Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Arnie, Whitney and the Hoff say: "STOP THE MADNESS!"

'Stop the Madness' - a long lost treasure from the mid-eighties 'just say no' drugs campaign in the US has re-emerged on youtube. It is apparently the only ever 'rock' video sponsored by the Whitehouse, and watching it you realise why: It's completely rubbish.

It kicks off with a montage of druggie images: how to chop and snort lines of cocaine whilst in a jacuzzi, people injecting and smoking various things, scary scenes of guns, people being handcuffed and taken into prison cells, people carted off in ambulances and dead in a mortuary - and some plain weird stuff including open heart surgery (?) a trumpeter emerging from a syringe (?) and a dancing monkey.

It then morphs into a 'Band-aid' / 'We are the world' style epic singalong featuring some stars of the day including New Edition, a young looking Whitney Houston, La Toya Jackson and a few other 80's US celebs I didn't really recognise.

Interspersed with the singing are two stories of a girl and boy who get sucked into 'the madness'. The girl gets her drugs from a sinister drug dealer apparently living in her cupboard, whilst the boy buys his from a white stretch limo. As you do. Various celebrities then appear in apparently drug induced hallucinations telling them to 'stop the madness', including Janet Jackson, Casey Kasem, David Hassellhoff, Nancey Reagan, and Stacey Keach (who appears in the fridge). Eventually they do stop the madness, dumping their stashes in a garbage truck driven by none other than Arnold Schwartzenegger himself.

We then have a Kids-from-Fame-style big dance production finale.

Looking back now, you realise that many of the bigger names in the video clearly missed the message of the film and actively embraced 'the madness'. A bit of scurrilous tabloid journalist-style web trawling quickly reveals (in ascending order of 'madness'):

All together now:

I believe that together you and I can save a life today.
We can stop a killer from reaching into minds and throwing lives away.
Drugs are causing pain and everyone's a loser in this deadly game that's played.
It's insanity.
We know that dope is slavery.
And you know we've got to be free ... come on now, we've got to stop the madness.

Stop the madness now
Stop the madness
Stop the madness now.

Tell me what you're doing trying to get some pleasure from an empty high.
Only fools will tell you using drugs is really a victimless crime.
There are casualties standing at the graves of children.
Feel the tears they cry.
Take a stand today; maybe it's your life you'll save.
You know there's got to be another way; everybody let me hear you say ...

Stop the madness
Stop the madness now
Stop the madness
Stop the madness now.

Brother, we heard your cry for some assistance.
Drugs are making your mind a man-made hell.
You thought that using dope would be a party.
Now you're a prisoner in a cell crying to be free.

You wanna stop the madness.
Stop the madness now
Stop the madness
Stop the madness now.
Its hysterically bad - but there is a serious side to this. This video is a perfect example of the ill informed, self satisfied, and hysterical approach that dominated drugs education and prevention work in the 80s, and unfortunately, to a large extent, right up to the present (even if there have been more recent flickers of improvement).

Drugs education (including prevention and harm reduction) for young people is clearly of great importance in any drugs strategy. If design and implementation is evidence led and based on public health principles, in tandem with other social programmes and life education, it should be able to help delay onset of first use, reduce progression into problematic use, reduce harm associated with use and even reduce overall prevalence. The fact it has historically been so politicised within the broader ideological 'war on drugs' is presumably why its been so historically ineffective. The policy designed to help young people ends up hurting them.

The excellent recent report from the Home Office's Advisory Council for the the Misuse of Drugs, 'Pathways to Problems', highlighted this failure very clearly after an extensive review of the evidence from the UK and US. This is the summary of their eminently sensible findings and pragmatic recommendations:

  • There are many factors which influence whether or not young people will use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs hazardously. The most important of these include early life experiences, family relationships and circumstances, and parental attitudes and behaviour. It is difficult to predict who will develop serious problems.

  • While many young people first use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs in their early and mid-teens, hazardous use often starts in the late teens or twenties.

  • Of all drugs, the use of alcohol has shown the greatest recent growth and causes the most widespread problems among young people in the UK today. It is also the least regulated and the most heavily marketed.

  • Most schools in the UK provide drug prevention programmes. Research indicates that these probably have little impact on future drug use.
  • As their harmfulness to individuals and society is no less than that of other psychoactive drugs, tobacco and alcohol should be explicitly included within the terms of reference of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

  • The ongoing debate about how best to bring up children should be informed by the evidence that good parenting and stable family life can reduce the risks of hazardous tobacco, alcohol and other drug use by young people.

  • The Government should continue to invest heavily in minimising the number of children and young people in relative poverty and also in protecting and supporting the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people in the UK.

  • Additional measures are needed to reduce the overall consumption of alcohol in the UK. Among other things, the Government should seriously consider progressively raising the excise duty on alcohol.
  • There should be a careful reassessment of the role of schools in drug misuse prevention. The emphasis should be on providing all pupils with accurate, credible and consistent information about the hazards of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, including volatile substances.
(note the absence of recommendations for anti-drug pop videos emanating from No10)


1 comment:

s + e + b said...

I got a son, 5. Can't get food stamps, 1996 conviction.

The thing from 1985 is not quaint. It succeeded. Add to the damage of prohibition the revenge ppl like me seek.

1985's ppl can be as old as 24. My daughter was born in 1988 so she's 20. the "in the name of the children" theme has created an excuse to take her away. You can't get them back; propaganda.

It really says,

We can stop a killer from reaching into minds and throwing lives away, WORDS are causing pain and everyone's a loser in this deadly game that's played.

That's the word they mean, not the word DRUGS.