Just Say No to the War on Drugs
I would like to begin by dedicating this presentation to George Orwell (1903-1950), the
renowned English novelist, essayist; and social critic, and that is because of his brilliant and
incisive commentary about the perversion of language to serve political goals. Accordingly I am
going to talk about the Orwellian distortion of language under the following headings:
on Drugs; Drugs; Use versus Abuse;
Addiction versus Habit. I
also dedicate this
presentation to Lady Godiva (who, according to legend, rode naked through the streets of
Coventry in the llth century); to E.T. (that adorable extra-terrestrial); and to that noble bird that,
alas, cannot fly: the ostrich. Last but not least, an acknowledgment (dedication seeming
inappropriate here) to Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda,
Nazi Germany, 1933-1945.
THE WAR ON DRUGS
As the United States was winding down its military commitment in Vietnam, President Richard
Nixon replaced one conflict with another by declaring "all out global war on the drug menace."
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan and the First Lady re-declared the War on Drugs in a joint
television address to the American people, during which Nancy spoke that memorable war cry,
"Just say no to drugs." Actually, the word
was only spoken once, although in the press
secretary's announcement of the address ten days earlier, it appeared six times: e.g., "The
President and Mrs. Reagan will address the Nation from their living quarters in the White House
on what we, the American family, can do to win the war on illegal drugs."
The following are
excerpts from the President's opening remarks:
Drugs are menacing our society They're threatening our values and undercutting
our institutions. They're killing our children.
... Drug trafficking is a threat to our
.. Let us not forget who we are. Drug abuse is a repudiation of
everything America is. The destructiveness and human wreckage mock our
heritage. Think for a moment how special it is to be an American. Can we doubt
that only a divine providence placed this land, this island of freedom, here as a
refuge for all those people in the world who yearn to breathe free.
After a few comments along the same line by the First Lady, the President responded that
"Nancy's personal crusade [against drugs] .
.. should become our national crusade." He then went
on to use the word
four more times, while also referring to the
cancer of drugs
In his continuing rhetorical flourish, he proceeded to draw a linkage between
World War II and the War on Drugs and then concluded with a stirring appeal to patriotism:
My generation will remember how America swung into action when we were
attacked' in World War II. The war was not just fought by the fellows flying the