Was it proper programming or propaganda?

Kevin McHale, POWD

The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that the Office of NationalDrug Control Policy(ONDCP), had been reviewing scripts from television shows to approve antidrug messages the government wished to convey to the public. These were not ads, but a tactic that revolved instead around the intrinsic content of the plot, financed by the taxpayer. To deflect a growing controversy, we are told that the ONDCP will rethink it's tactics.

Embedding public service messages in television programming is neither new, nor without at least some unanimously praised successes. Take for example the concept of "designated driver" for our most popularly abused drug. Inserted into television programming it has become a well accepted solution and can arguably be credited with a significant reduction in alcohol related fatalities in recent years. Aren't the ONDCP's efforts the same?

Hardly. Alcohol (and tobacco, caffeine and prescribed drugs) is not part of the War On Drugs. There is no war against drinkers, just against irresponsible and dangerous behavior of people while drunk. People who drink are not subject to federally funded campaigns of social ostracism and marginalization with a message of hate. Those "involved with drugs" is a pejorative reserved for those who do not accept the government's arbitrary and illogical regime of sanctioned (alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and prescribed, special permission, drugs), and unsanctioned intoxicants (all others). It is these people upon whom the war on drugs is waged, replete with death, destruction, incarceration and orphans - and hate of the enemy.

No, it's nothing new: "Nips," "Krauts," "Gooks," and "Chinks," are all terms of war and used to dehumanize the enemy, to allow the hate to flow more easily, numbing the populace and allowing them to look the other way when collateral damage - a man shot in the back when paramilitary SWAT teams descend on the wrong house, when families stare at their belongings strewn across the ground in a state-sponsored seizure/forfeiture more akin to a rummage sale, when listening to the crying of orphaned children packed into prison visiting rooms, whose tears could raise the ocean - becomes part of our everyday experience.

It is not the socially responsible use of intoxicants that the ONDCP's messages prescribes, but hatred of an enemy. One of these "accepted" programs featured a speed lab in a building that exploded. The evil drug maker allowed women and babies to crackle and burn in the ensuing inferno. Let's compare: when was the last time you saw a public service ad concerning alcohol that shows exploding distilleries burning down Surrounding tenements while a fat CEO with a twenty dollar cigar stands watching families in flames? Or tobacco related ads making histronic claims, demonizing the smoker, not the health consequences of his personal choices?

Ah, it's the children you say! Is there any real disagreement regarding children, though? Strangely, of all the shows "sponsored" by the ONDCP, none are watched by any adolescents I've ever met. "The Practice"? "Chicago Hope"? How about "Home Improvement"? No, the ONDCP's "embedded ads" are pernicious because they are part of a war by the state against 30 million of its own citizens, an auto de fe to purge those who act against the dictates of state orthodoxy, that uses hate to make reasonable marginalization, ostracism and ultimately the incarceration of its own population.

Is there really a difference between a California marijuana grower and a California vintner other than the more debilitating effects of alcohol over pot? Or an export-subsidized industry versus one that subsidizes the prison-industrial complex?

While Barry may choke at the comparison (though will remain too cowardly to engage), what, pray tell, is the difference between Leni Riefenstahl's inclusion of anti-semitic messages in her pre-war German films, and the hate messages the government pays tax dollars to embed in television programming? What eerie coincidence, too: the first television transmission covered evil incarnate, a man who was intolerant of any behavior outside the supreme moral order of the state, of any people unsanctioned by the state, or any thoughts proscribed by the state and he was called the Fuhrer. Fuhrer, Ceasar, Tsar, Czar, all titles of which make certain comparisons inevitable.