Why is a SWAT team assaulting me? I’m just dancing at a rave

The George W. Bush administration quickly made it clear that the drug war would once again be fought as a culture war. Bush appointed only one drug czar in his two terms. John Walters was a longtime aide to William Bennett who, like Bennett, took a hard-line, zero-tolerance approach to drugs. But when the 9/11 attacks happened eight months after Bush was inaugurated, they presented a new opportunity. Instead of exploiting the fear of crime or tapping into what remained of anti-counterculture sentiment, they could now exploit the fear of terrorist attacks. They would use the 9/11 attacks for drug war propaganda.

And so, starting in the February following the attacks, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) started the “I helped . . . ” campaign, which consisted of commercial and print ads claiming that casual drug users in the United States were supporting the very sorts of terrorists that had attacked America. The television commercials featured a series of young people portrayed as casual drug users. One by one, the young actors rattled off the varieties of atrocity allegedly funded by recreational drug use. “I helped kill a policeman,” one said. “I helped murder families,” said another. “I helped kidnap people’s dads,” said still another. The ads aired during the 2002 Super Bowl, just after a September 11–themed halftime show that featured a running scroll of the names of the 9/11 victims, accompanied by a performance by the band U2...


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