The 6 Most Insane Moral Panics in American History

What's wrong with kids these days? Not enough, apparently, since grown-ups seem to feel the need to just make shit up. Even the flimsiest evidence can convince parents and lazy journalists alike that there is some new, horrible threat to our moral character.

Often these turn out to be grossly exaggerated. Or, as in cases like the ones below, completely fucking retarded.

#6. Comic Books

We Heard About It From:

The Evil Genius Dr. Frederic Wertham.

The "Threat:"

1954 was a different time in America. The streets were safer and kids played just about anywhere they wanted. Coca-Cola was only five cents a bottle and every kid had a comic book rolled up in his back pocket. There were superhero comics, crime comics, romance comics and horror comics. If you forget the rigidly enforced social rules, the racism, bad haircuts and constant threat of nuclear annihilation, the early 50s were a pretty sweet time to be a kid.

And then this fucker showed up to ruin everyone's fun.

Frederic Wertham. Or maybe George Burns. Who could tell?

Fredic Werthem was a respected psychologist who fought to integrate the mental health care system, refused to serve in a racial-segregated army and was a pioneer in working with troubled youth. Having conquered all of the real world problems, he then decided to devote his life to bullshit.

During his time working with young offenders, Wertham noticed that many of them were fans of comics. Forgetting his education and lifetime of experience as a scientist, Wertham assumed that comics must be somehow responsible for the trouble these kids were in.

His 1954 book, Seduction Of The Innocent, outlined what he saw as the depraved effect of comics on kids. Granted, some comics in the 50s--especially the horror comics published by E.C. Comics--were pretty gruesome.

Dr. Wertham is inexplicably shocked by the contents of Shock Illustrated.

But Wertham didn't just go after stories of cold-blooded murder and busty dames. Oh, no. We went after the superheroes, too.

In his mind, Wonder Woman was a lesbian who got off on bondage (we wish!) and horror of horrors, Batman and Robin were actually gay lovers. His evidence for Batman being gay? He wore a dressing gown. Honestly. That, combined with the fact that he had flowers in his house and had a butler, were proof to Wertham that Bruce Wayne and his young ward Dick Grayson were performing Bat-sodomy behind the scenes.

The lynchpin of Wertham's case against the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder (okay, that does sound a little gay) were panels like these:

Hey, if two dedicated crime fighters can't spend a little time under the tanning lights together, then something's gone terribly wrong with the world.

Leaving questions of Batman and Robin's perversions aside, Seduction Of The Innocent was a huge bestseller and the tempest that Wertham stirred up led to the end of horror comics and the introduction of the Comics Code, which basically meant that superheroes lost what little balls they had left, and Batman always kept a discreet distance from Robin- at least in public.

But it wasn't all bad. E.C. Comics, faced with the cancellation of all its horror and true crime comics, threw all of its effort into perhaps the single greatest corrupter of America's youth: Mad Magazine. Mad Magazine then led to the publication of Cracked, which eventually led to this very website. So, the next time you're enjoying an article about sexy cartoon characters you can thank the overactive gay-obsessed imagination of one Dr. Fredric Wertham.

#5. Rainbow Parties

We Heard About It From:

The Queen of Believing Anything, Oprah Winfrey.

The "Threat:"

"Rainbow Party." Doesn't sound too bad, right? It could be a coloring party for kids, or a house decorating get-together. Maybe some kind of friendly gay pride thing.

But no, according to a guest featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, rainbow parties were wild, oral sex parties that were being held by teenagers all over America. At these orgies, each girl would wear a different shade of lipstick and as they each serviced a lucky guy in sequence, it'd leave a "rainbow" of colors on his dong.

The story was so widely believed that sex educators across the country started to investigate. Simon & Schuster quickly published a young adult novel imaginatively entitled Rainbow Party to warn of the non-existent danger. Don't bother reading it. We flipped right to the end and the party never happens. Turns out the girl's dad comes home early, so the party gets canceled. Fucking douche!

It didn't matter, the damage was done. Once the teen literature industry dips its filthy beak into something, the moral panic is on.

But alas, as awesome as these parties sound, they turned out to be absolutely, tragically, untrue. According to that wicked cool newspaper for kids, The New York Times, sex educators couldn't find any evidence of even one rainbow party having taken place, ever.

Teens were aware of the slang, but no one had ever been to an actual Rainbow Party. And that's remarkable because it just sounds so totally plausible, and not like something a 15-year-old boy thought up during a masturbation fantasy. Relieved, the busybodies of the world went back to worrying about their neighbor's uncut grass.

#4. Jenkem, A Drug Made of Poo

We Heard About It From:

A bunch of dumb local TV stations and a bunch of dumber local sheriffs.

The "Threat:"

Could American kids ever sink so low that they would actually suck on the fumes from raw sewage to get high? If you're an American kid, you're probably saying no. If you're a small town cop who hates teenagers or a lazy local television reporter, you'd say "hell, yes!"

It started with a message board post from a kid calling himself "Pickwick" (Shitbreath was already taken) where he claimed to have made and tried the poop fume drug "jenkem," a practice that supposedly originates from Africa.

"Okay, so when you said you wanted to do some bowls, you meant actual... okay."

Soon the boys in blue at the Collier County Sheriff's Office took action.

They released a law enforcement bulletin claiming that "jenkem is now a popular drug in American schools" using the pictures that Pickwick had posted.

The only problem, besides the idiotic assumption that because one kid in the country may have tried it, it was now "popular in American schools," was that Pickwick made it all up.

His "jenkem" was actually a mixture of flour, water, beer, and Nutella. Nevertheless, the story spread like a foul stench through local media outlets and sheriffs' offices, until parents were told they should smell their kid's breath for shit when they came home.

There is still no record of anyone in the U.S. doing this for real (that we can find). Here is where you'd be tempted to scold the rumor mongers for planting the idea and thus encouraging kids to try it. But we're guessing even with detailed instructions most of you wouldn't be tempted to start collecting fermented shit in your closet. Not for this, anyway.

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