The War on Drugs

The so-called war on drugs has long been an issue in the national press. As long as I can remember, campaigns like “just say no” have been encouraging children to stay away from illegal drugs. In the last few years, however, simple slogans have mutated into aggressively and often erroneously exaggerated media assaults. The purpose of such messages is to frighten drug users and prospective drug users into abstaining from use and to turn the public eye onto drugs in general. .

Two television commercials appeared during the 2002 Superbowl that suggested rather strongly that drug sales fund terrorist activities around the world. The ad I wish to examine is one in which items (presumably to be used for terrorist acts) flash on the screen, and in between, prices are listed. The ad is reminiscent of the popular credit card commercials depicting items’ prices and containing a final “priceless” item. The difference is, the first advertisement shows guns, a fake ID, a box cutter, and several other dangerous items. The commercial opens with a nighttime view of a house. As the screen flashes to fake passports, the idea of something illegal or immoral is carefully reinforced. As the image changes, a price appears on the screen against a black background, to somehow illustrate that all of the items that will appear had a price “therefore the money must have come from something illegal. The screen is another night view of a “safe house,”” and then a computer. The final screen contains the text “Where do terrorists get their money? If you buy drugs, some of it might come from you.” This message is in bold white on a black screen. The color and font of this text could stand for several ideas: (1) the commercial’s message is pure and untainted by politics, (2) the drug trade is surrounded by evil (black), or (3), simply that the text is meant to stand out. The idea is that the message is absolute truth –that it is unnecessary to fully examine the matter.

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