Jacob Sullum has a must-read article over at Reason in which he discusses “High Society: How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What to Do About It,” by Joseph A. Califano Jr, and “The Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World‰s Most Troubled Drug Culture,” by Richard DeGrandpre.
Califano and his organization CASA has been discussed here numerous times (without much good to say). Jacob also rips him apart…
Although it is not always easy to decipher Califano‰s meaning in this overwrought, carelessly written, weakly documented, self-contradictory, and deeply misleading anti-drug screed […] That claim, like many Califano makes, is unverifiable, and it does not seem very plausible. […] Already I have put more thought into the alleged connection between faithlessness and drug use than Califano did. And so it is with the rest of the book. A proper debunking would require more than the 186 pages of text […] Although CASA brags about its affiliation with Columbia University, the school has less cause to be proud of that relationship, given the center‰s sloppy research and hyperbolic rhetoric.
You get the idea.
Here’s one of the key pieces:
What Califano fails to understand is that every drug, regardless of its current legal status, is potentially an angel or a demon. DeGrandpre builds upon the insights of the alternative medicine guru Andrew Weil, who first made his name with books about drugs and altered states of consciousness. ‹Any drug can be used successfully, no matter how bad its reputation, and any drug can be abused, no matter how accepted it is,Š Weil wrote in his 1983 book From Chocolate to Morphine (co-authored by Winifred Rosen). ‹There are no good or bad drugs; there are only good and bad relationships with drugs.Š
It’s a good article throughout, but I also got sidetracked at one point when Sullum called Califano a “leading exemplar” of “moralistic pseudoscience.”
Moralistic pseudoscience — what a beautiful phrase. And very apropos. I’m a bit of a word-lover, so I enjoy these things. And it got me thinking about a new word we discussed here at Drug WarRant some time ago when talking about Califano. The word was “shocktoid.”
And sure enough, it is now an accepted word in the Urban Dictionary (although Brian Bennett should be getting credit for the word instead of me).
And it really does fit Califano. Shocktoids indeed.
By the way, we have another word accepted by the Urban Dictionary: Sadomoralist.
But back to Sullum’s article. Let’s end with this incredibly bizarre behavior (yet oddly normal for Califano).
Other Califano claims are absurd on their face. In his lexicon, if a single teenager reports seeing a fellow student buy, use, or possess alcohol or other drugs at his school, that is enough to render the school ‹drug-infested.Š In a 1999 report CASA said ‹teens who smoke marijuana are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette,Š an activity in which there is a one-in-six chance of instant death on each turn. Three years later it likened underage drinking to ‹a deadly round of Russian roulette.Š
In High Society, Califano trots out the metaphor for another purpose. ‹Russian roulette is not a game anyone should play,Š he informs readers, just in case they were considering it as an alternative to checkers. ‹Legalizing drugs not only is playing Russian roulette with children; it is also slipping a couple of extra bullets into the chamber.Š Meaning that if drug prohibition were repealed, half of America‰s children would die?
Remember, there are no bad drugs. There are merely good and bad relationships with drugs. There are, however, idiots. And that’s where Califano comes in.