If there’s one thing the left and right should be able to agree on, it’s the need to put an end to the so-called War on Drugs. Conservatives should oppose the War on Drugs because it empowers the government to restrict your private behavior, and we are for liberty; it unfairly targets the poor and black, and we are for justice; and it puts an undue burden on the police and we are for law and order. Leftists should oppose the War on Drugs because it throws so many of their voters in the slammer. Instead of giving dangerous felons the right to vote, as our venal hack Attorney General Eric Holder would do, we could just stop arresting people who don’t really need arresting in the first place. Presto, everyone’s happy: right wing freedom fighters, and corrupt “progressive” creeps as well.
So in theory, a well-made pro-legalization documentary like Matthew Cooke’s How to Make Money Selling Drugs should be able to appeal to right and left alike. And it would, if it were not full of unnecessary anti-Republican misinformation and propaganda.
Which, really, is a shame. It’s a clever and appealing film. It’s designed like a video game, in which you move from level to level: street dealer to supplier to drug lord to cartel king. There are some very good interviews with people who worked at most of these levels. And the film largely tells the truth about not only the uselessness, unfairness and abusiveness of the anti-drug laws but also the misery that drugs cause for so many of the people who use them. That is, it doesn’t romanticize the drug life; it just demonstrates convincingly that the laws don’t work to stem it.
So I was impressed with it — until it unleashed its misinformed left-wing nonsense. Yes, Richard Nixon popularized the term War on Drugs, but he actually allocated tons of federal dollars to prevention and rehabilitation and repealed unfair mandatory sentences! Yes, Nancy Reagan had her “Just Say No,” campaign, but does anyone seriously believe that had any effect on the situation good or bad? Even when describing how a Democratic Congress over-reacted to the death of basketball star Len Bias, the film shows Republicans onscreen! Listen, I’m not saying Republicans haven’t messed up plenty here, but let’s face it, this is a bi-partisan screw-up. Why not say so?
The use of Hollywood lefties to make nonsensical and irrelevant points also doesn’t help the film’s case. The stupidest scene involves The Wire creator David Simon ranting about the harmless Nancy Reagan. Absurd — but then Simon’s the guy who contrives to blame Republicans for the slums of Baltimore, where Democrats have been in charge for over fifty years! The only Hollywood type who comes off well at all is actor Woody Harrelson, who makes the perfectly reasonable point that free men and women should be able to pick their own poisons. But given that Harrelson is a Truther and an avowed anarchist, you have to ask yourself if his presence strengthens the case or just contributes to the sense of one-sided lunacy.
What could have been a powerful film instead comes across as a useless display of superior virtue that really does more harm than good. But since “a useless display of superior virtue that really does more harm than good,” could serve as a virtual definition of leftism, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.