HELPING LEGALIZE DRUGS
A couple readers objected to my suggestion last week that Bill O’Reilly’s anti-drug scare tactics are actually helping our cause more than they hurt it. Here’s what they said:
“I’m very displeased with most of these TV interviews. Between Mr. O’Reilly’s constant use of voodoo pharmacology and emotional appeals, Mr. Nadelmann never really got a chance to articulate the finer points of legalization. Until we get longer fairer interviews, I’m not convinced that these TV spots do any good.”
“I have to disagree with Scott’s post. Dogmatic idiots like O’Reilly and his ‘chronic’ (pun intended) listeners can’t be schooled. Not by reasoned argument, anyway. That’s the big problem re. all the societal problems we face: there’s so many dogmatic idiots, and way too many of them, like O’Reilly, have public megaphones via corporate sponsored mass media. Imo, it’s better to just accept that quite a few people are unreachable, and instead, try to reach those who still have a modicum of intelligent open-mindedness.”
I understand how one could conclude that our efforts are undermined when a prominent voice like O’Reilly speaks out against us before a massive television audience, nor would I argue that there’s no such thing as bad publicity for the cause of drug policy reform. But Bill O’Reilly’s brand of dubious DEA-derived data and authoritarian posturing is unlikely to come as a major revelation to anyone in his audience. His tactics are nothing more than classic prohibitionist nonsense; the same stuff that’s failed quite consistently to turn back our momentum.
Over and over again, O’Reilly’s attacks have come from a defensive stance, as he reacts to our efforts by condemning the latest drug reform book or campaign. In the process, he inadvertently presents and legitimizes our argument before an audience that we’d otherwise struggle to reach. He props up reform leaders with primetime television exposure and further establishes the now-undeniable rise of drug policy reform into the realm of mainstream political debate. In the meantime, support for drug policy reform among conservatives surges like never before and national support for marijuana legalization has never been higher than it is today.
So if I had a choice between O’Reilly attacking us every day of the week, or ignoring us entirely, I’d choose the former without hesitation. If you don’t think it’s possible to advance a political agenda by quarreling with Bill O’Reilly, consider the fact that Al Franken is now a U.S. Senator.