Pubdate: Fri, 01 Aug 2008
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2008 Independent Media Institute
Author: Paul Armentano
Note: Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation
in Washington, DC.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)
Bookmark: (ONDCP Media Campaign)


[Scene:] suburban neighborhood ... Daytime: Our host, Professor Barnard
Puck, and his trusty assistant, Baldric, cautiously scan for some unseen
creature. Puck motions Baldric to the house on the left. Baldric sneaks
off, taking slow, cautious steps. Puck addresses the camera.

Professor Puck: It is a beautiful day. And while most people are out and
about enjoying friends, activities, life in general -- the creature that
we seek is sedentary, uninspired, and remarkably unmotivated. My
associate and I are in search of the lair of a magnificent specimen: the
mature stoner.

So begins the script of one of the most offensive and outrageous
pieces of anti-drug propaganda ever produced. Part Reefer Madness,
part Birth of a Nation (the notorious 1914 film that was condemned by
audiences for its hateful and overtly racist portrayal of African
Americans), Above the Influence's faux documentary, Stoners In The
Mist, is a film so prejudiced that even the White House -- which
commissioned the interactive video -- is hesitant to promote it.

Available online at the website (a project of
the White House's multi-billion dollar National Youth Anti-Drug Media
Campaign, Stoners In The Mist is a series of vignettes -- each
designed to grossly exaggerate and exploit common pothead stereotypes.
But promoting falsehoods about the physical and mental effects of weed
is nothing new for federal politicians and bureaucrats. What sets
Stoners In The Mist apart from prior examples of government-financed
anti-pot excrement is the film's shocking and exceedingly malevolent

In this case, cannabis consumers are portrayed, quite literally, as
less than human. Rather, they are mockingly characterized as wild game
- -- to be hunted, tagged, and bagged by the film's 'Crocodile Hunter'
inspired narrator. Once captured, the so-called 'stoners' are
subjected to a myriad of mental, physical, and psychological tasks --
such a navigating a simple obstacle course and catching various
objects thrown to them at close range.

Naturally, the film's 'stoner' subjects fail to perform even the most
rudimentary tasks competently -- including remembering one another's
names ("In his current condition the stoner exhibits an inability to
communicate effectively," the hosts informs us.) or bathing ("In fact,
we have learned through our intensive research that both male and
female stoners tend to lack the motivation to maintain proper
hygiene.") The mockumentary's slanderous message: marijuana smoking
turns human beings into animals -- a denigrating theme the film's host
gloats about repeatedly.

"The stoners' fascinating courtship rituals highlight the extreme
difficultly these animals have fitting into other social groups,"
'Professor' Puck states matter-of-factly, having dropped all pretense
that his 'stoner' subjects are even capable of human traits, rational
thought, or communication.

In another scene, the host refers to pot smokers as lab "specimens"
whose safety requires them to be locked up in an "artificially
controlled environment" (a not-so-subtle endorsement of jail, perhaps?)

In yet a third vignette, a "pack" of 'stoners' are tracked by the
'professor' and his assistant and eventually collared with a radio
transmitter. ("The creatures are docile and unresponsive," the host

Finally, in a closing monologue that could be readily interpreted as
the director's justification for current federal drug policy,
'Professor' Puck summarizes the cannabis consumer as "a tragic
species.. They are an endangerment to themselves and to the public in

Categorically offensive? You bet. So much so that even the White House
Office of National Drug Control Policy -- which is estimated to have
spent some six-figures in taxpayers' dollars (NORML recently filed a
federal Freedom of Information Act Request to learn the exact total;
the White Houses' reply failed to provide an answer.) to produce this
dreck -- is having second thoughts? Perhaps.

To date, the White House has made little, if any, effort to promote
the interactive website -- which, in addition to the exploitive
vignettes, includes the online game "Mission to Cannabis Isle," some
funky jungle theme music, and a pop quiz full chocked full of
disinformation (A case in point: "What has more cancer-causing
chemicals: marijuana smoke or cigarette smoke?" The correct answer,
according to the film's creators, is marijuana smoke. The actual
answer is cigarettes.

So far, none of the vignettes have been broadcasted as public service
announcements on radio or television. A teaser for the film appears on (Naturally, the viewers' comments portion of the site has
been disabled for the video), but has gone virtually unnoticed in
cyberspace -- attracting a pitiful 6,900 visitors in twelve months.
Even the site seems to be shying away from the
film. As of this writing, the website's homepage displays prominent
links to various Above The Influence PSAs and user-submitted content,
but features nary a peep about Stoners.

Ironically, it appears that the only folks tuning in to Stoners In The
Mist are, well, stoners. Various drug law reform groups (as well as
the political gossip website Wonkette have weighed in with scathing
critiques of the online film, no doubt stimulating the bulk of the
website's otherwise nonexistent traffic. In hindsight, it's almost
hard to imagine precisely whom else its creators could have been
hoping to attract. Clearly, the film's content is far too derogatory
and over-the-top to appeal to it's supposed target-audience (teens),
and its premise is far too juvenile to gain interest among the general

Could it be that the ONDCP spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to
purposely produce a film that would only be taken seriously by those
whose job description includes castigating the very agency that
commissioned it? Now that would be a parody worth talking about.

Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation
in Washington, DC. View this story online at:
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin