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Is Bill O'Reilly Helping Us Legalize Drugs?

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A couple readers objected to my suggestion last week that Bill O'Reilly's anti-drug scare tactics are actually helping our cause more than they hurt it. Here's what they said:

"I'm very displeased with most of these TV interviews. Between Mr. O'Reilly's constant use of voodoo pharmacology and emotional appeals, Mr. Nadelmann never really got a chance to articulate the finer points of legalization. Until we get longer fairer interviews, I'm not convinced that these TV spots do any good."

"I have to disagree with Scott's post. Dogmatic idiots like O'Reilly and his 'chronic' (pun intended) listeners can't be schooled. Not by reasoned argument, anyway. That's the big problem re. all the societal problems we face: there's so many dogmatic idiots, and way too many of them, like O'Reilly, have public megaphones via corporate sponsored mass media. Imo, it's better to just accept that quite a few people are unreachable, and instead, try to reach those who still have a modicum of intelligent open-mindedness."

I understand how one could conclude that our efforts are undermined when a prominent voice like O'Reilly speaks out against us before a massive television audience, nor would I argue that there's no such thing as bad publicity for the cause of drug policy reform. But Bill O'Reilly's brand of dubious DEA-derived data and authoritarian posturing is unlikely to come as a major revelation to anyone in his audience. His tactics are nothing more than classic prohibitionist nonsense; the same stuff that's failed quite consistently to turn back our momentum.

Over and over again, O'Reilly's attacks have come from a defensive stance, as he reacts to our efforts by condemning the latest drug reform book or campaign. In the process, he inadvertently presents and legitimizes our argument before an audience that we'd otherwise struggle to reach. He props up reform leaders with primetime television exposure and further establishes the now-undeniable rise of drug policy reform into the realm of mainstream political debate. In the meantime, support for drug policy reform among conservatives surges like never before and national support for marijuana legalization has never been higher than it is today.

So if I had a choice between O'Reilly attacking us every day of the week, or ignoring us entirely, I'd choose the former without hesitation. If you don't think it's possible to advance a political agenda by quarreling with Bill O'Reilly, consider the fact that Al Franken is now a U.S. Senator.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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nadelmann could have been better

My only major criticism of nadelmann's appearance is that I wish he would argue to the viewership more. What I mean by that is rather then trying to go blow for blow with o'reilly like he did, ethan should have tried to make arguments that bill couldn't just ignore and throw his "abused children" argument at. Basically make the conservative argument for ending prohibition.

Like pointing out that alcohol prohibition required a constitutional amendment whereas the war on drugs has had no such amendment. I think that bill would have a harder time saying it's worth it "save the children" if we ignore the constitution.

He could argue that this is the manifestation of bigger government.

He could argue that the american farmer and free market could do what 70 years of draconian law enforcement has failed to do. That is to bankrupt gangs, drug cartels and terrorist groups by out competing them.

There are lots of good conservative arguments he could have and should have made. It's all about knowing your audience.

Excellent advice, dude

and I agree, I wish all high profile reformers would follow that advice.

As an aside, one of the news stories under "Latest News" is about clean up of clandestine meth labs. Does no one but me realize that if the drug war were ended, and all drugs were legal for adults to use that there would be NO clandestine meth labs needing to be cleaned up?

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Fox News Audience

I agree with Scott that exposure of this issue on O'Reilly's program is a good thing, however, the name calling and stereotyping of his audience is a bad thing. I am a "chronic, unschoolable" Fox news viewer who believes the war on drugs has caused more harm than any drug ever could. I read this site, Drug War Rant and The Agitator on a daily basis as well as being a Friend of Leap and a member of DPA.
I am a white, upper middle class, 50 year old Grandmother who has been an RN for 24 years and I fall somewhere between a Libertarian and Republican on the political scale. 95% of my friends and acquaintances are in the same demographic as I and probably 75% of those watch FOX News. I have converted many of them from drug warriors to drug reformers using these sites and videos on you tube. There are many more still on the fence and persistent reasonable arguments would push them over the fence toward our side, however, if I give them a website and the first thing they read is how held in contempt they are they probably won't read very far.

