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Jul 31, 2006 4:53 pm


This is a Dangerous Website



Cross Posted on The Trebach Report

The Washington Times ran a two thirds page advertisement, in their July 24th issue that contained, written in very small letters, on the bottom right the words “Office of National Drug Policy” because tax money paid for at least part of it. The ad gives out the website www.TheAntiDrug.com and its large type headline set off in a black box reads DRUGS, DEALERS, DANGER … JUST A CLICK AWAY. The next line says ARE YOU WATCHING YOUR TEENS ONLINE? Lastly, it ominously asks … WHO IS?

The communication is signed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Cable in the Classroom, i-Safe, Inc., National Institute on Media and the Family, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Partnership for a Drug–Free America, the Parent Teachers Association (PTA), and Web Wise Kids. It begins by warning that “The Internet unsupervised can be a world of temptation. Pushers peddling pills and make it yourself drug recipes. Dealers glorifying marijuana. Bogus ‘pharmacies’ filling orders without prescriptions. ‘Friends sending out text or instant messages about which parties have pot or alcohol.” Now back in the day I did not have any text or instant messaging because the internet had not been invented yet, however I do not recall any real difficulty finding those parties.

These organizations go on to contend that “With all the advantages they bring, these technologies, such as Web sites, blogs, spam and text messages, can all expose teens to threats like dangerous drugs and put them in contact with dealers or sexual predators.” Note the way they use dealers and sexual predators in the same sentence.

The message then moves to the necessity for parents to manage their teen’s internet use. The main body of the ad provides some, in my opinion, bad parenting advice on how to be as intrusive as possible into your teenage child’s life thereby straining what in most cases is an already delicate relationship. This guidance ends with the admonition to “Above all, don’t feel uncomfortable with these tactics. You can do it. You’re supposed to do it. Because you owe it to them.” The ONDCP puts this responsibility on parents because they themselves now lack the capability to control what American teens see or hear, although I am sure they are working on it.

In his essay The Political Economy of Fear Robert Higgs describes how government uses fear to get what it wants and he is never more on point than when talking about the war on people who use certain kinds drugs. The rhetoric and tactics of this ad are straight out of the 1920s and 1930s. Variations of the headline screaming danger and the innuendo that dealers and sexual stalkers inhabit the same space have been employed many times before.

Even the cast of characters is the same. An organization of doctors busily building what Thomas Szasz has labeled the therapeutic state, reform organizations highly exaggerating or in some cases creating the problem, self-interested government bureaucrats, and the PTA were all present from the beginning until now.

While the intention to frighten with this advertisement is obvious, let us not forget fear’s necessary handmaiden ignorance, something also promoted here. In the body of advice parents are told to “Be clear and consistent about what is off limits – including which Web sites, chat rooms, games or blogs – and how to handle information promoting drugs or sex. Discuss consequences for breaking these rules.” In his book The Great Drug War Arnold Trebach has a section in which tells how his advocacy of reform in the 1980s brought the oft repeated charge that he also advocated the use of drugs. Prohibitionists have always maintained that any criticism of their destructive policies was tantamount to promoting drug use.

Clearly, the ONDCP and friends are asking parents to keep their teenagers away from forums like The Trebach Report or Liberty and Power. They want the people most affected by their policies, because young people use drugs disproportionately to their numbers, to be ignorant of the consequences and record of failure associated with those laws.

Ironically, if the ONDCP has its way, teenaged eyes would also be denied the very website, www.washtimes.com, of the publication in which its ad appeared. In addition to the paid for parental advice The Washington Times also ran on the same day an editorial titled “Legalize drugs: Why draconian penalties are wrong” that also appeared online.

This excellent piece is by Terry Michael who runs a program to teach college journalism students about politics, and writes at www.terrymichael.net. In it he covers many aspects of the drug war including one powerfully discussed in Arnold Trebach’s new book Fatal Distraction: The War on Drugs in the Age of Islamic Terror. Michael echoes the book’s theme when he lists as a problem “Waste of treasury. When our resources should be directed at lawful attempts to keep dangerous politicized religious fanatics from entering our country, we spend tens of billions futilely trying to interdict chemicals, most of which, in moderation, are demonstrably no more harmful to the body than alcohol and tobacco.” This and Michaels other arguments are surely to be seen by the ONDCP as reasons for parents to put his internet presence, as well as this one, off limits. Therefore, if parents were to take the ad’s counsel seriously those most likely to fight and die in the war on terror are to be kept uninformed about the ways in which the war on people who use certain kinds of drugs makes, for no good reason, the other war more difficult and dangerous.


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