Tag: opioid crisis

This Is Your Ad Campaign on Drugs

If you live in the fine state of Washington, you might have been driving along recently, minding your own business, when you were suddenly and rudely accosted by the following billboard.

Yes, Washington state’s Department of Health thought it was a good idea to spend $100,000 on the billboards, which aim to dissuade marijuana use among Latino teens by… well, I’m not sure what mechanism they’re going for here. Apparently, Hispanic kids won’t try the evil weed because they’re so very inherently cool (by default, no less).

Now, I suppose I should be offended at this.

But to be honest, I find the ad so bizarre, so baffling, so hilariously misguided that all I can do is laugh.

It reminds me of the infamous “Users Are Losers” campaign back when I was a kid. That simplistic jingle — a pathetic attempt at telling teens to stay off drugs — did indeed provoke a powerful reaction in its viewers: Fits of giggles, especially if you had just taken a massive hit from the bong.

In any case, the Washington state campaign aims for the same kind of hip-adults-talking-the-hip-lingo approach as those misbegotten ads of the past. But this time with a racial element thrown in.

As you can imagine, the billboard is not a hit.

Many people complained that the billboard implied Latinos are more likely to abuse drug, or conversely, that non-Latinos are more likely to abuse drugs (I told you the campaign was baffling). Others said the ad implied that people who take drugs are cool, which is exactly the opposite of the intended message. And of course, many people just thought the ad was some combination of tasteless, inflammatory, and lame.

To be honest, we haven’t seen such an immediate, overwhelmingly negative reaction since… well, whatever the last thing it was that Trump did.

With no small degree of embarrassment, Washington state has apologized for the fiasco and removed the billboards.

However, this botched campaign could serve as a ham-fisted metaphor for the whole War on Drugs. As we know, that cataclysmic attempt to end drug use in America only served to destroy countless lives — mostly those of ethnic minorities — and didn’t keep one person from getting high for a single day.

Then as now, we have government officials who are too busy demonizing pot to address the root causes of drug abuse, and we have a phalanx of government resources aimed directly at ethnic minority communities that, we are told, are cesspools of moral degeneracy and helpless pathology.

By the way, that’s not how those same governmental officials view, say, the opioid crisis that afflicts white working class communities. Locking up meth-addicted white people and throwing away the key isn’t a popular option, even though it remains the go-to tactic when it comes to blacks and Latinos smoking reefer.

Yes, it all makes me glad that I don’t smoke pot.

But of course, I don’t have to take drugs. I’m Hispanic, so I’m cool by default.


Subtle Subtext

“The implications are bizarre.”

That’s certainly true.

But what are we talking about? Perhaps the fact that the president of the United States doesn’t know basic facts about American history? Or that millions of Americans still believe climate change is a nefarious liberal plot? Or that Eric Thames in leading the league in homeruns?

No, we’re talking about a recent study that concluded racism motivated Trump voters more than just about any other factor.

This study has jolted those Americans — whether liberal or conservative — who insist that racism is dead, and that Trump won simply because of his brash tough talk or pro-business views or patriotic fervor or blah blah blah.

The immediate rebuttal to the study’s damning assertion is that Trump’s predecessor was a certain African American gentleman, whom you may remember fondly. So how could a nation of racists have elected Obama in the first place?

 

Well, here are some theories that explain that apparent contradiction:

First, the report implied that “a lot of racially bigoted people were willing to vote for Obama [but] flocked to Trump when he made ‘political incorrectness’ central to his pitch.” Basically, many former Obama voters aren’t overt racists, and may not even be aware that they harbor negative feelings about ethnic minorities. But once someone gave them psychological cover for their negative perceptions, they could justify pulling the lever for a guy who was endorsed by the KKK, without thinking that they were bad people. Yes, this is a spinoff of the old (and increasingly pathetic) defense of “I’m not racist. I’m just not PC.”

These voters who got mindfucked had their deeply buried prejudice activated when a candidate — say, an egomaniacal sociopath — reinforced their racism. There are various ways of doing this, mostly of the dog-whistle variety. But the gist is that “if you want a racist’s vote, you have to make an appeal directly to their racism. Without it, he or she just might vote for a racial minority.”

A second factor is moral licensing. This is a fancy term for a psychological self-defense mechanism where “any act and any thought that you consider to be ‘good’ can license a subsequent ‘bad’ behavior because we feel that we deserve a reward for being so righteous.” For example, if we voted for Obama, we may feel that this is proof that we are not prejudiced. It therefore gives us a moral license — a sort of free pass — to be bigoted in the near future.

Moral licensing is our psyche’s way of saying, “Look, you voted for the black guy. That gets you off the hook. Go ahead and put that Trump sign on your lawn.”

A third reason why some Obama voters switched to Trump is the discomfort many white Americans feel over the nation’s cultural changes. A decade ago, white people were just starting to feel their decline. But by 2016 — with the opioid crisis in full swing and a black guy calling the shots and more Latinos popping up on television — it was undeniable that the good old days were over for white people.

During the Obama era, push very quickly came to shove for white people, who saw their numbers dwindle and their power slip (albeit slightly). This was enough for many white Americans to declare that enough was enough. After all, it was one thing for ethnic minorities to make some progress, but it was another to see so many dark-hued people doing better than they were. Indeed, “the achievements of black Americans, those who have become CEOs, scholars, scientists, artists, doctors, lawyers and politicians—and now even president—have fueled the resurgence of intolerance and anti-immigrant sentiment.”

In other words, many white Americans sincerely didn’t believe that blacks and Latinos, by gaining just a modicum of cultural and political power, would actually do that much better. It was alarming, and it provoked them to call for taking their country back and making America great again and otherwise returning to a glorious past where ethnic minorities knew their place.

Finally, there is the fact that Obama’s election in the first place was — and this is disturbing to admit — a bit of a fluke. After all, in our nation’s history, no other ethnic minority has even gotten close to being a major-party nominee. And it must be acknowledged that Obama’s first campaign in 2008 came amidst an economic meltdown and the waning days of a Republican president widely regarded to be an incompetent frat boy. In other words, one reason that Obama won in the first place was because shit was so horrible that the country was willing to take a chance on a black man. Eight years later, with the worse over but vague dissatisfaction lingering over Obama’s “socialism,” it was much more acceptable to embrace white nationalism.

So there you have four pretty good reasons why many bigots voted for Obama but then switched to Trump. And these handful of closeted racists were enough to decide the election.

And how will they vote in 2020, when their savior, the Orange One, fails to improve their lives and make all the minorities go away?

That’s an excellent question.

 


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