Politicians, scientists, and journalists repeatedly warned that the United States would be plagued by a generation of "crack babies" putting a massive drain on the social service infrastructures of our inner cities.
Retro Report — an independent news organization of which I'm the publisher — went back and looked at the story decades later and traced the concern to a single 1985 study which concluded that pregnant mothers who smoked crack cocaine were seriously harming their unborn children. The explosive findings were kept alive through a steady drumbeat of media coverage. Laws were passed and addicted mothers were even incarcerated.
But the study was flawed, the media coverage was overhyped, and the forecasts never came true. In fact, scientific research now concludes that alcohol is a much bigger problem for unborn babies than crack cocaine. Our initial impressions of "crack babies" and their impact on our society was entirely wrong.
It's a lesson that politicians and policymakers everywhere should heed.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The U.S. Marines are developing laser weapons. Here's why.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Why the Supreme Court is allowing Texas to hold an unconstitutional election
- Ban PowerPoint!
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- How 1,000-year lifespans could remake the economy
- Gamergate has backfired spectacularly on its nincompoop perpetrators
- Rise of the machines
Subscribe to the Week