Tips for Anti-Drug War Agents
About a week ago I spent a late night playfully writing a campaign briefing for a campaign against the War on Drugs. Well the ABC's Hungry Beast was very quick to take my advice, as the form and content of last night's featureshowed, to my great gratification. They have even provided the sort of proper information I was fondly imagining, which is convenient because I don't really have the discipline for proper research. Hungry Beast got McNair Ingenuity Research to ask 1008 Australians about it. There's links to the rest of their research as well.
Anyway, this was my effort:
- Be honest at all times and quote data accurately. The facts are overwhelmingly on our side and there is no need to exaggerate or embellish them.
- There is no need to hide from the realities of drugs, their dangers and harms. The dangers are mostly reduced if we end the Drug War, and the benefits of ending it far outweigh even the most exaggerated estimates of the benefits of the War.
- This is a 100% evidence based campaign. Never shy away from good evidence against our case. In fact, if good evidence-based argument demonstrates that we are incorrect, and that continuing the Drug War has the greater benefits to society, then we are obliged to abandon our campaign and, if we must, look for more effective ways to improve our society. This campaign may for individuals be emotional or even spiritual, but it is based on evidence and the best quality, most up-to-date research available. We are pursuing this campaign because we want to improve our society if we can and ending the Drug War will, according to the best evidence we have, make significant improvements to our society. If it is proved otherwise we are obliged to abandon the campaign.
- Never denigrate those concerned about drugs. We should assume that their intentions are good, as they almost always will be. If they care for people, the facts will speak to most of them eventually. Cutting them off and making them even more reticent to look at the information we are providing, is all loss. Be courteous at all times, not ever patronising or belittling. Remember in argument to attack ideas and not people.<!--[
- Alienate no one, and avoid setting any political party up as 'good guys'. We are after a broad consensus, based on good information, across parties and across all of society. Remember the facts are on our side. The cost-benefit analysis for people and society overwhelmingly supports our case.
- We are not interested in recriminations. If there are allegations that someone has broken the law or engaged in corruption, we leave that to the processes of law. We are interested only in ending the Drug War - a legislative and institutional change to society which will, regardless of justices or injustices past or along the way, make life better for everyone in the World from now on. Busting a corrupt police officer or government official is low on our priority list. So is blaming some political force or another, or a previous generation, for the Drug War. Blame is a secondary concern, and I'd prefer to leave it to the law, the courts and the historians. We must keep our eye on the goal of making a major improvement to society from now on.
- Never promote drugs, and make sure you are always acknowledging of the very real dangers of substance abuse. Recommend that people do not take drugs, and if they do to ensure they have good information, clean drugs, a healthy mood, and good friends around them. When people express their distaste for drug use, empathise with their real concerns and encourage them to continue their efforts to steer people away from drug use. There are very good reasons - mostly to do with health and finances - to just never take drugs, and there is no need for them in a healthy, happy, exciting life. It is possible of course to argue the virtues of drug use, as it is possible to argue anything. It is at least as possible to argue against drug use, for health reasons (including social cost of health) and for financial reasons, and that makes it an unhelpful argument. Assuming that drug use is in fact a dangerous adult vice is our safest ground. After all, it is.
- You may be drug users yourself, and this may indeed be a motivation for supporting the campaign. After all, being a drug user would see you very close to the injustice and the health hazards of the Drug War environment. Attaining the liberty to take drugs is an inevitable effect of this campaign, but it shouldn't be seen as the reason for the campaign. Taking drugs is never entirely safe, and drug addiction is never good. The point is, being able to take drugs is not one of the benefits of ending the drug war. Being able to purchase drugs cheaper, cleaner, safer, and without supporting organised crime or rainforest destruction is a benefit for users, but in the scheme of ending the War, it is but a minor benefit. Meanwhile, it is already (clearly) possible to purchase and use drugs, so it is hard to call the freedom to take drugs a benefit of ending the War. The most important benefits for ending the War are the things that benefit all of society (eg. less chance of being mugged, less house-breaking, higher life-expectancy, lower taxes). It is these universal benefits that we must lead with and keep in the center of the debate.
- The term “Drug War” was invented by the warriors themselves, but it is a very descriptive term and we should use it constantly. A war is something expensive, with casualties, and that requires constant justification on the basis of results. If our opponents try to avoid the term, don’t let them. It’s their term, it is apt, and we will insist on it. In our literature we always capitalise “The Drug War” or “The War on Drugs” as it is a proper noun for a historical event with a beginning… and an end.
- In short, concentrate on demonstrating the costs of the War and always fully elaborate the projected costs of ending it. Be uncompromisingly fair in how you treat research, regardless of what it shows. This campaign succeeds on facts, or it should not succeed. If anything bias your assumptions against the case to end the War, in order to better emphasise our case and demonstrate our own intellectual integrity. This campaign must be as intellectually spotless as we can make it. Once again, the evidence is overwhelmingly on our side.