If the truth had ever been told - if the press and the media had done their job, the War on Drugs and cannabis prohibition couldn’t have happened.
Reason magazine (Sept 27, 2014) explains that: “The war on drugs would have been impossible for the government to wage for the last 40 plus years without support from the media. The drug war is horrific. Earlier this month, a DEA agent shot a grandmother reaching for her child during a raid that found no drugs. In the summer, a SWAT team in Georgia threw a flash bang into a baby’s crib, critically injuring it. There are more than 150 such raids each day in America, so there are a lot of horrifying stories” – but they rarely make the national news.
Actually, it has been a century since the US media began using “drug” hysteria to make money - as a vector for racism and a way to exploit the suffering of addicted Americans.
Media technology changes, but the “state of the art” is still sensationalism and ignorance.
American media “choreographed” the support necessary to outlaw cannabis in 1937. The media, in turn, were puppets of government propagandists. The average American (and congressman) knew nearly nothing about “marijuana”. The press printed stories about the “new” drug “marijuana” (from Harry Anslinger’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) “gore files”) without ever checking them for accuracy. William Randolph Hearst, who had a massive financial interest in hemp prohibition, led the charge. The media never explained that the dreaded “marijuana” was from the same plant as granny’s trusted “tincture of cannabis” medicine. Papers never mentioned that the United States Army had repeatedly reported from the Panama Canal Zone that marijuana wasn’t a problem for discipline or morale.
When the House of Representatives was ready to pass the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, the American Medical Association was upset. They sent a brilliant doctor/attorney named Woodward to fight the legislation, and he demolished all the lies being told to congress.
He had actually called school officials, who knew nothing about teens using pot. He had phoned prison officials, who knew nothing about “marijuana” causing crime. Newspapers never reported Woodward’s testimony, and never looked for information on their own.
How could the truth be known?
During the crucial 1935 to 1939 period, Harry Anslinger’s FBN successfully planted numerous articles in the most popular American magazines, who compliantly agreed to run his fabricated horror stories . Treasury Department lawyer Clinton Hester could then honestly say that “The leading newspapers in the United States have recognized the seriousness of this problem and many of them have advocated federal legislation ... in a recent editorial the Washington Post stated ‘The marijuana cigarette is one of the most insidious of all forms of dope, largely because of the failure of the public to understand its fatal qualities’”.
The New York Times once called marijuana a “narcotic [having] practically the same effect as morphine and cocaine”.
“Reefer Madness” was thoroughly demolished in the United States by two hugely authoritative commissions and their reports. Both the LaGuardia Report of the 1940’s and the ‘Shafer Commission of 1972’ said that the pot problem was “exaggerated” and cannabis should be legal. The federal government tried viciously to discredit these reports, and they got no media publicity.
When 500 world leaders, including former heads of state, signed a statement calling for a re-evaluation of the Drug War, the Wall Street Journal said “the debate would profit if all these people stated publicly whether they themselves use any of these drugs recreationally”.
What a surreal way to marginalize this major effort toward drug sanity.
The Consumers Union said that the sensationalism about drugs is free advertising. They comment:
“It is hard to say whether romantic glorification of such [drug] scenes or moralistic warnings against their perils contribute more to attracting rebellious young people to them.”
Drug use is lower where drugs are not sensationalized in the media (like the Netherlands).
“Crack babies” were a media masterpiece of fear. These actually were “poverty and neglect babies”, but any expert who tried to explain that was ignored. The hysteria about a great wave of permanently damaged babies “sold a lot of papers”, but was all made up.
“Jimmy’s World” was the heart wrenching story of an eight year old black child who was a heroin addict, on the front page of the 9/28/71 Washington Post. It told how the needle slid into the “baby smooth skin of his thin brown arms”. It caused a huge hubbub, and won a Pulitzer Prize. It was totally fiction. The prize was returned, but it sure sold papers.
Nixon assumed he could control the media when he declared the War on Drugs on June 17, 1971. He exhorted the press to follow the government line. He claimed that “Drug traffic is public enemy number one domestically in the United States today and we must wage a total offensive, worldwide, nationwide, government wide, and if I may say so, media wide” .
Clintons “Drug Czar” concocted a program to enable the government to control the plots of network TV shows. Maybe 100 programs, from “ER” to “Home Improvement” to “Beverly Hills 90210” had plots suggested by and scripts reviewed by the “Drug Czar’s office. Networks that co-operated made millions, they were allowed to run fewer anti-drug public service ads and sell that time for full price.
In the face of such constant media perfidy, it may be naïve to request that our American media begin to function in the public interest. It should analyze, be critical, bring perspective, and explore solutions relating to the drug issue – rather than endlessly exploiting tragedy to earn dollars.
Grinspoon, Conrad, Robinson, Baum, Bonnie & Whitebread, Gray.
Grinspoon p. 325 for a complete list
2 Conrad p. 50
3 Robinson p. 168