Drug Czar’s Super Bowl Ad Campaign Slammed in Print, on Airwaves Across Country – What is being said

Press Release February 7, 2002
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 or Matt Briggs at 212-548-1147

What is Being Said About the Super Bowl Drug War Ads:

Tucker Carlson, CNN’s Crossfire: “I have to say I think these spots are a waste of $3.5 million. So you know, you’re the average 11th grade dope smoker. And you see this on television. And you think, they’ve told me that drugs fry my brain. They told me that, you know, drugs are bad for my health, that drugs are bad for America. Now they’re saying that drugs help terrorism. It’s going to be laughed right off the set. They’re not going take this seriously, your target audience…;Terrorists are responsible for terrorism. Dope smokers are responsible for smoking dope.”

Christopher Caldwell, a Senior Editor at The Weekly Standard: “We can leave aside the general question of whether government agencies ought to be spending the public’s money to –in effect– lobby that very same public to keep shelling out money for them…Let’s leave that aside and focus on the content of the ads…it ends with two slogans across a silent screen: Drug money supports terror. Then, if you buy drugs, you might too. What crap. Teenagers who are buying drugs are not killing families in Colombia. They’re not even ‘helping’ to kill families in Colombia. They are just buying drugs…;The drug bureaucracy appears to believe that no one will take its drug war seriously unless the federal government resorts to propaganda worthy of the Zhdanov-era Soviet Union.”

Chris Canter, director of the Walden House Foundation: “My initial reaction is that I thought it was kind of compelling. But when you think about it, probably your most problematic addicts aren’t watching the game anyway. It seems like everybody is trying to link everything to terrorism. This ad, I felt, missed its mark.”

Bill Maher, Politically Incorrect: “So we were talking about the way the administration now – which I think is awfully cynical – they are piggy-backing the war on drugs on this war on terror…;it is outrageous…;I don’t remember Colombians flying planes into the buildings. The people who fly the planes into the buildings get their money from oil. That’s the addiction, not drugs.”

D.L. Hughley, actor, “The Hughley’s” (on Politically Incorrect): Treatment doesn’t make the news. What does make the news is rhetoric – ill-defined rhetoric like that…;This administration, like many other previous Republican administrations, are always trying to scare people with this type of stuff…Clearly the issue is that they’re trying to use the fear of 9/11 to promote a political agenda that they wouldn’t have had.”

Ellis Henican, Newsday columnist: “Since being confirmed by the Senate in December, Walters has been an eager captive of the old-school lock-’em-up approach, emphasizing pointless police busts and endless prison terms instead of proven drug treatment. And now he’s at it again, with a preposterous new message and plenty of money to burn. Our money, of course…;You want to blame someone for the drug-terror ties? Blame the politicians who refuse to change America’s expensive and counter-productive drug laws.”

William Spain, reporter for CBS.MarketWatch.com: “The unit of London-based WPP Group – canned by Uncle Sam last year for padding timesheets – just can’t resist lending its considerable talents to furthering the latest Big Lie of a campaign that has been marked by deception from its very beginning…;Neglected in the campaign is that the same killers also garner their share of loot from the sale of other commodities – food, fuel, luxury goods and weapons…;Are Americans subsidizing terror when they fill their gas tanks?”

Arianna Huffington, syndicated columnist: “In the single largest ad buy the federal government has ever made, the White House spent nearly $3.5 million to get these commercials on the Super Bowl — $3.5 million spent not on treatment but on demonizing America’s young people…;It’s one thing to drop an egg into a frying pan to demonstrate that drugs are bad for you, and quite another to link drug users to bloodthirsty murderers…;.We know, for instance, that bin Laden and al Qaida used tens of millions of dollars in profits from the diamond industry to fund their operations. So how come we didn’t see a commercial with a woman, say, a senator’s wife, fingering the diamonds on her sparkling tennis bracelet and admitting: ‘I helped kids learn how to kill’?”

Brad Jansen, Free Congress Foundation: “Wasting millions of taxpayer dollars is something the Republicans claimed they were trying to stop. They got elected on that promise. At a time when we are returning to deficit spending and still trying to reduce the tax burden and protect the Social Security so-called surplus and other sacred budgetary cows, this TV expenditure is outrageous…;The simplistic view that we can prevent future terrorist events if everyone stopped abusing drugs because of a 30-second sound-bite belies a more complicated reality. Not only does it take a very limited budget to carry out many terrorist attacks, but other parts of the federal budget routinely subsidize the drug trade and its links to terrorism.”

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, on The O’Reilly Factor: “One of the problems is they’re based on the assumption that American kids are stupid. American kids aren’t that stupid. You put out those fried-egg commercials and kids start spoofing it. This one’s going to get spoofed the same way those fried-egg commercials are…;In the 1920s, you’re going to blame, you know, 50, 60 million Americans from the schoolyards to the White House would drink a little beer. Does that mean that every victim of Al Capone could be laid at their hands?”

Darrell Rogers, Students for Sensible Drug Policy: “If we are going to blame the illicit drug consumer for problems associated with prohibition, then the government should talk about the many legal products that have ties to terrorism or repressive regimes worldwide. Diamonds are responsible for funding death squads, civil war and genocide in the Congo, Sierra Leon and Liberia. Should we demonize engaged couples? Oil supplies governments with horrific human rights records. Should we blame the auto industry or soccer moms for human rights abuses?”

A recent San Francisco Chronicle on-line poll found that only 14% of respondents believe buying drugs finances terrorism. 16% believe that it doesn’t and that it’s just government propaganda. 70% believe it does, but not as much as buying gas.

Letters-to-the-Editor from voters around the country are pouring into newspapers: “I find the recent television and print ads linking drug use and terrorism to be very disturbing. Although it is not unlikely that some drug money does get funneled to terrorist organizations, the sole reason for this is the current state of prohibition. Just as alcohol prohibition fueled organized crime back in the 1920s, the war on drugs fuels crime today. In 1929, when President Hoover appointed a commission to study the overwhelming disobedience to Prohibition, that commission concluded that Prohibition was unenforceable. Nothing has changed since then.” (Jerry Parsons, Long Beach, Los Angeles Times, 2/7/02.)

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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