||

    While we're slamming Time, let's not forget their Man of the Year decision that Rudy Giuliani had a greater effect on the world than anybody else in 2001. Unless the MIHOPs are right and Time knew something we didn't (that's a joke, people), their decision represented the cowardice, nationalism, and worship of authority figures that would permeate American politics for the next seven years and might still.

  • phalkor||

    I was man of the year once. I liked that cover. It was shiny.

  • ||

    Another example of how MSM (MainStream Media) write provocative (albeit exaggerated) stories, causing a panic in the public, which the government then (many times successfully) attempts to further corral the sheeple to remove more of their freedoms. ( Read tinyurl.com/1mn )

    1776: Give me liberty or give me death!
    2001: Take my liberties or we're all gonna die!

  • ||

    For the record: calling someone the Burton C. Gray Memorial Intern makes it sound like you kill the guy after his internship.

  • ||

    For the record: calling someone the Burton C. Gray Memorial Intern makes it sound like you kill the guy after his internship.

    What makes you think they don't?

  • 1836||

    The article reminds me of the Time cover "Does the Supreme Court Still Matter?." That day I wondered whether Time mattered at all.

    http://j.bdbphotos.com/pictures/B/4L/B4F8A5P_large.jpg

  • Michael||

    Willy | June 10, 2009, 5:59pm | #
    I like the secondary story for 1984 - Bank Bailouts


    No shit, I'll be damned. Whatever that article is, reason should find it and reprint it as a gag.

  • Soap Mouth Man||

    Actually there is too much swearing and crude language, but I think of it more as one of the more irritating forms of noise pollution of our time than some big crisis.

    When it comes to crude language on the internet, I've gotten myself a special filter for my browser (Mozilla Firefox) designed to deal with all that nasty language: Jmaxxz's vulgar word "blocker" which is actually a customizable word changer. (You also have to have the Grease Monkey plug-in in order to apply this script.)

    The tricky part is figuring out what to substitute for the foul language. I usually replace all usages of the f-bomb with "shaft" and other expletives with milder versions of themselves, such as "crap" for certain references to excrement. The filter allows you to change words more than once, so I can do further tweaking to describe in which manner you or somebody else are getting shafted. (Obviously, the way a boss or a boyfriend are shafting you are *usually* two different things.)

    As a word changer, though, it's useful for far more than that! All references to our current illegal White House occupant now spell his name with a zero. That retard blowhard Paul Craig Roberts of LewRockwell is now known as Fundamentally Anal Roberts of LooCrockShill. The Holocaust-denying anti-semite Patrick Buchanan is now Rat Prick Butt Cannon, and the self-righteous pseudo-Christian Marcionite pacifascist Lawrence Vance is now known as Moron Rants. Michael Moore is likewise Megafat Whore and women's rights are crybabies' entitlements.

    In short, there is basically no limit to how much you can correct other people's speech online with this marvelous filter. I heartily recommend it to everybody, filthy and clean people alike.

  • ||

    Why did they leave out the global climate change edition? hey, anyone remember when Nuclear power was the biggest threat to us all? Whatever happened to that?

  • ||

    Excellent !! Now I know where Trey and Matt get their ideas for South Park.

  • Stacy Litz||

    Yes, TIME is a joke. I just hope everyone knows that . . .

    I believe the current cover is something like, "Michelle Obama, the Truth Behind the Goddess."

    SIGH.

  • Kaz||

    The Pokemon craze is over? Someone should tell my 5 yr old daughter, who is now "addicted".

  • ||

    It seems to me that the crackerjack minds at Reason could have found a more worthy target than Time. Sheesh. I didn't know it was still being published!

  • ||

    The tricky part is figuring out what to substitute for the foul language.

    I've come to believe that foul language, even four-letter euphemisms, is a sign of laziness or stupidity. Its much more effective and entertaining to express yourself polysyllabically.

  • Rat Prick Butt Cannon||

    I do not appreciate your characterization of me.

  • Moneo||

    I think this story was meant for Cracked.com...

    Good stuff, though it was kind of an obvious target.

  • ||

    what about the one with george bush on the cover as person of the year? that was a joke too wasnt it?

  • haha||

    Those Time covers remind me of the Onion's weekend magazine.

  • Ridonk||

    Oh my god, that was a hilarious article.

  • ||

    Who's (not) editing intelligently these days? There's nothing "mythical" about addicts with "meth mouth" and their teeth; it's a literal, tangible side-effect of abuse. Someone was hell-bent on writing something that seemed alliterative, eh? Far too often TV folks get "literal" and "figurative" confused ("It's literally raining cats and dogs, Joan ..."), but it's the print folks who too often fail to question meaning when invoking popular vernacular (such as "could care less," "irregardless", etc.).

