Pubdate: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 Source: Post-Standard, The (NY) Copyright: 2000, Syracuse Post-Standard Contact: P.O. Box 4915, Syracuse, N.Y. 13221-4915 Website: http://www.syracuse.com/ Forum: http://www.syracuse.com/forums/ Authors: Paul Bischke & Nicolas Eyle Note: The ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy website is at: http://www.reconsider.org/ DRUG CZAR BEHAVING LIKE A CZAR The column by Mathew Miller in the Post Standard (Jan. 22,2000) was distressing to say the least. In it he attempts to say that Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was right in trying to influence the media to change the content of our TV shows because he feels the message is a good one. "Drug czar?" Journalists use the term because no one can remember the alphabet-soup in the phrase "Director of the ONDCP." But this week after revelations that Gen. Barry McCaffrey has been paying the networks to inject his reefer-madness worldview into primetime TV shows, the abbreviation is obvious: it's the Office of National Drug Censorship and Propaganda. We now know that those scary overdose scenes on "ER" were bought and paid for out of McCaffrey's billion-dollar drug-war-chest. What kinds of drug-scare themes and Drug War endorsements can we expect on TV shows in weeks to come? How about a Martin Luther King special that shows racial profiling and high African-American incarceration rates in a favorable light? Perhaps a 4th-of-July TV movie endorsing no-knock drug raids, clarifying the logic of seizing property from legally innocent citizens, and featuring a cameo appearance by Georgia Congressman Bob Barr to show how free/fair elections can be cancelled for the good of all citizens. Maybe we'll see a light-hearted "LA Law" episode on those wacky cops in the Rampart precinct of Los Angeles. Student study guides, supplied by the DEA, will include "Knowing when extortion should be ignored" and "Corruption? What the heck. It's for a good cause." For the edification of Californians and those in other states that passed those pesky medical marijuana bills that McCaffrey hates so much, CBS will feature the authoritative legal documentary "States-rights: Old idea, bad idea." And for his grand finale, to be aired nationwide on Veterans' Day, Gen. McCaffrey can rig a heroic script for a TV mini-series depicting a full-scale military invasion of Colombia. The "TV Guide" program synopsis: "Watch piles of coca leaf blazing in the tropical sun while peasants scurry into the jungle to plant corn and beans instead." According to confidential sources, the Clinton administration, having defended McCaffrey's payola program, is planning to use his novel approach to aid enforcement of other laws, as well. Their priorities are predictable. For programs to air between April 1 and April 15th, broadcasters will be paid hefty sums by the IRS to insert subliminal messages into prime-time shows: "I WANT TO PAY MY TAXES. I WANT TO PAY MY TAXES." An anonymous Clinton aide projects wide applications of McCaffrey's approach in government. "An ounce of brainwashing is worth a pound of enforcement," he said. American law and politics may never be the same. Thanks, Barry! McCaffrey's ostensible "anti-drug" messages are also pro-Drug-War messages supporting a burgeoning federal drug-enforcement bureaucracy (at $18 billion it's 36 times the size of the inflation-adjusted 1970 drug budget). Irrational fear of drugs leads to an irrational embracing of a Drug War which, in its totality, is morally questionable at best, and morally reprehensible in many respects. U.S. media should spend as much time describing the drug prohibition problem as they do the drug addiction problem. They are equally serious. ABC-TV has already pulled out of their arrangement with McCaffrey saying it was not comfortable with his demanding to review shows before they aired. In his Drug War zeal, McCaffrey has betrayed democracy, which thrives on the free flow of information and opinion. Government-hired speech defeats the First Amendment as effectively as direct censorship. In a free society, the government must follow, not shape, the will of the people. McCaffrey should resign. Paul Bischke & Nicolas Eyle ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy 205 Onondaga Ave. Syracuse, NY.