Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Excerpts from my new book Can you pass the Acid Test?
Can you pass the Acid Test?
Yellow Journalism and outright rebellion
The New York Times ran huge articles with headlines warning its readers that drug use and trafficking was on the rise. The paper ran the article "The Drug Scene: Dependence Grows" (Jan. 8, 1969), the first in a five part series. The article started on the front page, then took up more than a half page inside the newspaper. As was typical of the 1960s, the two drugs that grabbed headlines were marijuana and LSD. The article started out reporting on a cafe in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. It reported that the drug scene was a result of changing American cultural values. Especially under attack, according to the article, was the Protestant work ethic, that holds that hard work is the way to spiritual salvation as well as earthly rewards. Also singled out was the "pioneer spirit" where man has dominated his environment. An example given was that of the founding fathers carving out the wilderness. The article reported that drug use had left the slums. It explained the traditional view of a drug addict as that of an unemployed minority in a rat infested slum. Not only had middle class offspring created a counter-drug-culture, separate from their parent's upbringing, but drug use was spilling into the straight world. Business people and common workers were starting to use drugs also. The article summed up the fears of middle-class America that drug use was "associated with passivity, introspection, mysticism, hedonism and nihilism."
The last article in the series dealt with the trafficking of drugs. At that time, much of the marijuana in the US came from Mexico or other foreign countries. New York was presented as a major entry point. In the article "The Drug Scene: Nation's Illegal Traffic Is Valued at Up to $400-Million Annually" a kicker headline read: "New York Called Distribution Area, Most Marijuana Smuggled From Mexico Lands Here, in Chicago or Los Angeles." The article claimed anyone could go to Mexico, make a buy and become a smuggle. According to the Times, the hard narcotic heroin was still controlled by organized crime. But marijuana smuggling and the underground chemists who made LSD were either individuals or small organizations. The traditional "Mafia" didn't see much profit in smuggling marijuana.
According to John E. Storer, chief of the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement:
"Anybody with an automobile can be a narcotics peddler by driving to Mexico and purchasing any quantity he desires." Yet a reporter who tried to buy heroin said such contacts were not that easy to make. The heroin dealers were more careful and suspicious of strangers.
Drugs were just beginning to show up in the mid-west, by the late 1960s. There were occasional news stories about drug busts, but often mid-west newspapers had drug stories from other parts of the country such as "13 Careers in Navy Go to Pot," in The Wichita Eagle (Feb. 22, 1968). The Eagle also ran an article about the underground "hippie" newspapers that were springing up across the US. The article started out with a headline kicker that read:
"Curiosity over the hippies was reflected again and again in a survey of what is on readers minds. This article explores one aspect of the hippie culture that is readily available to outsiders: the underground press."
The article then describes some of the better known underground papers of the period, including the Berkeley, Calf. , Barb, the East Village Other, published in New York's Grenwich Village and The Loss Angeles Free Press.
One Eagle article reported a decline in the use of LSD. The FDA had reported that there was less of that drug on the street. Wichita would see an increase in that drugs use by the early 1970s.
The New Orleans' Morning Tribune printed a number of horror stories, during the 1940s, about marijuana, including "SCHOOL CHILDREN FOUND IN GRIP OF MARIJUANA HABIT BY INVESTIGATORS." According to Morning Tribune staff reporters: they mingled with dope peddlers only to find they were selling "muggles" (a slang term for marijuana cigarettes) to school children. One kicker for the article states: "Scrupulous Peddlers Openly Sell Drug to Boys Of Tender Age Who Appear on Streets Under Its Influence" and "Police Have Become Hardened to Sight of 12 Year Olds "Muggle Up".' Another article's headline stated: "MARIJUANA FOUND EASY TO PURCHASE!"
Articles appeared in the 1930s newspapers that indicated the US was still in the process of creating a world-wide ban on the use of narcotics. An article in The New York Times (May 23, 1935) reported that Dr. H. J. Wollner, consulting chemist for the US Treasury Department, had urged the governments involved in the Advisory Opium Committee of the League of Nations to develop more cooperation in the exchange of information, needed to fight the trafficking of narcotics. The report said more conferences would be set up "for the repression of illicit drug traffic." The paper reported that 33 countries were involved in the committee besides the US.
Many drug articles in the 1920s and 1930s were reports of people being arrested for narcotics possession or trafficking. The New York Times reported the bust of a heroin distribution center were detectives found about $5,000 worth of the drug (July 25, 1923). They seized 42 ounces of heroin from a railroad yard.
Newspapers also titillated readers with stories of celebrities that were busted for drug offenses. The New York Times told its readers "Early morning patrons of the E.& L. Restaurant, 153 West Forty-forth Street, yesterday saw five pretty bobbed-haired
actresses escorted from the place by detectives of the narcotic division, who place them under arrest on finding a white powder supposed to be heroin" (Aug. 6, 1923). They were only local actresses and the story was buried inside. Yet the tone of the article was common and not unlike today's tabloids that splash big headlines when a celebrity gets caught with drugs.
