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Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Dehumanization of Pot Smokers

posted by on May 17 at 18:00 PM

Governments could never persuade their citizens to wage an unprovoked war without dehumanizing an enemy. The most pestiferous modern example was that of Nazis upon Jews, branded as vermin in need of extermination.

It also comes in much subtler forms in less heinous wars. Consider these two recent ads from the White House and their ultimate function in the war on drugs. The first is a video: A teenage girl describes her friend on the couch, whose pot smoking has literally deflated her into a non-person.

Next is a radio ad I heard just the other day—unconvincing, but funny: Smoking weed is the gateway to Indie Rock, and becoming a robot.

Neither ad persuaded kids to “just say no.” In fact, the campaign was deemed generally ineffective, and counter-effective for the demographic targeted in the ads above. The Government Accountability Office reported there was “a relationship between campaign exposure and higher rates of [drug] initiation … among certain subgroups of the sample (e.g., 12 1⁄2- to 13-year-olds and girls).”

So why does the White House keep running the ads of robotic emo kids and withered girls? They aren’t trying to reduce demand for drugs at all. (They know the percentage of adolescents who try drugs is relatively static, with slight cyclical variations affected by a confluence of social and political factors.) They continue because public opinion on marijuana is the front line of the drug war—they must undercut a surging wave of support for drug law reform among young people. Otherwise, the post-DARE generation will soon join pot-friendly baby boomers in the voting booth to pass a slew of pot-legalization initiatives headed to state ballots over the next decade. Unless, of course, the young voters of tomorrow don’t feel compassion for jailed pot smokers, who are barely human.

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This is your brain on hyberbole.

Let me get this straight. You are comparing genocide to TV commercials that no one else cares about?

Posted by Zander | May 17, 2007 6:18 PM

Nope, Zander. I'm providing a most egregious example of dehumanization propaganda. The arrest of pot smokers is obviously nothing like the Holocaust, which took the lives of my entire paternal family, less my grandma and her sister, who escaped by the skin of their teeth.

Posted by Dominic Holden | May 17, 2007 6:26 PM

so they'll be murdering pot smokers? making skin wallets out of hippies? gassing them en masse in gymnasiums?! and you get this all from those commercials everyone ignores?!

that's the worst comparison i've ever heard. gut wrenchingly gross. really, dominic.

Posted by z is for xylophone | May 17, 2007 6:38 PM

Do I have to smoke pot to understand Dominic's comparison? Because I totally do, and I totally do.

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 17, 2007 6:43 PM

If there wasn't a War on Drugs then the comparison would be a bit over the top, but they're trying to dehumanize the "enemy" and I think it's a good observation.

Posted by gwrak | May 17, 2007 6:44 PM




Posted by Freddy | May 17, 2007 6:51 PM

I think it was very smart and insightful.

I've noticed before that the latest crop of ads (and these are definitely not the only two) don't have any point. Old anti-drug ads were based on ridiculous information -- pot will kill you, pot makes you a criminal, other drugs make you stupid and insane -- but at least I could understand them if their makers believed their premises WERE true. The new ads are saying "don't be gross," "be fun to be around," and "stop wasting your time."

Even if these things were true, why are they spending hundreds of millions of dollars to say them?! Why would the government care if I'm gross or I'm not fun to hang out with or I should have better things to do. If that was a good idea, they should make anti-TV ads or anti-video game ads.

Your idea explains this.

Posted by jamier | May 17, 2007 7:23 PM

Yeah, I'll believe that young voters are going to legalize marijuana when I see it. If pot smokers voted with the same frequency as they toke, it would have happened years ago. I mean, didn't the Baby Boomers say that pot would be legal? Didn't my idiot half brother, ten years older than me, predict that pot would be legal by now? It still ain't happened, because voter turnout, particularly in midterm elections is pathetic, and because it's easier to get a bunch of potheads to a hippie music jam than to a voting booth.

Posted by Gitai | May 17, 2007 8:31 PM

I've been working on getting all my pot head friends to vote....someday, someday. But I'm thinking it's going to take my lifetime.

Posted by Dianna | May 17, 2007 8:49 PM

Just cause that first commercial is true of my personal experience with stoners doesn't mean it shouldn't be legalized.

@8: totally agree.

Posted by Tiz | May 17, 2007 9:16 PM

I'm gonna be a ballerina when I grow up.
I'm gonne be a track star when I grow up.
More bullshit and wasted money. Wev.

Posted by Deacon Seattle | May 17, 2007 9:32 PM

Well I think the commercial contains the important messages that its rude to get high with friends who don't or when you are going to be interviewed by the tv people. Sage advice.

The radio spot also points out the important and true fact that most indie rock does in fact suck.

Posted by Giffy | May 17, 2007 10:34 PM

wow dominic. what a terrible post and terrible comparison. your post is misinformed and irresponsible.

Posted by kurt | May 17, 2007 11:45 PM

that post was awesome. kurt sucks.

Posted by awesome | May 18, 2007 12:40 AM

Dominic, honey --

That is a blow up doll on the couch and if you huff and puff at the vagina, she will come to life.

Of course, she will still be a low energy screw, and too stoned to even move .....but... some nights....

Posted by rorry | May 18, 2007 3:51 AM

Don't they know that pot smokers always take a big hit every time one of their ads comes on the tv? They should make the ads appealing to stoners. What am I saying, they shouldn't bother making the ads at all and just legalize the shit. Where's the anti-drinking campaigns?

