Acid Hype

Acid Hype: American News Media and the Psychedelic Experience

STEPHEN SIFF
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt14jxvrz
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Acid Hype
    Book Description:

    Now synonymous with Sixties counterculture, LSD actually entered the American consciousness via the mainstream. Time and Life , messengers of lumpen-American respectability, trumpeted its grand arrival in a postwar landscape scoured of alluring descriptions of drug use while lesser outlets piggybacked on their coverage with stories by turns sensationalized and glowing. Acid Hype offers the untold tale of LSD's wild journey from Brylcreem and Ivory soap to incense and peppermints. As Stephen Siff shows, the early attention lavished on the drug by the news media glorified its use in treatments for mental illness but also its status as a mystical--yet legitimate--gateway to exploring the unconscious mind. Siff's history takes readers to the center of how popular media hyped psychedelic drugs in a constantly shifting legal and social environment, producing an intricate relationship between drugs and media experience that came to define contemporary pop culture. It also traces how the breathless coverage of LSD gave way to a textbook moral panic, transforming yesterday's refined seeker of truths into an acid casualty splayed out beyond the fringe of polite society.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09723-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Midcentury Media’s Trip with LSD
    (pp. 1-16)

    This study examines media coverage of the powerful hallucinogenic drug lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as acid or LSD, during the roughly decade-and-a-half period between the first news reports on the drug in the mid-1950s and its tumble from the news agenda after 1968, by which time it had become thoroughly associated with hippie counterculture and prohibited under federal law. During this period, LSD was subject to an extraordinary amount of media attention, despite the fact that its most widespread use was still to come. Beginning in the mid-1950s, mainstream, commercial mass media embraced the challenge of explaining and illustrating...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Early Restrictions on Drug Speech, 1900–1956
    (pp. 17-41)

    In 1968, when the public interest in and media attention to psychedelic drugs seemed to be reaching a crescendo, the LSD researcher and addiction expert Sidney Cohen reflected that the lavish descriptions of psychedelic drug trips and breathless testimonials proliferating in contemporary media were not genuinely new. Cohen noted that in 1822, the Englishman Thomas De Quincey, enthralled by a preparation of opium, wrote inConfessions of an English Opium-Eater,“[H]appiness might now be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat-pocket; portable ecstasies might be had corked up in a pint-bottle; and peace of mind could be sent...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Introducing LSD, 1953–1956
    (pp. 42-67)

    After decades of willful disregard, the news media turned its attention to the otherworldly, internal effects of drugs as a result of external developments that cast these experiences in an unexpected new light. First was the extravagant scientific interest in LSD, a new drug that seemed to illuminate the divide between sanity and madness. The second was the unlikely advocacy of Aldous Huxley, an author widely considered among the leading literary intellectuals of his time,¹ and his publication of several books describing the effects of hallucinogenic drugs on himself and promoting their wider, nonmedical use as a spiritual tonic. In...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Creating a Psychedelic Past, 1954–1960
    (pp. 68-88)

    The new salience of psychedelic drug use in the mid-1950s triggered a flurry of magazine articles and broadcast accounts describing the apparently similar uses of drugs in Indian rituals and the effects of the drugs on intrepid journalists. Invariably referring to Huxley’sDoors of Perception,these accounts capitalized on the contemporary interest in psychedelic drugs with first-person accounts of peyote and magic-mushroom trips in remote Indian villages that appeared to supply historical context to the practices while demonstrating the drugs’ use. While news articles about LSD research and Huxley’s remarkable experiences were prompted by the activities of individuals external to...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Research at the Intersection of Media and Medicine, 1957–1962
    (pp. 89-114)

    In 1953, while Sandoz was introducing the experimental drug LSD to researchers and psychiatrists, James Coleman, Elihu Katz, and Herbert Menzel launched the study of the diffusion of tetracycline that resulted in the landmarkMedical Innovation,cementing the idea that innovations spread through interpersonal relationships. Allowing for a role for media in informing physicians of the existence of new drugs, the scholars emphasized the apparent importance of social relationships in spreading the determination to actually use them. They concluded that doctors who were more widely read and engaged with other physicians professionally and socially were quicker to adopt an innovation.¹...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Luce, Leary, and LSD, 1963–1965
    (pp. 115-144)

    The hardening scientific consensus against LSD might have seemed to signal an end to glorious descriptions of LSD trips in news media. That fact that it did not—and indeed, media descriptions of lavish drug trips multiplied, particularly in magazines—was the result of a number of factors internal and external to news media. Foremost was Timothy Leary. Extensive news coverage transformed Leary into “Mr. LSD,” conferring a degree of celebrity that eventually prompted Richard Nixon to label him “the most dangerous man in America.”¹ Articles about Leary in “most of the major U.S. magazines” in the months following his...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Moral Panic and Media Hype, 1966–1968
    (pp. 145-180)

    Drugs seemed to be on everyone’s mind in the late 1960s. Marijuana, not LSD, was the drug of choice in college dorms and hippie pads across the country. A new familiarity with marijuana budding from its new popularity with upper-and middle-class youth undermined the legacy of antimarijuana campaigns of the 1930s. There was a growing acceptance by journalists and the public that pot was mild in effect, nonaddictive, and problematic chiefly to the extent that it could lead to more dangerous drugs. No longer did marijuana seem to invariably lead to antisocial behavior, violence, and mental deterioration, and the momentum...

  11. Postscript: Psychedelic Media
    (pp. 181-190)

    In 1968, Richard M. Nixon successfully campaigned for the U.S. presidency on a promise to restore law and order to a nation jolted by riots, political protests, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Nixon positioned himself as the voice of Americans who were frustrated by the counterculture and nostalgic for a more conformist, more traditional America. In a special message to Congress in 1969, at the start of a fifteen-month push to overhaul drug regulation and enforcement, Nixon identified the growing use of illegal drugs as a “serious national threat to the personal health...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 191-226)
  13. Index
    (pp. 227-246)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-250)