Pubdate: Tue, 26 Feb 2002
Source: Daily Gazette (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The Gazette Newspapers
Bookmark: (ONDCP Media Campaign)


Regarding "Blowing Smoke," Abigail Trafford's Washington Post piece on the 
new White House anti-drug advertising campaign (Feb. 17 Sunday Gazette), I 
couldn't agree more that the message of the television spots is 
simple-minded and jingoistic. Unfortunately, where government money meets 
the ad business, that's what you get.

I'm not saying that there isn't a kernel of sense in the simplistic logic 
of the drugs=terror equation. It is not, though, that anybody will be 
convinced that drug use finances terrorism in the direct and exclusive way 
these ads insist it does. Osama bin Laden's money appears to derive from 
the family construction business, for example.

The sad thing here is that we're just not giving kids credit for having the 
ability to discern - even to formulate - a stern moral point about real 
consequences of drug use here and in distant places without having it 
forced upon them with all the subtlety of North Korean propaganda. In May 
1995, The New Yorker published an article by Andrew Weil titled "The 
Politics of Coca." A striking anecdote in it was about Bolivian 
forest-dwelling Indians for whom coca was as much a part of communal life 
as coffee or tea are to ours. As a culture, they had adapted beautifully 
and successfully to their forest environment. Completely self-sufficient, 
they had never been "on the grid."

For millenniums, they had availed themselves of the coca leaf's bracing 
effects with no addiction or social problems. It was only after they were 
brought into the orbit of the outside economy, when they were employed - or 
should one say enslaved - to produce coca leaf for the cocaine traffickers 
and paid in money and consumer goods, that their ancient culture of 
self-sufficiency crumbled, social disorder took root and alcohol abuse 
became rampant.

In what way is this different from the dispossession and genocide of the 
American Indian? Rare is the American youngster who would want to have been 
part of that.

Throughout my lifetime, I've seen our relatively altruistic American youth 
sometimes more and sometimes less enthusiastically take up causes ranging 
from environmentalism, to farmworkers rights, to ending war, gender 
inequity and racial discrimination without millions of dollars being spent 
on Madison Avenue to produce slick advertising aimed at huge television 
audiences. The story is legendary in the public relations business that it 
was a schoolchildren's protest that caused McDonald's to drop its styrofoam 
clamshell packaging because it wouldn't break down in landfills.

The ads I saw on Super Bowl Sunday are not going to ignite a children's 
crusade. But that's not to say that it can't happen. Especially if we 
refrain from "blowing smoke" at kids.

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