Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A college try

Libby at LastOneSpeaks has an account from Jackl (who is a frequent commenter here) about an encounter he had with former ONDCP official Andrea Barthwell at his college reunion. Apparently, Barthwell gave a talk intended to bolster support for the War on Drugs, but failed miserably.
Barthwell's talk was billed "A Rational Drug Policy for Contemporary America" and the seminar brochure noted that "reunion weekend is a time for reflection and those who were at [the college] during the 60's and 70's participated in a great cultural change that was pivotal in the development of modern drug policy" and that the seminar would "examine the impact of the 60's and 70's on contemporary drug the nation has moved from the 'War on Drugs' metaphor to a public health approach, to prevention, intervention and treatment...", including, perhaps, Barthwell "recall[ing] her campus experiences", something of interest to my SSDP colleagues who asked I take notes on this point especially.


The whole idea, as she explained it, was that you wanted to set up interventions like drug testing (the traffic cones) so students would not go over the cliff of drug experimentation, abuse and addiction. In these slides we also realized that medical marijuana is a dangerous fraud because of the much greater harm potential of today's super-duper high potency cannabis than the cannabis smoked by boomers back in the day, and the false legitimacy conferred upon the drug by the "medical" claims.

Barthwell repeatedly referred to this as a "recipe for disaster" for the kids and society at large, although she did not explain the precise nature of this "disaster", except by offhand anecdotal references to unnamed kids spiraling down into addiction and ruining their lives, etc. But, kids being kids and some not abstaining after drug education efforts, if they did go over the cliff, according to Barthwell, there would be an "ambulance" of intervention and treatment at the bottom to help them, illustrated by a Powerpoint with an ambulance photoshopped onto a shot of the base of a cliff.


According to Barthwell, adult "recreational" use is also the ultimate source of evil because it is what allows the black market in illegal drugs to exist and be maintained to serve as a trickle-down supply to impressionable kids. Kind of like the guilting logic used by ONDCP a couple of years back in those Super Bowl ads to claim drug users and their black markets support international terrorists and are responsible for drug gang murders in Colombia or something.

The audience in the small lecture hall seemed to be getting increasingly impatient during Barthwell's rambling and simplistic talk. I could see my friend M. across the aisle begin to bristle when Barthwell was discussing why teen drug use was bad because it afforded pleasure to kid's brains and was fashionably (for kids) anti-authoritarian. M. remarked later during lunch that if we had presented term papers which were as free of facts and full of gauzily vague, undefined speculations as Barthwell's talk, we would have been roundly chastised by our intellectually demanding professors (as well as receiving C-'s to F's for our feeble efforts), that's how far off the expected high content Barthwell's talk was.
Click over to LastOneSpeaks to read the whole thing.


kaptinemo said...

Barthwell's efforts were as just as jejune and sophomoric during her tenure as DrugCzarina. I distinctly recall attending a 'press conference' (more like an old-style Soviet "5 Year Plan" lecture) in April 2004 given in Washington DC. It was timed as an attempt to counteract the annual NORML conference, that year being held in DC, in which particiapnts were encouraged to try to meet with their Representatives and inform them about drug prohibition's failures.

Barthwell was, just like those old Soviets, bound and determined to make her (invalid) points, and tried to give the impression she was impervious to the facts presented by reformers who made up (I'm guessing, based upon the lack of the usual softball questions pitched in such instances) about 4/5ths of the audience, as the prohibition supporters didn't seem too interested in attending.

Every articulate and factual rebuttal to her spiel was met with the phrase "I'm here to bring you the facts." But she didn't score any points then, and I became convinced that, just like those many of those old Soviets, she knew it was all propaganda. IMHO, she was well aware of the indefensibility of her position, but was required by the terms of her 'service' to continue making these statements that flew in the face of logic.

The odd thing is that now, given the fact she has left USG 'service' for literally greener pastures -by working for a company that produces liquid marijuana - and no longer is required to mouth the Gubmint' lies about illicit drugs for a paycheck, she feels compelled to continue spreading its' false Gospel. I can't tell whether she's running on autopilot or whether this is some kind of gambit. If she cannot pick up on the fact that her audience was completely browned off by her tirade, then she is probably still suffering from the exposure to the ivory tower syndrome she and her fellow DrugWarriors appear to be infected with, and it bodes well for reformers. As an author friend of mine once put it, two cardinal sins in any writing or speaking endeavors are: insulting the audience's intelligence, and boring them to death. La Barthwell is guilty of both, in spades...

Tom Angell said...

The thing is: she DOES have to keep mouthing lies about marijuana so it will stay illegal and her company can keep making money off of its exclusively patented liquid concoction.

800 pound gorilla said...

Technically, if only one viewpoint is represented it is a political rally and not educational. Of course colleges are still allowed to allow political speakers in general on nonpolitical issues or to speak as advocates for political positions. The latter speeches are usually represented as political in nature. If these speeches are represented as educational a complaint must be registered.

The thing about drug war advocates is that they know that their nonsense can't stand side by side with reformers at the podium. Sidestepping hostile questioners is covered in politics 101 and most chronic abusers have mastered this art. It's really easy to control the agenda and either dismiss the questions as "irrelevant" or assign them a "secret agenda". They have been somewhat successful with the term "legalization" because that makes most reformers go into backpeddle mode. I've just heard our libertarian candidate for governor go into backpeddle mode when the interviewer represented his views as that of legalization of all drugs. Until someone has the moxie to call a scam a scam this tactic will work well with hostile questioners.

Giving someone 12 minutes on the podium and that tactic can easily be dispelled and unusable. It's getting the 12 minutes in a controlled environment before a neutral audience that is the key problem. Needless to say, since I contacted sponsors about being available to speak at "meth awareness" meetings, I have yet to hear from them - nor have I seen ads for these rallies in my neighborhood. Our state does have laws about political activities by nonprofit and governmental groups and I have indicated an interest in testing those laws with complaints if someone with views close to my own are not represented.