Rhetoric in the War on Drugs: The Triumphs and Tragedies of Public Relations

Rhetoric in the War on Drugs: The Triumphs and Tragedies of Public Relations

Rhetoric in the War on Drugs: The Triumphs and Tragedies of Public Relations

Rhetoric in the War on Drugs: The Triumphs and Tragedies of Public Relations

Synopsis

While much has been written on illicit drug use, policy, and drugs' relationship to crime, this study examines the drug war as most Americans have experienced it--through mass-mediated rhetoric: presidential drug war declarations, news stories and hype, public service announcements, and the like. Such rhetoric influences public opinion about illegal drugs, drug users, presidents, and the drug war itself. And according to this author, such rhetoric is also used as a public relations campaign designed to increase the popularity of government officials and to assure quiescence regarding particular policy programs. This study demonstrates the underestimated influence of rhetoric, political uses of public relations and the powerful influence they have on public opinion and the policy process.

Excerpt

Just say no. --Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan's famous utterance and Nike's equally familiar sentence that begins with the same word are perhaps the most popular slogans in the United States today. In fact, they are the only two slogans my two-year-old friend Hunter Vibbert knows. That's not surprising. They're short. They're memorable. They also reflect two paradoxical values common to the contemporary American experience. The first slogan tells citizens to rely on their inherent moral fortitude and eschew temptation; in contrast, the second slogan provides citizens permission to engage in pleasurable activities, to pursue their happiness. Not surprisingly, they also are the contradictory values involved with the discussion of illegal drugs in the United States, a country at odds with itself over legal and illegal drug use. Print and broadcast messages encourage Americans to purchase and consume licit drugs; for example, Americans can cure arthritic symptoms with aspirin or Advil, can ameliorate male pattern baldness with Rogaine, should ask their doctors about corporate-identified pharmaceuticals, and can consume products that contain legal drugs, coffee and colas that contain caffeine, tobacco products that contain nicotine, and beverages that contain alcohol. Through the same media, American . . .

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