Drug War Propaganda Targets Democracy

Guest post by Servetus

What would a drug war be without drug war propaganda? Maybe non-existent?

Several types of propaganda help prohibit illicit drugs and keep them prohibited. One technique is what Yale political philosopher Jason Stanley calls “undermining demagoguery.” Dr. Stanley defines demagoguery as

a contribution to public discourse presented as an embodiment of a worthy political, economic, or rational ideal, but is in the service of a goal that tends to undermine that very ideal. [p. 68]

Utah’s Senator Orrin Hatch plays the undermining demagoguery card when he calls for more research on marijuana minus any mention of legalization. He understands NIDA funded cannabis research in the US is largely restricted to exposing health problems. If no problems materialize, the search for harm obstructs legalization forever.

The LDS Church plays the same card when it says it approves of marijuana consumption as a medicine only if it’s prescribed by a doctor in dosage form and dispensed through a pharmacy. The convenience of legal prescriptions and pharmacy-based dispensaries is very unlikely under current federal laws. Waiting for a change in federal policies could take years, and therein lies the goal of the propaganda—to delay and confuse. Utah’s kindly senior senator has many more tricks up his sleeve.

Another type of drug war propaganda addressed by Stanley occurs when no anti-drug propaganda is generated at all. Instead, vital information necessary for an accurate assessment of political and medical policies is withheld. [p. 55]

Senator Hatch withholds critical details when advocates more new research while neglecting to highlight any specific examples of cannabis related research in foreign countries showing herbal marijuana’s beneficial effects on health. He also fails to cite similar research based in the US.

Propaganda that exploits human ideals,” Stanley writes, “even if wielded for a good purpose, occludes democratic deliberation by getting people to ignore facts and to focus upon their own emotions. [p. 51]

Stanley notes this same assault upon democracy was explained by Victor Klemperer in his 1947 book The Language of the Third Reich, or Lingua Tertii Imperii, abbreviated LTI:

The LTI only serves the cause of invocation…. The sole purpose of the LTI is to strip everyone of their individuality, to paralyze them as personalities, to make them into unthinking and docile cattle in a herd driven and hounded in a particular direction, to turn them into atoms in a huge rolling block of stone. [p. iv]

LTI is heaven for fascists and prohibitionists. Authoritarian followers admire and back authoritarian leaders who subsequently employ LTI to conceal their incompetence in matters of science and drugs. The results can leave an individual’s physical and mental health in disrepair and can kill a fair number of admirers who end up being denied essential medications.

Prohibition’s political health will be tested in November should democracy survive long enough in Senator Hatch’s state of Utah to pass Prop 2. Passage of the referendum, which appears likely, could benefit Mormonism. Utahans are reportedly fleeing the Mormon church in big numbers. Part of that mass exodus could be due to Mormonism’s malevolent attitude toward a happy little aromatic weed that has benefited humankind for more than 8000 years.

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