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August 2007
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Shocktoids

Joseph Califano is stinking up the place with his lies once again. He specializes in shocktoids — meaningless alarmist “statistics” (often false) with a purpose to shock the public into demanding even more drug war excesses.
There is a long and rich history of Joseph Califano and his organization CASA (Columbia University‰s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse).
Richard Cowen may have described him best:

Joseph Califano is “a very well-funded prohibitionist propagandist.”

(and he will certainly be in the running for our Anslinger Propaganda Award)
He and CASA have been caught numerous times falsifying statistics or simply making them up out of thin air — but their stock in trade is finding survey questions that will yield answers that sound shocking when presented out of context.
I’ve written out Califano before here and here.
But every year, he trots out some new shocktoid and the press, hearing the name Columbia University, dutifully prints his nonsense exclaiming “Boy that is shocking!” without even critically analyzing.
What sort of irresponsible media outlets give him a voice?
Places like CNN and MSNBC

Teenagers say drug problems at school are getting worse, and parents express doubts about ever making such schools drug free, a new study says.

Califano also shows up in the Financial Times to try to influence the UK: ‘Drug legalisation is playing Russian roulette’.
Fortunately, Steve R at Transform was on hand to give a point-by-point rebuttal (which is a challenge — I know from experience — when you’re sometime forced to respond to nonsense that has been created from whole cloth) — check it out.

[Thanks to Brian for ‘Shocktoids’]

Update: More from Jacob Sullum and Scott Morgan

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