Monday, March 30, 2009

Transform on Newsnight and David Frost

A couple of interesting media appearances for Transform last week.

The first was an invitation to debate drug legalisation/regulation with Anne Widdecombe MP on David Frost's Al Jazeera show; 'Frost over the World'. This was significant in that the show is broadcast to an audience we rarely access - 140 million households internationally (although not, presumably, anything like that many actual viewers) - mostly in the Middle East, where the drug law reform debate is historically some way behind Western Europe and the Americas.

Anne Widdecombe (who was very personable and charming in the green room) is famously outspoken on the issue (she has clashed with Transform before), and one of the most public voices (along with Melanie Phillips) for a particular form of moral authoritarianism in the drugs debate, which is, IMHO, rooted in ideology rather than evidence and rational analysis. She is, however, unlike some of her political colleagues and drug war advocates, unquestionably sincere and well intentioned in her beliefs , which I can respect even if she has got it horribly wrong.

Another TV appearance was on the BBC's Newsnight (Scotland), available on iplayer here for a few more days (and we will try and sort something out and post it here when iplayer has expired) . The interesting thing about this one was the the Newsnight editorial position was very much why has drug policy been so hopeless for so long, and given that it has been, why aren't politicians engaging with the legalisation/regulation debate. This sort of questioning is exactly where we need to be, and was a welcome sign of the changing climate in this debate. It was also a nice curtain raiser for next week's Transform publication of our Cost Benefit Analysis report.


Organized Rage. said...

Can you give me the details of this clip so I can post it on my blog Organized Rage.

Steve Rolles said...

you can embed the youtube clip by clicking on the arrow icon in the bottom left corner. or just link straight here. you cant embed iplayer unfortunately - you have to just link direct.

Mark Thompson said...

Good stuff Steve.

Just watched both clips and it is indeed encouraging to see in the Newsnight Scotland debate that the opening premise was "Why shouldn't they be legalised". It is also interesting that out of the 4 people (You, Gordon Brewer, The university chap and Ms Goldie) that it was only the politician in the discussion who was trying to argue for the status quo. It is heartening to see that the nonsense of the current system is starting to permeate the consciousness of the public like this.

chris said...

Good performances, Steve. There was a marked contrast between Widdecombe's unevidenced assertions (nonsense, nonsense) and your cool rational approach.

I think Frost should have challenged Widdecombe to come up with an outline for the heavier enforcement regime, that was her only counter to the manifest failure of current policies.

Does anyone still take Mad Mel seriously (no evidence for evolution; Saddam hid his WMDs, etc.)? I think Peter Hitchens is a more serious opponent, although even he is unable to propose anything other than cracking down even harder.

Anonymous said...

Sincere, humbug - this is an authoritarian woman who would deny the equal protection of law to millions - she hates the idea of people being high and I hate people who think they have any authority to control others minds. If she was a sincere jew hater would that be convivial and worthy of respect? You let her off the gateway drug nonsense somewhat and when she said look at the problems with alcohol and tobacco, why not say if these are legal, why not everything else? Why not just say its heroin misuse which causes problems, almost any drug can be used safely.

Steve Rolles said...

tbf I did caveat 'sincere' with 'horribly wrong'

thepoisongarden said...

Anne Widdecombe is the perfect example of those who won't listen to reason of any sort. They know what they know and nothing anyone says can dissuade them.

They means they can't see that, in a regulated market, you would have the resources to continue the war on drug dealers and have some chance of success.

No-one would argue that there won't be people trying to sell drugs to the underage just as people sell booze and cigarettes to children. But, without the need to pretend to be fighting every single user, the police would have a better chance of minimising the numbers of suppliers.

HR2 said...

nicely handled, steve, you naive dangerous cloud cookoo living drug peddler!

Anonymous said...

A good performance Steve, you come across as calm, controlled and articulate, and certainly not resorting to personal attacks like Anne...

nemo said...

So, Ms. Widdecombe, like many armchair generals in the DrugWar, believes that more force should be brought to bear on drug users? That 'we're not fighting the DrugWar like a real war!"?

This is exactly the kind of rhetoric that was and is quite common in the US DrugWarrior circles, and it is the kind of rhetoric that led to the increase in violence in Mexico that Mr. Frost mentioned, as the government there, operating on the advice of - and adopting the bellicose attitude of - professional American DrugWarriors, ratcheted up the pressure on the cartels by introducing the military into the fray.

This was a stunningly stupid move.

For one thing, the degree of corruption evident in the Mexican military was graphically demonstrated by the arrest of General Rebollo in the last decade. General Rebollo was the top military man in charge of counter-narcotics operations...who also was a cartel employee. The same man whom the American DrugCzar at the time, General Barry McCaffery, praised as being a bulwark against the narcos. Rather embarrassing, hmmm?

Trying to fight the DrugWar as if it was a 'real war' has proven to be a disaster, as one learns that you cannot expect a classic set battle, only an insurgency. It could be said to be Mexico's latest civil war. One that threatens to destabilize an entire geographic region already in bad shape courtesy of the American-sired global financial meltdown.

Can Europe and the UK learn that lesson? Or must the mocking laughter of Santayans's ghost be heard in Parliament every time such as Ms. Widdecombe opens their mouths?

Anonymous said...

Really excellent to see this.

Listen to @Mar 31, 9:45pm. There has been way too much respect for dangerous control-freak drug warriors.

Speak to the audience and the moderator. Don't let the other person control the conversation. You're not trying to convince her, but the audience.

Actually, much of the audience agrees with you already! Especially public health workers. The main point is not to convince anyone at all, but simply to break the taboo and present drug regulation as a common sense, socially responsible position.

Good to cite the WHO. Bring in lots of respected authorities. This demonstrates that your position is backed up, and hence is not risky to discuss openly.

Speak slower. Practice specific phrases and sentences. You are pretty calm, but look at Sanho Tree.

See Drew Westen, Emory Univ, for advice on political rhetoric, especially on combining emotion and reason.