Posted by monkey | May 18, 2007 6:20 AM

Where can I get one of these skin wallets made out of a hippie?

Posted by Fnarf | May 18, 2007 8:06 AM

What the fuck.

Dominic points out, correctly, that in order to wage an unprovoked war, governments must dehumanize their enemy. That's true. He notes that the worst modern example of this was the Nazis dehumanization of the Jews. Also true.

He then says that the same TACTIC is used "in much subtler forms in less heinous wars." He didn't say the war on drugs is equivalent to the holocaust. He made a single comparison of tactics used to dehumanize, and he made it very carefully.

But of course, if you mention the Nazis in any type of comparative statement, you're immediately accused of making an equivalence of every single aspect of the holocaust. It's ridiculous.

The Nazis used propaganda. They were very good at it. The war on drugs (not to mention the war on terror) uses propaganda in some similar ways, though TOWARDS A DIFFERENT PURPOSE. Is that so hard to grasp? It obviously doesn't mean the result is in any way comparable, and it doesn't minimize the horror of the holocaust.

The idea that we should "never forget" doesn't only apply to being watchful for something exactly as horrific as the holocaust, i.e. genecide. It means we should be watchful and fight against all forms of hatred and persecution, however small.

Posted by Tone | May 18, 2007 8:31 AM

My favorite commercials are the animated ones where the pot smoker is talking to the dog...

Posted by Mike in MO | May 18, 2007 8:54 AM

Tony Ventrella talked at a school conference yesterday, and in the midst of his talking about the Iraq war, gods guiding light, and his barbering... he threw in "What kind of a world is it when a man gets sent to jail for holding on to a little marijuana?"

I thought it was funny for two reaons:
a.) It was Tony Ventrella
b.) I was REALLY high

Posted by Danniel | May 18, 2007 9:11 AM

This is totally tangential, but Tony Ventrella surely is a major pot head, and surely is Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.

Does anyone know if he took a pay cut when he became a motivational speaker / van down by the river inhabitant?

Posted by jackie treehorn | May 18, 2007 9:18 AM

Oh, I'm sure he did... not by choice though... I heard he was fired.

Posted by Danniel | May 18, 2007 9:29 AM

Fired?! Outrageous.

From The Seattle Times, December 2005:

"Ventrella's last regular TV gig was as a sports and newscaster on KCPQ-TV, which he left in January. Ventrella, a former sports director for KIRO, has worked at every news affiliate in Seattle since arriving here in 1981. His evening talk-radio show on KIRO-AM (710) ended in September."

Which HE left. Tony V does what Tony V wants. But, if he did get fired for like, gross incompetence or something I could see that.

And of course, his website, Tony Ventrella's PEP (Positive Energy Productions):

He features his own personal motivational quotes interspersed with those of Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he obviously views as a "feel good" contemporary.

While there isn't a firm date for the next "Feelin Good Tour," only a vague remark about it being sometime this Fall, if its anything like the last one, it will feature Tony doing what he does best, "rapping" with beauty pageant winners, professional local cheerleaders, and lesser Seahawks, in a hip, subtle mix of humor and hard-hitting ideas about creating one's own attitude.

Van down by the river, people.

Posted by jackie treehorn | May 18, 2007 9:40 AM

By the time pot heads get around to voting they'll be humorless middle-aged parents who are terrified that their kids will smoke pot. In other words, they'll turn into those "pot friendly" baby boomers.

Posted by keshmeshi | May 18, 2007 9:54 AM

Tone @ 18: Nice post. Some folks must have missed the "much subtler forms in less heinous wars" part. Propaganda is propaganda.

To all the haters/cynical voters: Quit bitchin' and start some outreach (if you actually care).

I think the girl in the vid was just pissed because her stingy balloon friend wasn't sharing!

Posted by Jamey | May 18, 2007 10:09 AM

It was funny... because when he brought up his "7 Keys To Happiness" there were only 3, and then he went on this marijuana tangent.

Posted by Danniel | May 18, 2007 10:18 AM

This reminds me of a lot of the new anti-smoking campaigns. Shouldn't it be hate the cancer-causing, addictive tobacco instead of "HATE ALL SMOKERS 'CAUSE THEY'RE ICKY AND GROSS!"

And for the record, I'm a huge fucking pot head and I haven't missed an election since I registered to vote. Most pot smokers I know are the same way. You people forget that you personally are not the one and only exception to every rule.

And the new anti-weed commercials with the puppy? ADORABLE!

Posted by louley | May 18, 2007 10:25 AM

It was funny... because when he brought up his "7 Keys To Happiness" there were only 3, and then he went on this marijuana tangent.

Posted by Danniel | May 18, 2007 10:35 AM

dude, i totally know how that deflated chick feels. She needs some cartoons and some chocolate cake, STAT.

Posted by katie | May 18, 2007 11:17 AM

cop pot brownies might make for a better commercial.

Posted by infrequent | May 18, 2007 11:59 AM

The gov't used to talk about heroin and opium JUST like they talk about pot now. Find something worthwhile to spend money and energy on, instead of wasting valuable commercial time :D with guilt-tripping micromanaging commercials about sad dogs and inflatable girls. It's just like those bike cops who ride around harassing people for enjoying the sun and their joint in the park. My god, are there not more evil things happening in the city?

Posted by Katelyn | May 18, 2007 12:24 PM

advertising = propaganda = 70 pages of the Stranger, every week

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