Pubdate: Thu, 13 Apr 2000
Source: Illinois Times (IL)
Copyright: 2000 Yesse Communications
Author: Larry A. Stevens


To the editor:

I've always learned a lot of new and different things over the years
reading the annual top-ten under-reported stories in the U.S. [see
"Censored, again!" IT, March 30, 2000].

I think that the war on drugs should appear on this list, not because
it isn't amply covered in major daily newspapers across the country,
but because it isn't being similarly covered in smaller media markets
like Springfield.

In comparing local drug war coverage to that found in big city
newspapers it's apparent that Springfield is largely being kept in the
dark about the failing war on drugs and the turning of the editorial
tide against it.

Last month, wire services ran stories about two studies published in
respected scientific journals showing that cannabis could relieve
symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and that it could shrink brain tumors.

The wire services also ran a story about a short, unpublished abstract
claiming that smoking cannabis could increase the chance of a heart

Guess which one of these stories the State Journal-Register chose to
run. Is this censorship?

Only a couple of days after the State Journal-Register published an
editorial supporting the government's extremely foolish 1.6 billion
dollar U.S. aid package to "fight drugs" in Columbia, it was revealed
in newspapers outside of Springfield that the Office of National Drug
Control Policy was approving television scripts and awarding
advertising credits for "on-strategy" content, essentially a
propaganda payola scheme.  It has further been revealed that similar
deals were struck with all sorts of media outlets including TV news,
major newspapers and magazines.

It is not ludicrous to imagine that the SJ-R's cheerleading editorial
in favor of the U.S. aid package for Columbia crossed a desk at the
ONDCP in order to free up some advertising space that could be sold
again to someone else.  The mere idea that such a scenario is even
imaginable should send any responsible newspaper scurrying both to
make sure no such deal exists between itself and the government and to
assure its readers that its editorial integrity wasn't compromised by
such an unethical breach of trust.

Of course, drug czar Barry McCaffery insisted that no such exchanges
ever took place and would never happen again.  According to
writer Daniel Forbes, the practice continues unabated.

Speaking of McCzar, a recent fax he sent to the Illinois Statehouse
warning that the industrial hemp bill under consideration here is a
clever smoke screen for the "legalisers" didn't seem to warrant local
news coverage, but I did read about it in the St. Louis

Kudos to State Senator Evelyn Bowles, D-Edwardsville, for her
courageous leadership on industrial hemp and her dismissal of
McCaffrey's Reefer Madness views on the subject.

Illinois Times, it should be said, has done a fine job covering
industrial hemp over the years, but it's been over ten years since
your last major examination of the war on drugs.

We need more local reporting and more local debate regarding what is
arguably the single most important issue facing America.  Our failed
war on drugs has brought forth not only obscene profits for criminals
but everything from growing police corruption and youth gun violence
to racial profiling and racial disparities in prison sentencing and a
host of other problems too numerous to mention here but no less
pernicious. It may not be a comfortable subject for many readers, but
Springfield can ill-afford to maintain a local news blackout on drug
war issues.  Perhaps we need a Project Censored at the local level.

Larry A. Stevens
- ---
MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson