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
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- Why America won't have enough money to battle ISIS
- Why the Chinese military is only a paper dragon
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- The troubling persistence of eugenicist thought in modern America
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- 10 things you need to know today: September 30, 2014
Subscribe to the Week