  • ||

    Yeah, Time is pretty awful. But I prefer it to the best-of-all-possible-worlds idiocy that you people seem to promote. How about an article about the ten worst Reason covers? I seem to recall a piece a while back about free-market interplanetary colonization....

  • ||

    Well, I have to agree; Pokemon is something to be downright terrified of. (Seriously, is it still around? My niece skipped cartoons and went straight for "Hannah Montana."

  • bgt||

    Didn't TIME do a cover story on "The Coming Ice Age" back in 1976 . . ? That would make a great back-to-back with their "global warming" covers.

  • Jeff||

    9/10 aint bad.

    Your logic is VERY fuzzy on why the fact that 30% of Americans being Obese is not an epidemic, especially compared to the other 9

  • non-sequinor alert||

    see everyone. Don't worry. Be happy. The world is really a safe cuddly place for us and we can purchase more stuff, drive bigger cars, have big families, build more nukes, all because the world is really a safe place and what do scientists know about anything anyway? They have been wrong before so they are wrong now.

  • Juicy Couture||

    I also think that Time magazine sometimes blows things out of their proportion.

    Juicy Couture

  • ||

    I only see one comment about the Climate scare, why is that?

    We are still waiting to to sober up / get over it?

    That will make #1 - no contest - as the biggest and most expensive hoax ever perpetrated.

  • ||

    I seem to recall a Time cover from the early 70s on killer bees. I was in grammar school and hoping they would come. Maybe it was Newsweek.

  • Evan||

    You gotta hand it to Time's design department though.. those are good looking covers, factual accuracy aside.

  • Soapy Sales||

    @Soap-a-Dope:

    I find it interesting that someone thinks the word "fuck" is offensive then proceeds to bring anal sex into characterizations of nearly everyone he disagree with.

    If you like taking it up the ass, fine, but still - I'm straight, but I don't put "vagina" and "breast" into every article I read.

    Of course, maybe I'm missing the post-post-post-ironic intent of the piece...the 'tubes will do that to ya sometimes.

  • Tristan||

    "Moreover, while Americans have been getting fatter for 25 years, we still set new life expectancy records each year, and deaths from heart disease, cancer, and stroke have all fallen dramatically over that period. This is of course mostly due to advances in medical science. But obesity isn't exactly bringing on a public health calamity, either. As for medical costs, a 2008 Dutch study suggests what would seem to be intuitive: People who live longer tend to incur more lifetime medical expenses. Meaning that if obesity does modestly shorten lifespans, it does so at a savings to taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid."

    So, despite growing obesity, we are living longer. But, we are also saving money because... we are NOT living longer. Yeah, you have an unassailable argument there.

  • Soap Mouth Man||

    Soapy Sales | June 12, 2009, 3:56pm | #
    @Soap-a-Dope:

    I find it interesting that someone thinks the word "shaft" is offensive then proceeds to bring anal sex into characterizations of nearly everyone he disagree with.

    If you like taking it up the butt, fine, but still - I'm straight, but I don't put "vagina" and "breast" into every article I read.

    Of course, maybe I'm missing the post-post-post-ironic intent of the piece...the 'tubes will do that to ya sometimes.



    Well hey, they're what fit the names and characteristics of the people in question the best. (Fundamentally Anal Roberts is just about as self-righteous and hypocritical as Fundamentally Oral Roberts ever was.) Megafat Whore is only figuratively every commie's whore. (At least, I sure hope so!) To mention a few more names, Karen De Coster is Karen the Nazi (for being an Israel-bashing Islamofascist-regime-apologist) and Ron Paul is the aPauling moRon for also being an anti-Zionist, a pacifascist, and 9/11 troofer nutjob.

    Besides, what's so gay about talking OUT of your back door? I mean, unless you agree with South Park that "Being an activist is totally gay." (And if you do, maybe you've got a point there.) Dear ol' Rat Prick is always firing off fusillades from his butt cannon against Israel and the Jews and (of course) our World War II veterans for daring to fight an actual war that, like, actually killed people and destroyed property and stuff (those FASCISTS) against that perfectly nice Hitler guy who was just claiming what was rightly his from those dirty stinkin' Pollacks in the first place, don't you know! ("¿Quantos Polackos Necesitan comer un burrito? ¡Dos! ¡Ja ja ja!") If that makes him a "homo" according to my filter's interpretation of your parlance, so be it!

