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1. LSD: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Dead
The Don Quixote of "The Kids These Days" narrative may well be the story of college kids high on LSD who stared at the sun so long they blinded themselves.
As Snopes.com recounts it, in May 1967, The Los Angeles Times—most recently seen uncritically reporting on the Great Hand-Sanitizer Hooch Epidemic of 2012—published a story about four tripping Santa Barbara college students who "suffer[ed] serious eye damage" after spending hours staring at the sun.
Snopes points out all the earmarks of a hoax: None of the kids is named and neither is the "spokesman for the Santa Barbara Opthalmological Society," the doctor quoted in the story, or even the writer of the piece. Which is pretty much all you need to know about the story.
"The LSD horror story," writes Snopes, "was picked up by the Associated Press and quickly spread all over the U.S., appearing in such prominent news publications...as The New York Times and Time magazine." Better yet, only eight months later, The LA Times experienced a sort of editorial flashback: The paper published an almost identical story written by the AP and set in Pennsylvania.
What is it the newspaper guy says at the end of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance? "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
Especially if you're talking about kids, sex, and drugs.
Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and co-author of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America, which will be published in paperback with a new introduction on June 26. Go here to order your copy.