I got into quality audio in 1972, when this dogma was first formulated and repeated. Some advertisers and publications made it sound like your record was irretrievably damaged after the first play. Quadraphonic CD4 may have helped propagate this myth as those records needed carts that could track out to 40Khz.
During that era we saw ever-increasing compliances and tonearms with diminishing effective masses. Infinity's Black Widow tonearm had an effective mass of 7-8 grams. Recommended tracking forces (esp. Shure) dropped to 3/4 gram. I know I prided myself on keeping my tracking force at 1.5g or below, and this on an Altec compact system with Garrard turntable mounted on top.
I can't prove any cause and effect, but based on sequence I think moving coil cartridges started to reverse this trend, as many of them required tracking forces of 2g or even (gasp!) 2.5g. I worked in a SoCal audio store when we first got hold of a Fidelity Research cartridge and Supex step-up transformer. The FR sounded so rich, transparent, and detailed that we didn't much care what the tracking force was.
The last 20-30 years has seen the proliferation of HOMC carts with 2g+ tracking forces and an overall drop in available replacement vinyl compared to the '70s. And yet, the sky never fell. I got many of my LPs in the last few years from thrift shops. Many were no doubt played on poorly maintained stereo consoles with ceramic catridges tracking at around 6g. A few have rolled-off highs, but most--with a good cleaning--sound like new.