Thursday, December 04, 2008

FRANK confuses cocaine harms with prohibition harms

As reported by Alan Travis in the Guardian:

"A £1m TV and online anti-cocaine advertising campaign featuring "Pablo the drug mule dog" is to be launched by the government today.

The campaign advertisements, voiced by comedian David Mitchell, are targeted at 15- to 18-year-olds to make them more aware of the risks and harms of cocaine use.

Pablo, a dead dog, wakes up to find he's been used as a drug mule to smuggle cocaine into the country. In an attempt to find out what led to his demise Pablo interviews key players from the world of the drug - the dealer, the user, a bag of cocaine, a heart, a nostril and a bank note.

They highlight the addiction, heart attacks, personality changes, fear and violence involved in the process."

As you can see in the 'Meet Pablo' video, the Government once again conflate the harms caused by prohibition with the potential harms of cocaine use. Bear in mind that it is prohibition that puts a huge premium on the price of heroin and cocaine (through the economic alchemy of prohibition, plants are transmuted into products worth literally more than their weight in gold) and encourages the most concentrated forms to be transported by violent criminal profiteers from producer countries to pleasure seekers in the industrialised West.

Even if we accept the primary aim of the FRANK campaign is to alert people to the potential health risks of cocaine use by talking about the drug's 'dark side', the 'Meet Pablo' ad that showcases the campaign ( featuring the dead dog/drug mule, dealers with guns, and adulterated drugs) is mostly about the dark side of the drug war. Some of the other ads in the series do focus on the health risks (although the 'bad baggie' and 'pablos story' ads just don't make any sense) but are still framed in the narrative context of a illegal drugs smuggled in a dog/mule named after the world's most notorious cocaine gangster; again, all about the drug war, not the drug itself. It's important remember the drug war is the policy choice of the Government, not the cocaine user.

In parallel with illicit cocaine production there is a not-so -dark-side; completely legal, licensed and regulated coca production for medical cocaine (as well as use in coca tea, traditional leaf chewing, and flavouring of cola drinks) which notably is not transported inside dogs, by children, or by impoverished women becoming drug mules, nor is it associated with 'gang violence and gun crime' - all flagged up on the FRANK website. We do have a choice, but the Government will not discuss it and campaigns such as this confuse the public health issues with political choices. You want to be supportive of efforts like FRANK, but they don't make it easy.

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Richard Jones said...

A better headline might have been "FRANK confuses". That advert is just plain weird, and I think would have left most people wondering what on earth it was for.

Anonymous said...

wow,what an embarrasing anti-coke ad.

All that's wrong with and a result of prohibition is in there.

well done,Frank!

Unknown said...

your blog is spot on. As you say, the ad confuses the issues of health problems caused by drugs and social problems caused by their illegality. It represents another pile of taxpayers' cash thrown to the huge bonfire burnt every year in the name of the 'war on drugs'. The people who commissioned and approved it are either too stupid or too scared to admit that it's not cocaine but prohibition that funds violent criminals and makes drugs dangerously impure.