Keeping the media honest when it comes to drugs


This is a series of podcasts from On the Media, which is WNYC Studios’ weekly investigation into how the media shapes our world view. Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield give you the tools to survive the media maelstrom. There are several parts to their war on drugs series, which are broken down below.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has signaled that he’d like to revamp the War on Drugs. We take a look at the history of the battle, and how sensational media depictions of crack, heroin, and meth have helped fuel it. Plus: our Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Drugs Edition. Then, a look at how America’s first drug czar used racist propaganda to outlaw marijuana. And why the debate between treatment and law enforcement is blurrier than you might think.”

1. Our Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Drugs Edition: a critical look at what the press gets wrong about drugs and drug addiction.

Drugs: they’re everywhere. In our medicine cabinets, the books we read, the movies we watch, and the communities in which we live. What isn’t common: reliable and accurate information about drug use and addiction.

In the latest edition of Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook, we confront the most pervasive myths about drug use, addiction, and prescription. Bob talks to Debbie Dowell of the Centers for Disease Control; Dr. Carl Hart of Columbia University and author of High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society; and finally, Maia Szalavitz, author of Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction.

2. The origins of the seemingly eternal War on Drugs can be traced back to one man: Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Beginning in 1930s, when America’s attitudes on opioids, cocaine, and marijuana were less vitriolic, Anslinger argued for total drug prohibition and severe punishment for offenders.

Brooke speaks with Alexandra Chasin, author of Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger’s War on Drugs, about how Anslinger’s racist propaganda helped outlaw pot and influenced future drug policy; and Johann Hariauthor of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, who tells the story of Anslinger’s ruthless pursuit of jazz singer Billie Holiday for her heroin use.

3. The War on Drugs has been fueled as much by political rhetoric and media frenzy as it has by policy. Since Nixon’s address to Congress in 1971, the American public has experienced a slew of drug scares, each with its accompanying depictions of depravity and social deterioration. And following Nixon, nearly every president would spend more on law enforcement than drug treatment — and see prison populations surge.

Brooke talks to Craig Reinarman, author of Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice about how the media, and even American presidents, have played a role in criminalizing drugs, and how this has turned on its head now that the wealthy see there’s an opportunity for cannabis investment.

4. President Trump has long argued that a US-Mexico border wall will bring an end to drug epidemics in the US. But it’s clear that that proposal — and indiscriminately jailing those who use illicit drugs — aren’t full solutions to the problem.

But Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, argues that focusing solely on treating addicts isn’t an adequate solution either. He talks to Bob about the importance of tracing the supply of drugs into the United States, and how the line between dealers and addicts is more blurry than we might think.


For more quality shows on journalism and media bias, make sure you subscribe to On the Media‘s regular podcasts. Of course, if you really want to stick it to the laws, don’t forget to check my grow guide to help you free yourself from unfair restrictions. You may find the best marijuana seeds 2017 review helpful, or if you’re a big fan of Dutch seeds, you should check those guys out for some local classics. How do you like those apples, Mr Anslinger?

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