There is a specter haunting Western civilization; no, it is not the specter of Communism – it’s something a little prettier on the surface, something maybe even a little pricier, but unquestionably something harmful.

The cover story in this week's People magazine focused on reality TV star Heidi Montag. Why? Because she recently received ten plastic surgeries in just one day! Montag, for those of you who’ve never seen her in “The Hills,” is a 23-year-old blonde bombshell who was beautiful to begin with -- after all, that's how she got on television in the first place.

But like many beautiful, healthy young women who don't need cosmetic surgery, Montag has become addicted to it. That's because, for many young women, unnecessary cosmetic surgery is no longer the exception. It’s become the rule.

I came to this stark realization last October when I stumbled across a news story that left me with an eerie chill that reminded me of an old “Twilight Zone” episode from 1964. That 45-year-old episode, "Number 12 Looks Just Like You," tells the fated tale of 19-year-old "Marilyn," the lonely resident of a futuristic, dystopian society in the year 2000 that forces young women to go through a "transformation" so they can look beautiful. Those who accept the transformation go on to have a bright social life filled with lots of friends. Those who refuse become outcasts.

Sound familiar?

Last month I read an article about the “Miss Plastic Hungary” beauty contest in Budapest – a beauty contest held in that country where the only eligible competitors are women who have gone under the knife! One plastic surgeon, Dr. Tamas Rozsos said the contest was, “about restoring harmony . . . eliminating asymmetries and giving women the opportunity to have normal features.”
That's strange since the word "restoring" means returning something to its original form and condition. Unlike reconstructive surgery which corrects injuries and impairments suffered from bone fractures, burns and natural abnormalities, cosmetic surgery is actually about enhancing a person’s aesthetic appearance to something new, something beyond average.

Cosmetic surgery is not about restoring harmony, it's about counterfeiting it, and it has become a sickness that is spinning out of control as an epidemic; it’s psychologically infectious and it is fooling perfectly healthy, attractive looking women into thinking they need to let a doctor crush their bones or cut them apart with a knife so that they too can go through a "transformation" of their own.

According to Debbie Then, a California based psychologist interviewed this week by People magazine for the Montag article, "when somebody goes in for many, many, many procedures, and starts at a young age, they're trying to change something about themselves; they want to become a new person… The thing they want to change, they fixate on, and it's not even visible to other people."

In south Florida, where I was raised, cosmetic surgery has undeniably gone from being the exception to the rule. Somewhere along the way, many pretty, young girls that I grew up with mistakenly convinced themselves that someone else could “fix” whatever it is was that they deluded themselves into thinking was wrong with them. I can't help but wonder if those insecurities were enhanced by the narratives in the sacred texts of Bazaar, Glamour Cosmopolitan, Elle and Vogue.

The sad part of all this is that these girls almost always looked so much prettier before they were "transformed." After all, the slightest natural beauty is arguably more attractive than the most artificial beauty.

That's the other irony in Rozsos' statement about "giving women the opportunity to have normal features." It seems that many of the women now “getting some work done” appeared normal to begin with. In fact, some of them were strikingly beautiful in their natural state.

If you don't believe me, take a look at Megan Fox -- one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood today. Apparently, her God-given looks weren't enough for her. Fox reportedly had her lips done to look fuller after rumors circulated that she resembled Angelina Jolie. It appears that just being herself (and one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood) wasn't enough.

Maybe Fox she thought she had to look like “the fairest of them all,” so she asked a doctor to change her so that she could look like that person instead.

Of course, that's anything but normal.

After all, what's the girl next door to do when even Megan Fox can't be comfortable in her own skin?

Just some like actual viruses there is no cure for the harm caused by unnecessary cosmetic surgery. Permanent nerve damage may be just one of the potential scars left behind by a surgeon's scalpel, not to mention the trauma of undergoing a “medical” procedure and the psychological damage to one's self esteem after having all too willingly consented to the most personal invasion imaginable.

This isn't about shallowness or even physical beauty, despite the illusion that it is. It's about fear, fear of being unworthy and sub-standard. Like all fears, this one is contagious and has reached epidemic proportions, preying upon the insecurities of both young and middle-aged women all over the civilized world. After all, if it's happening to the Heidi Montags of the world who is immune from this madness?

Institutionalizing cosmetic surgery in a beauty contest where it is the rule -- and not the exception to the rule -- only confirms the perversion our society has undergone.

Tragically, we appear to be gradually adopting the aesthetic priorities and adnormal values of another, now extinct society, Nazi Germany, that most journalists dare not even mention by name at the risk of sounding paranoid.

At the end of that 1964 “Twilight Zone” episode, young Marilyn tells her doctor she doesn't want to go through the "transformation" because she's afraid that if she lets someone else change her on the outside, it may change her on the inside, too. “That's silly,” the doctors tell her, and after she is forced to transform herself, we are introduced to a “new” Marilyn who has become a completely different person: a self-absorbed, shallow drone that can't seem to think for herself, but finally plays well with others.

Sound familiar?

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is an investigative reporter and lawyer and a frequent Fox Forum contributor. He can be reached at jshapiro@ufl.edu.