In the 1920s there were several lay groups formed to fight against the "narcotics menace." These groups wanted prohibition with tough penalties and they ridiculed clinics that tried to wean addicts off of drugs gradually. Some of those groups included The International Narcotic Education Association (1923), the World Conference on Narcotic Education (1926) and the World Narcotic Defense Association (1927), which were created by Richmond P. Hobson, a Spanish American War hero and prohibition propagandist. His crusade made use of exaggerated numbers of estimated addicts in the US and he linked narcotic use to serious crime. Hobson often relied on radio broadcasts to get his message out. But he was joined by William Randolph Hearst who used his Seattle Post-Intelligencer to stop the opening of narcotics clinics in the Seattle, Wash. area.
Articles in The New York Times, at the turn of the century, are a good example of the kinds of yellow journalism that would resurface over the next century. An article called "Finds Drug Evil Pervades the City" (Dec. 5, 1916), had a headline kicker that warned "Legislative Committee Hears Addicts Now Number 200,000." It also warned that narcotic addiction was reaching into the "upperworld" which included judges, physicians, lawyers and ministers. The article's lead paragraph starts out:
"The drug evil has now reached into every corner of the city with amazing rapidity, according to testimony given at the City Hall yesterday, afternoon at the first hearing of the Joint Legislative Committee appointed last spring to investigate the habit-forming drug traffic, with a view to remedial legislation."
In another article, "Fight Drug Evil In 2 Hemispheres" (Nov. 5, 1916), claimed that enlisted soldiers in the US Army were using narcotics. The article also described laws that were passed in England, modeled after the Harrison Act, of 1914, that started narcotic prohibition in the US.
In the mid1800s, the temperance movement attacked alcohol the way modern day parents groups and cultural warriors attack drugs. A well known temperance paper from the 1850s, The Lily, had this to say:
"Drunkenness is not our sin alone, but it is our particular sin- our great sin."
As with other such papers, such as the Temperance Recorder, religion was a strong motivating factor. But there were also some feminist who were caught up in the Temperance movement and some of their papers were even designed and edited by women, such as the New York Olive Plant (1842) and the New York Pearl (1846).
The temperance movement tried to ally itself with the issue of abolishing slavery, much as the modern anti-abortion movement has tried associate itself with that historical movement..
Mainstream opposition to the war on drugs
Despite the tradition of yellow journalism in dealing with the drug issue, there have been some exceptions. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an editorial, "THE WAR ON DRUGS, A bright and shining lie" (Feb. 10, 2001), comparing the war on drugs to the Vietnam War, both un-winnable and futile. They blasted the government's lack of funding for treatment and said that drug abuse should be treated as a health problem rather than a law-and-order problem.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran articles focused on accidental police shootings, related to drug enforcement. In Bill McCellan's column, "Two police shootings show upside-down priorities of drug war" (Feb. 11, 2001), he complained that undercover police shot an unarmed small-time drug dealer and an innocent bystander. As the dealer's car attempted to evade police, they opened fire, killing both occupants. The dealer was driving a friend, who had no known police record and was not under any suspicion of using or selling drugs. Another woman was killed after police broke her door down and shot her claiming her, shinny cell phone looked like a gun. McClellan point out:
"If people want to use mind-altering drugs, they will. If there is quick money to be made providing these drugs, people will provide them. We can't stop them with prisons and bullets." he goes on to say the money would be better spent on treatment and education.
The Kansas City Star ran an article in which police through a rock through the window of a home, to distract what they thought were crack dealers inside. They went to the wrong house and hit an elderly woman in the head. Minutes later, they accidentally shot a man in the shoulder. The paper's headline tried to play down the mistakes with: "Case study of a raid: A healthy haul of drugs despite a few mishaps"(June 24, 1990). Kansas City's drug mishaps got better coverage from the newspaper of a small Kansas town, Hutchinson. The Hutchinson News (June 16, 1991) ran an Associated Press article in which innocent people were handcuffed, an innocent man was beaten with a flashlight and search warrants had no actual addresses on them. The warrants relied on descriptions of the homes rather than addresses.
The Hutchinson News was also one of the few newspapers to give an in depth and critical coverage to the Panama invasion. The Bush administration's justification for the invasion was that Panama's President Manuel Noriega was actually a drug dealer. The Hutchinson News gave full coverage, some of which backed Bush opponents' claims that the CIA wanted to use Noriega to put pressure on the Sandinista leadership in nearby Nicaragua. The headlines were fairly revealing: "U.S. considered killing Noriega" (Feb. 25, 1990) and "Noriega trial begins this week; Controversial trial to be colored by conspiracy theory" (Sept. 3, 1991).
