Public Misses Significance of TV's Role in WoDs

Public Misses Significance of TV's Role in WoDs
Posted by FoM on January 20, 2000 at 17:06:42 PT
Column by James Lileks
Source: Cincinnati Post
If Ronald Reagan had paid Gary Coleman to say ''The Contras are the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers!'' on ''Diff'rent Strokes,'' critics would have pronounced it the penultimate step to the revocation of the Constitution.But now we learn that the government has been paying the networks for anti-drug scripts. Public reaction: yawn.
No money changes hands, but if a script has an anti-drug message, the net can sell the air time it would otherwise waste on anti-drug public service spots.The Clinton administration approves the script for ''The Wayans Brothers,'' and it's shrugs all around. Maybe it would be different if they influenced a show people actually watch, but there's a principle at stake.On one hand, network complicity spares us from anti-drug ad campaigns. No matter how well done the ads might be, the message is lost if the target audience is already stoned.If you really want to use television to dissuade people from using drugs, don't use ads; just break into regular programming with a picture of a huge pink lizard who says: ''You're really, really, stoned, aren't you? I buried Paul. The cops are outside.''Then go back to regular programming. Do this at irregular intervals, and the level of paranoia will become unbearable. Also, send pizza delivery men in cop uniforms with pink lizard heads.Otherwise, TV is useless. One anti-crack ad dramatized the effects the drug would have on your life: A lovely young woman took a frying pan to every object in the kitchen.To the dim, the message seemed to be: Don't do crack in the kitchen, man.To those already in the bony grasp of the drug, sitting in a room strewn with glass pipes, skeletal comrades and human filth, the ad was actually inspirational: That's a nice kitchen for a crack addict. Where does she live? Maybe she has some.Crack use is on the decline - but not because of ads. Kids growing up around crack users are, for some curious reason, disinclined to try a drug that makes you the object of universal contempt and turns you into a toothless, sweating wraith with a hacking cough and perpetual sweats. Imagine that.Perhaps a few people were turned away by government-approved scripts, but they probably weren't at risk in the first place.No one ever declined to try heroin because they feared disappointing the cast of ''ER.'' If they're that gullible, they'll probably try the drug in hopes of overdosing so they can meet the cast of their favorite show. Get some autographs.One might wonder: If TV scripts influence behavior, wasn't Dan Quayle right about Murphy Brown as a bad role model? No, of course not. Murphy Brown was fictional. The Wayans brothers are really brothers.It's issues like this that make one question the war on drugs.The objective is sound; the nation would not be served if everything was legal, everywhere. Do you want the government to license and regulate inner-city crack dealers? There's a recipe for goodwill: Uncle Sam's Crack & Smack Shack.But the opposite of legalization is suppression, and that's had some nasty consequences as well.Zero-tolerance property seizure laws, for example. It's only a matter of time before the federal government announces it is impounding Illinois because it found a marijuana seed on the North Side of Chicago.You object? Really? You want Chicago children to smoke drugs?Prohibition also means we lock up too many people for victimless crimes such as drug possession, instead of locking them up for their default professions of burglary or car theft.Now the script flap. Back in the days of the Red Scare, sponsors vetted scripts and writers for hints of pink sympathy, a Shameful Era supposedly equal to the Stalinist purges.(Without the summary executions and prison camps. But just as bad!)Now liberal producers have given a liberal government the right to approve their work, and this provokes a weary yawn.Nevertheless, the government has agreed to ''review'' its incentive plan to make sure there's no arm-twisting going on. (''Does this hurt? Look at the pile of money on the table before you answer.'') None of the networks has pulled out of the arrangement. (''Doesn't hurt - OW! - at all.'')We now return you to your regularly scheduled erosion of trust in the media, already in progress.James Lileks is a columnist for Newhouse News Service.Published: January 20, 2000 Copyright 1999 The Cincinnati Post, an E.W. Scripps newspaper. Related Articles:Drug Office Ad Deal Included Newspapers - 1/20/2000 House Clarifies Anti-Drug Program - 1/19/2000 the 1st Amendment, Just Give Em Their Profits-1/19/2000, Drugs & Civil Liberties - Ministers of Truth-1/18/200
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Comment #2 posted by rob on April 26, 2001 at 12:30:27 PT
i need more info
I'm doing a project in my mass media class on how the media affects/effects, drug use in our culture. Could you possibly hook me up with some tasty info for my research?
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Comment #1 posted by Alexandre Oeming on January 21, 2000 at 07:49:43 PT:
Not bad, but...
This guy seems to be speaking fairly objectively, but the commercial with that bi**h from "she's all that" is about heroin ... not crack. I wish all the people that wish to talk about drugs would get their damn facts straight. Sloth and stupidity are not signs of the strong.
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