  • Rich||

    How dare they blaspheme Francis Bacon with the "Drugs" cover?!

  • ||

    I'm sure his disintegrating remains trembled when it went into print.

  • ||

    does anyone give a f::k what the hell time has on it's cover? it's a worthless rag that doctors offices and tire/oil change places have on their tables...not much else. oh, if you work for time, get a meaningful job.

  • ||

    30% of Americans being Obese

    I call bullshit at this figure. According to the BMI, I'm 29.4 (borderline obese!) when I used to be about 26.2 at the same height/weight. Overweight? I can kind of see that, but SRSLY, I can run 10 miles (not in a *great* time), I'm not close to "obese".

    Too many Americans are fat, but the BMI is a joke.

  • wait||

    I'm not close to "obese".

    ... and no one on death row is guilty.

  • ||

    Sure, much of this is sensational. On the other hand, real people have dedicated massive amounts of time and money to making many of these stories less tragic.

    Mocking past problems because they were adequately addressed with the implication that we should ignore current problems and expect equally positive outcomes is not a reasonable argument.

  • David Marfatso||

    Obesity is a myth! Fast food doesn't make you fat! Just ask the companies that sell it. Click on my name to see how fabulously thin I am, and visit ObesityMyths.com

  • Vince||

    This is a really great top ten list, Time has definitely had it's fair share of outrageous covers. The Cyberporn cover is the most creative in my opinion, I think we've all had that face staring into the computer at some time or another. Anyone can post their own list to our site http://www.toptentopten.com/. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

  • Joshua||

    Anybody else unable to see images?

  • hunkered under bed||

    Some one please let me know when I no longer have to worry about heterosexual AIDS, talk radio and super-predator black-kids-with-no-fathers. Fear has kept me barricaded indoors for decades!

    Just to raise our spirits, we should all also look back on the newsweekly tributes to international thugs and tyrants who, we were assured, were really not so bad after all.

  • CPF||

    Let's update this for 2011 -

    "They could include widespread hunger and joblessness, accompanied by environmental devastation and cancerous urban growth. Politically, the outcome could be heightened global instability, violence and authoritarianism."

    And your response was: hunger (_extreme_ poverty is down, based on a carved up quote from a site that actually claims poverty risk is steadily rising), joblessness (not addressed, ask the Tea Party how that's going), enviromental devastation (not addressed, naturally, as all environmentalists are wackos), urban growth (not addressed, because all growth is good for the economy amirite?), global instability/violence (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED... ?), authoritarianism (Socialism! Death panels! - depends on who's in charge, doesn't it?).

    Here's some _reason_ for you: take two cages of equal size, put ten rats in one and twenty in the other, give them equal resources, and see which one has more problems. Population growth is bad no matter how you look at it. Humans destroy more than they fix no matter how hard they try. The cage is not getting any bigger.

  • CPF||

    And I agree that Time is needlessly alarmist, but no more so than the rest of the media has become in the struggle for ratings. For instance our local news can't seem to shut up about violence on public transit. The truth is the incidents are few but stand out when you never report on the number of incidents per rides taken. Net result? Ratings up slightly, also transit fares when the easily frightened now refuse to get on a bus.

    Regarding whatever passes for the current Pokemon craze, I always come back to the wisdom of America's most popular Libertarians (the writers of South Park):

    Sharon: Randy, we can't allow our son to watch this stuff!

    Randy: Well, it's not like it's vulgar or violent.

    Sharon: No, but it's incredibly stupid, and that could be worse on a child's mind than any vulgarity or violence. Remember what "Battle Of The Network Stars" did to an entire generation.

    Randy: [solemnly] My God, you're right.

  • MBT Sport 2 Black||

    nice

  • Vibram Five Fingers Speed||

    great

  • Scarpe Nike Italia||

    is good

  • ||

    Re overpopulation: "[Its results]could include widespread hunger and joblessness, accompanied by environmental devastation and cancerous urban growth. Isn't that what we are now seeing in various parts of the world, oincluding the U.S.? Politically, the outcome could be heightened global instability, violence and authoritarianism."

  • TWylite||

    Reads like the Onion's "Sunday Magazine". Some covers I'd like to so...
    "Questions - Are There answers?"
    "What About That Guy? I Mean, Come On, What's The Deal?"
    "The 1001 Reasons Why Obsessive Compulsive Disorder May Be The Right Disease For You."
    "Stock Photo Teenagers: Why Do They Look More Pissed Off Than Ever?"

  • TWylite||

    to see....

  • DietSolutionGuide.com||

    I just love this one here 10. June 19, 1972: The Occult Revival

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