It’s Time for Silicon Valley To Finish Its Job of Disrupting the Racist Drug War
It Has Been Racist From The Beginning and Racism Cannot End Until It Does
By — Richard Cowan
Mark Zuckerberg, the Icarus of the Internet, is debating his own employees about whether Facebook should be responsible for correcting the lies of certain high ranking politicians. The answer seems obvious, but are they really prepared to choose which lies require their personal attention?
Icarus was undone by trying to fly too high and to be above it all, but there is another Greek myth that is more ¨down to Earth¨ literally.
As I watch the seemingly inexhaustible torrent of prohibitionist propaganda, I am reminded of the Greek myth about Hercules and the stables of King Augeas.
The term “Augean stables” means a huge mess, because King Augeas had a vast number of cattle, which were herded into the stables every night, but no one cleaned up after them. (Governments always expect other people to do their dirty work.)
As a consequence, the stables overflowed with what the Greeks called “drug education.”
As in Hercules’ time, the government provides the fodder at one end, and the other end –the Greeks called it the “media” – produced the inevitable product. It stank to high heaven, but it seemed impossible to do anything about it.
Most people said it was beneath their dignity even to think about it, although not thinking did not stop them from writing about it. They said that the only reason that it stank was because some people complained about the smell. You couldn’t smell it from the better neighborhoods, and besides, if everyone who lived near the stables would just stop breathing, it wouldn’t be a problem. Perhaps the king could send in troops to put their knees on the people’s throats, but that was rejected as bad PR.
However, as the story goes, Hercules was given the task of cleaning the stables, but he had to do it all in only one day. Clearly not even he could shovel that fast, and I know just how he must have felt.
Being a superhero, Hercules managed the feat, and the way he did it gives me hope. He diverted a couple of rivers to flow through the stables and flushed them out.
Meanwhile back in the real world, what does this have to do with the war on us? What are the “rivers” that we can divert?
One clue actually comes from the myth. When King Augeas refused to pay Hercules, as he had promised he would, the king’s son told the truth, and was exiled for doing so.
(He was sent to a place the Greeks called “rehab”, which he said reminded him of his father’s stables.)
Of course, not all BS is mythical, nor is it localized. Fortunately, we have something more universal than the Greek rivers: the Internet. So, meanwhile back in the real world, the American people are getting fed up with the stench of the lies that are being told to them – supposedly to protect them.
For obvious reasons, the current crisis in the “criminal justice system¨ is focused on race, but it should also be obvious that these problems are inextricably linked to what we call the Drug War. Second, the Drug War is a “legacy” of the world that Silicon Valley, aka the Internet, has partially disrupted and now it must finish the job.
The Drug War, and Marijuana Prohibition, (it’s a¨feature, not a bug¨) are still supported by a massive propaganda campaign mislabeled as Drug Education. Just the Drug Czar´s office (Office of National Drug Control Policy) has a budget of $379.1 million.
Also, the 2019 Budget for the National Institute for Drug Abuse was $1,419,844,000. None of this money was for actual ¨law enforcement”. And how would we account for the $3.4 billion to pay for housing federal drug war prisoners?
But the greatest economic cost of the Drug War would have to be counted in the damage done to the lives of its targets.
In the 2002 study “The Impact of Incarceration on Wage Mobility and Inequality,” researcher Bruce Western “found that incarceration can permanently alter an individual’s life course, disrupt key life transitions, and destroy access to steady employment. Incarceration can also hugely impact future economic stability and wage earning. The study looked at young men who were incarcerated in prison or jail between 1979 and 1998.
According to Western’s study, the loss of earnings occurs partially because wages increase at a slower rate following incarceration. Not only are wages essentially frozen when someone is put in jail, incarceration causes a reduction in the rate of wage growth over the course of a lifetime by about 30%. Western also found that a criminal record — regardless of the crime related to the record — reduces callbacks from prospective employers by around 50%.”
And guess what… Blacks are almost four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana as whites, even though marijuana use rates are very similar. And the history of marijuana prohibition is absurdly racist.
Anyone who wants to talk about racism in America, and especially racism and the police, must confront the Drug War and marijuana prohibition or they are just poseurs.
Anyone who talks about defunding the police and defending minority communities without addressing the Drug War, starting with marijuana prohibition, is simply avoiding the difficult decisions that have to be made. Silicon Valley is all about data so please just look at the numbers. Equal Justice for All must be equal for all, or it will not compute.
There is no group in the world that has greater actual power over the public discourse than the tech community. It disrupted the old journalism and the old political order. Now it cannot pretend to be against racism and yet ignore the way the world actually works. If Zuckerberg and Dorsey are in the headlines, then everyone else must be on the frontlines, or they are AWOL.
Speak, shout, scream, text, Tweet and email but make yourself heard. It is literally at your fingertips.
What have you done for freedom today?
-Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and co-founder of Real Tested CBD. Find more stories from Richard Cowan.