The Crack Attack

posted 6 Feb 2004, 10AM | 1 Comments

My friend Star shared with me a really interesting passage from an essay called "The Crack Attack," by Craig Reinarman and Harry G. Levine. I thought I'd post it in honor of Reagan's 93th birthday:

"Once he became president in 1981, Reagan and his appointees attempted to restructure public policy according to a radically conservative ideology. Through the lens of this ideology, most social problems appeared to be simply the consequences of individual moral choices. Programs and research that had for many years been directed at the social and structural sources of social problems were systematically defunded in budgets and delegitimated in discourse. Unemployment, poverty, urban decay, school crises, crime, and all their attendant forms of human troubles were spoken of and acted upon as if they were the result of individual deviance, immorality, or weakness. The most basic premise of social science - that individual choices are influenced by social circumstances - was rejected as left-wing ideology. Reagan and the New Right constricted the aperture of attribution for America's ills so that only the lone deviant came into focus. They conceptualized people in troubl e as people who make trouble; they made social control rather than social welfare the organizing axis of public policy.

Drug problems fit neatly into this ideological agenda and allowed conservatives to engage in sociological denial - to scapegoat drugs for many social and economic problems. For Reagan-style conservatives and the New Right, people did not so much abuse drugs because they were jobless, homeless, poor, depressed, or alienated; they were jobless, homeless, poor, depressed, or alienated because they were weak, immoral, or foolish enough to use illicit drugs. For the right wing, American business productivity was not lagging because investors spent their capital on mergers and stock speculation instead of new plants and equipment, or for any number of other economic reasons routinely mentioned in the Wall Street Journal or Business Week. Rather, conservatives claimed that businesses had difficulty competing partly because many workers were using drugs. In this view, U.S. education was in trouble not because it had suffered demoralizing budget cuts, but because a "generation" o f students were "on drugs" and their teachers did not "get tough" with them. The new drug warriors did not see crime plaguing the ghettos and barrios for all the reasons it always has, but because of the influence of a new chemical bogetyman.

Crack was a godsend to the Right. They used it and the drug issue as an ideological fig leaf to place over the unsightly urban ills that had increased markedly under Reagan administration social and economic policies. "The drug problem" served conservative politicians as an all -purpose scapegoat. They could blame an array of problems on the deviant individuals, and then expand the nets of social control to imprison those people for causing the problems."

Funny how much the ideology described in the first paragraph survives with the Bush Administration, who resists a sociological approach to so many issues, narrows the terms of the problem-solving process with finger-pointing.

There are 1 Comments


9 Feb 04 at 04:03AM big steve said:

If Jodi Foster were only a little hotter, maybe Hinckley Jr. wouldn't have botched the job, and we'd all be a lot better off... Jesus Xrist I HATE Ron!

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