I always feel like Bill

I always feel like Bill O’Reilly has intellectual light weights like Jon Stossel on to debate the drug war. Anyone who studies the criminal justice system knows that O’Reilly’s philosophy is one of incapacitation which is now a dead philosophy. I would like to ask O’Reilly why he dismisses the past 50 years of research in favor of his own opinion. I recommend O’Reilly study the research done by the conservative think-tank in NYC, The Manhattan Institute and the work being done in Newark, New Jersey by Mayor Corey A. Booker. O’Reilly’s smear and fear campaign and shameless demagoguery of the drug war will be about as effective as the movie Reefer Madness in the long run.

Bill Oreilly

I emailed Bill Oreilly on his opinion of the failed drug war. He prides himself on all of the research he does before he puts something on air...I guess with the exception of the drug war. He doesn't seem to know that rapists, child molesters and even murderers get less time in most cases that a non violent drug offender. It is beyond belief to me that people turn a blind eye to that FACT!! Our prisons are filled with non violent drug offenders. Some from 20 years to natural life for a non violent drug conviction. The federal cases don't even get the chance of parole!! What has happened to common sense in this country?
You are correct, it is fear and misinformation that is keeping the public from wanting change. Everyone has to begin to speak out about this. What I have found is that there are many that want this change, but they basically keep that to themselves, because they think they cannot do anything about it. We can in numbers, but not alone!! Talk, talk, talk about the billions of tax dollars being spent on this to the public. Maybe if they don't care about the wasted lives, they will care about wasted tax dollars helping bankrupt our country.

Of course, we have seen lately that it doesn't matter what the majority of the country wants, the government decides what is best for us. That is what we should fear!!

Yes as long Bill O keeps fudging the stats

William Aiken

O'Reilly likes to fudge stats by mixing different statistics of different substances together to make his prohibitionist point of view. He has Megan Kelly on quoting unsourced stats that are outright lies and Bill O doesn't say a word. You'[ll notice he only reads mail that supports his emotional and false argument that his position is to protect the chldren.

A lot of people buy into O'Reilly's permise, but common sense and polling on the issue of legaliztion expose O'Reilly's falsehoods. For instance, the zogby poll that showed 99% of likely voter said they wouldn't try hard drug if they were legal. O'Reilly's POV is common among drug warriors in that they are only interested in what other's might do if drugs were legal, not themselves. Whenever Bill O attempts to scare his audience with drug warrior propoganda, he needs to hear from us. At least, I give him credit for having Ethan on and others who oppose the drug war. Stossel is a smart but weak advocate. I would like to see someone from LEAP debate O'Reilly, who always links the movement to the far left and George Soros.

there's an addiction no one

there's an addiction no one ever brings up, or even seems to realize exists, that's deadlier and more common than any other in our culture: addiction to dogma. dogma is defined as belief(s) which utterly lack factual support or basis in sound reasoning. i believe that all establishment institutions in our culture, including corporate sponsored monolithic media, especially the orwellian self-monikered 'fair and balanced' fox news, which regularly supports 'journalism' of dogma addicts like bill o, are in business to keep the public ignorant, deluded, and chronically addicted to dogmatic nonsense like the supposed need/desirability of 'the war on drugs'. personally, i can't imagine how anyone with enough sanity, intelligence, and knowledge to be in favor of radical drug reform policy like legalization, can also be a fan of fox news and the likes of o'reilly, but since this seems to be the case, all i can say is i'm sorry for any offense taken by my views. don't mean to alienate potential allies.

the virgin terry

MS Media Dumbing Down

"addicts like bill o, are in business to keep the public ignorant, deluded, and chronically addicted to dogmatic nonsense"

So true- remember William Randolf Hearst?

great website u have there,

great website u have there, that freedom of medicine and diet. u should highlight it more often, attract more readers.

the virgin terry

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