A 1967 CBS News Report That Warns Against the Use of LSD During the ‘Summer of Love’ in San Francisco

The very short-lived CBS News series Who, What, Where, When, Why (which would later become 60 Minutes) premiered on August 22, 1967, with “The Hippie Temptation”. Host Harry Reasoner visited the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco during the famous “Summer of Love” to pointedly explain who the resident hippies were, the value of young people and ideas, and the danger posed to them by hallucinatory drugs. Throughout the report, Reasoner warns against the use of LSD for fear of a bad trip.

LSD is said to change the way the brain handles sensory input. The result is violent distortion of thought and feeling. The user may see a wild complexity of images and a multiplicity of sounds. This is called taking an acid trip. For every user there is the danger of a bad trip on the drug, where sensory distortion becomes terrifying and the acid head may leap from a window or run wildly through traffic.

Reasoner also enlisted the opinion of psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Ungerleider who also warned about the dangers of hallucinatory drugs. Interestingly enough, Ungerleider would go on to champion the medicinal and therapeutic effects of marijuana in his later years.

We’re learning that it’s a very dangerous drug and it’s a very unpredictable drug we’re learning that people can have a bad experience which they call a freak trip or freak out or bummer the first time they use the drug or they can have it after 150 previous good experiences. We’re learning that there’s no way to screen out the adverse reactors…Nothing guarantees immunity from a bad trip.

While Reasoner might have meant well, the broadcast comes across as judgemental, over-generalized, and even a bit fearful of a generation that was very unlike the previous. Yet, the irony of the broadcast was not lost on San Francisco and the now-defunct Red Vic Movie House showed it for many years beginning in the 1980s.

But the content of that broadcast has lived on in local infamy. Harry Reasoner’s shocking expose of the Haight-Ashbury scene known as The Hippie Temptation was shown at the dearly missed Red Vic Movie House every year from the 1980s onward. Notably, it was shot in April and broadcast in August, thus bookending the Summer of Love.

via Boing Boing