BackBeat: True Origins of the War on Drugs

Posted by News Beat on August 23, 2017  •  2 min read
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On this episode of BackBeat, the team discusses the inspiration for Episode 2: “The True Origins of the War on Drugs,” expanding on some of the themes explored in the podcast, and sharing a little more insight about the voices and verses featured in the episode.

BackBeat is our way of giving listeners some behind-the-scenes audio ear candy about each News Beat episode.

The trio of Michael Conforti, aka Manny Faces, Christopher Twarowski and Rashed Mian, also discusses the preconceived notions people have about the global drug war's inception and how embarking on this episode has also informed their own views.

"Racism, Weed & Jazz: The True Origins of the War on Drugs" included interviews with: Johann Hari, author of The New York Times best-selling book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs;” Maia Szalavitz, author of “Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction;” and Alex Clermont, a prison-reform activist and author of “You, Me and the Rest of Us: #NewYorkStories.”

Hip hop artist Silent Knight performed original verses encapsulating the spirit of the episode, infusing the lyrics with sincerity, passion, and rage. (You've really gotta hear it!)

Here’s an excerpt from News Beat’s featured article about the War on Drugs:

As conventional thinking goes, the 1970s, and this moment in particular, marked the beginning of America’s so-called “War on Drugs.” It’s a war the United States continues to wage to this day, contributing to a grossly overcrowded prison system — 450,000 are currently incarcerated for drug offenses, up from 40,000 in 1980 — and footed by more than $1 trillion in taxpayer funds. Even today, as the Trump administration moves ever-closer to reinvigorating this open-ended crusade, it’s Nixon who is disproportionately credited with having fathered this perpetual battle.

Yet it’s disingenuous to label Nixon the mastermind of the anti-drug movement, just as it would be ignorant to consider the drug war a modern-day phenomenon. The dubious distinction of America’s first drug czar belongs to a man few know anything about: a career government official named Harry Anslinger, who had taken over the Bureau of Prohibition just as the ill-fated ban on booze was ending. To get a more precise understanding of the machinations of Anslinger’s anti-drug blitzkrieg, one must only become acquainted with his bizarre statements on the correlation between drugs and minorities.


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