According to a report in AdAge.com, a web-based advertising industry journal, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar's office) is spending more than $1.6 million each for two ads to be aired during Sunday's Super Bowl arguing that profits from illegal drug sales boost terrorism. An "administration official" confirmed the buy and sketched the ads' content to the Associated Press on Wednesday. The Super Bowl anti-drug ads will be the largest single-event advertising buy in US government history.
Super Bowl advertising spots are some of the most coveted and expensive spots in the industry. An estimated 130 million viewers are expected to watch at least part of the NFL championship game between the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams.
The two ads were producing by British director Tony Kaye for the advertising firm of Ogilvy and Mather. Normally, ads for the drug czar's anti-drug campaign are developed by the Partnership for a Drug Free America. The drug czar's office would not reveal why it had gone outside normal channels for the Super Bowl ads.
The drug czar's office is mandated under federal law to operate an anti-drug media campaign in order to reduce drug use, but that campaign has been plagued by scandals, including a criminal investigation of Ogilvy and Mather over its accounting practices, but also the revelation that the drug czar's office was using the campaign to attempt to manipulate the content of television programs, magazine articles and movies.
This latest, most expensive, ad effort is certain to raise eyebrows because it appears to move beyond the ad campaign's congressional mandate to reduce drug use into the realm of polemics and propaganda. "How will this message reduce drug use?" asked Kevin Zeese, executive diretor of Common Sense for Drug Policy (http://www.csdp.org). "It sounds like it will be an interesting show, but appears to be an advocacy tool rather than an anti-drug tool," he told DRCNet. "These ads are about increasing the size and the scope of the drug war."
And, if as reported, the ads attempt to draw a connection between terrorism and the drug trade, they will be a very expensive flop, said Zeese, whose group has published print ads pointing out that prohibition and black market profits -- not drugs -- fuel political violence. CSDP has also created NarcoTerror.org, a series of web pages devoted to debunking claims by administration officials and other politicians seeking to make political hay by artificially fusing their two favorite bete noires into one villainous fount of evil.
"It's not drugs that lead to terror," said Zeese, "it's those huge black market profits. Ritalin, Prozac, alcohol, they don't fund terrorism. Clearly it is the illegality of some drugs that leads to huge profits for criminals. Prohibition not only creates these huge money flows, but in doing so fosters instability in underdeveloped countries," he said. "That's what really fosters terrorism."
Enjoy the drug czar's latest propaganda efforts this Sunday. You might as well -- you and your fellow taxpayers are paying about $50,000 per second for the privilege.