Browsing the local magazine newsstand over the weekend, I was struck by how many "Dangerous Ideas" are out there in the business, political and cultural worlds, ready for public consumption. On the cover of FORTUNE magazine, for example, there was a suggestion that maybe - just maybe - it's time to legalize marijuana.
On the cover of New York Magazine, there was an alarming transmogrification of the iconic Shepard Fairey image of Barack Obama with the word "HATE" inserted instead of the word "HOPE."
And, of course, the cover story for WIRED magazine reviews the 12 Most Shocking Ideas of the Year:
"Warning: The ideas expressed here may be dangerous. For this year's list, we walked right past the usual suspects and went looking for trouble. We wanted radicals, heretics, agitators—big thinkers with controversial, game-changing propositions. We found a prison reformer who wants to empty jails, an economist who thinks foreign aid hurts more than it helps, and a military theorist who believes the US should launch preemptive cyberattacks, right now. Then there's secretary of defense robert gates, who wants to win wars, not just prep for them. Risky? Sure. But this is no time to play it safe."
Are these dangerous ideas a sign o' the times for media publications, which must use any means necessary to sell issues to a declining readership? Or is it an even deeper indication that America, after a long and bruising economic recession, is searching for solutions and ideas -- even if those ideas are, in essence, dangerous?
We're not talking Weimar Republic dangerous, just dangerous enough to launch a cyberoffensive against potential enemies or embrace human cloning or empty out all the prisons.