Article by Richard Cowan
The classic example of the “False Dilemma” is all too common these days: “You’re either with us or against us.”
For opponents of the Drug War, this problem was (and often still is) how to explain that someone could be in favor of “legalizing” marijuana, but not meth. A “drug” is a “drug”, except when it isn’t. Of course, alcohol and tobacco really are “drugs”, but they are still generally identified separately as in “alcohol AND drugs”, like dogs and cats.
Speaking of dogs, I recently saw a complaint from a nark in a state that had just legalized marijuana wondering what to do with their dogs that had been trained to sniff out marijuana! Fortunately, dogs, unlike most narks, can be retrained. Pardon the sarcasm.
Another version of the argument that requires conformity (unity?) was common at the height of the Drug War was the insistence that we were either for or against “Drugs”, as defined by the prohibitionists.
A frightening example of this was demonstrated in a 1996 conversation between A. M. Rosenthal, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times, who was a rabid prohibitionist, and General Barry McCaffrey, then Clinton’s Drug Czar, which was recorded by McCaffrey. Rosenthal was panicked by the success of Prop 215, which “legalized” medical marijuana in California.
From Harper's Magazine - November 2000
ROSENTHAL: And what we've got to do, I mean, not we, but all of us, is convince people of the connection between the California initiative, which they still see as a pot initiative, and the 100,000 dead...
McCAFFREY: Yeah. You know the other thing we gotta say is, Do we want to promote a drugged, stoned America? Or do we want to promote one that's involved in athletics and academic achievement and sensitivity to other people and their problems? Or do we want to do Timothy O'Leary?
ROSENTHAL: We've got to get some way also to make it socially unacceptable. So how to do this except by pounding at them I don't know...
ROSENTHAL: -who are fed, and that's what made Soros [inaudible]. It's socially unacceptable somehow for people to use their money in that way.
ROSENTHAL: Well, that's right, but how do we - I mean, as a society and the people who are anti-drugs - make it socially unacceptable not to smoke pot but, but to give money to these causes? ...
ROSENTHAL: And I think that is really something that you and the President ought to be doing.
McCAFFREY: That's another idea, Abe. I have not heard that. I will take that aboard, that's a very good thought.
ROSENTHAL: If it hadn't been for Soros-
ROSENTHAL: -and a couple of other people that I run into at parties all over the place and everybody admires, blah, blah, blah-
ROSENTHAL: -this would not have passed.
ROSENTHAL: And I think we have the right to say - You know, I wouldn't let a pornographer in my house, I wouldn't, I really will not allow - I'm just saying this to you - George Soros in my house.
McCAFFREY: I absolutely agree. He ought to be ashamed of himself.
ROSENTHAL: Couldn't you say that people who give large amounts of money to these causes ought to be ashamed of themselves?...
McCAFFREY: Yeah, I agree. I absolutely agree.
ROSENTHAL: I really have this deep-bone feeling that if somebody like the President or you or somebody said that people like Soros should be ashamed of themselves - I'm not going to put his name in because you didn't say - but people who give large amounts of money ought to be ashamed of themselves- “
That conversation was 25 years ago, and it clearly demonstrates how the Drug War poisoned the public discourse long before today’s paranoia.
Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and author of How To Make CBD Hand Sanitizer.