During the peak of Reagan's war on drugs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an article that criticized his "war on drugs" strategy. In "'Drug War' Only Latest Skirmish," (Sept. 7, 1986), the Post said "While Reagan has made anti-drug efforts a major issue, his administration has been inconsistent in its support for drug education and treatment programs, some experts say." The article noted that the "newest campaign comes in the aftermath of what one commentator called a 'media-borne cocaine panic,' fueled by the recent introduction of 'crack'." The article's main argument was that there was far too little money being spent on drug treatment.
Even though The New York Times article "Finds Drug Evil Pervades the City" (Dec. 5, 1916) threw a lot of alarmist statistics at the reader, regarding the "evil" of narcotic addiction, it supported the treatment view as opposed to the criminal view that was pushed by Hearst's newspapers. The article cited the advise of Dr. Ernest C. Bishop:
"When asked by Chairman Whitney if he believed narcotics should be prescribed for a man, for instance, 60 years old who had been using drugs for twenty-five years, (Bishop) answered in the affirmative."
Even with the yellow journalism of the time period, there was still some debate as to how the nation should address the drug problem. The idea of locking addicts up and denying them short-term use of narcotics was being opposed by knowledgeable medical authorities.
 J. Anthony Lukas, "The Drug Scene: Dependence Grows," The New York Times, (8 January 1968), vol. CXVII no. 40,161, pp. 1 - 22.
 Martin Waldron, "The Drug Scene: Nation's Illegal Traffic Is Valued at Up to $400-Million Annually," The New York Times, (12 January 1968), vol. CXVII no. 40, 165, p. 30.
 New York Times News Service, "13 Careers in Navy Go to Pot," The Wichita Eagle, (22 February 1968), vol. 96 no. 53, p. 3B.
 Jerry Buck, New York A.P., "Hippie Underground Papers Pop Up Like Wildflowers," The Wichita Eagle, (23 February 1968), vol. 96 no. 54, p. 11A.
 A.P., "Bureau Chief Sees Decline In Use of LSD," The Wichita Eagle, (29 February 1968), vol. 96 no. 60, 3A.
 William Daniel Drake, "The Connoisseur's Handbook of Marijuana," Jr., p, . 61.
 "Police Chemistry' Is Urged At Geneva," The New York Times, (28 May 1935), vol. LXXXIV no. 28,243, p. 15.
 "Heroin Raid Yields Store Worth $5,000," The New York Times, (25 July 1923), vol. LXXII no. 23,923, p. 18.
 "Five Actresses Held, Arrested In Restaurant, Charged With Having Narcotics," The New York Times, (6 August 1923), vol. LXXII no. 23,935, p. 22.
 David F. Musto, M.D., "The American Disease," (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999), p. 190 -193.
 "Finds Drug Evil Pervades the City," The New York Times, (5 December 1916), vol. LXVI no. 21,500, p. 4.
 "Fight Drug Evil In 2 Hemispheres," The New York Times, (5 November 1916), vol. LXVI no. 21,470, p.19.
 Ian R. Tyrrell, Women and Temperance in Antebellum America, 1830 - 1860, edited in Randall Woods, Willard Gatewood, America Interpreted, Volume 1 : to 1877, (Harcourt Brace College Publishers, Fort Worth, 1998), pp. 333, 334.
 Ian R. Tyrrell, Women and Temperance in Antebellum America, 1830 - 1860, p. 338.
 Editorial, "THE WAR ON DRUGS, A bright and shining lie," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, (10 February 2001) vol. 123 no. 41, p. 3O.
 Bill McClellan, "Two police shootings show upside-down priorities of drug war," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, (11 February 2001), vol. 123 no. 42, pp. C1, C6.
 Phil Jurik, "Case study of a raid: A healthy haul of drugs despite a few mishaps," The Kansas City (Missouri) Star, (24 June 1990), vol. 110 no. 254, pp. 1A, 11A.
 AP, "Police drug raid goes bust; Group of officers raid wrong house, greatly damages it," The Hutchinson (Kansas) News, (16 June 1991), year 119 no. 348, p. 3, Otto, "War on Drugs/ War on People," pp. 52 - 53.
 Douglas Franzt, Ronald J. Ostrow, "U.S. considered killing Noriega," The Hutchinson News, (25 February 1990), p. 18, Richard Cole, "Noreiga trial begins this week; Controversial trial to be colored by conspiracy theory," The Hutchinson News, (3 September 1991), pp. 1, 16, Otto, "War on Drugs/ War on People," pp. 78 - 80.
 Robert L. Koenig, "'Drug War' Only Latest Skirmish," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, (7 September 1986), vol. 108 no. 250, pp. 1A, 6A