An Assembly of Pieces

James Anderson Merritt's piecemeal thoughts and observations, and the occasional attempt to put some of the pieces together.
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All material except cited quotations Copyright (C) 2004-2008 by James Anderson Merritt. All rights reserved.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Checking in with Cannabis Culture, to get their take on how the War on Drugs was going, I saw the huge headline, "Denver Legalizes Marijuana 53% - 46%!" This was astounding news. In the name of "balance," I went to the website of the Denver Post, to see their account. The headline? "Denver pot issue passes by thin margin." Although the Post reported even slightly better news about the election results (that the marijuana measure passed by 54% to 46%), the overall tone was to dismiss the public will: prominent in the article was the asssurance by government officials that the Denver vote was irrelevant, trumped by State of Colorado anti-pot laws, which would continue to be enforced.

I never fail to be amazed and disappointed by the capacity of "mainstream media" to marginalize even the most significant developments in an ongoing controversy, should those developments run counter to the establishment-approved scenario. We have seen similar spin in coverage of the War in Iraq, especially coverage that merely parrots the government's own press releases, or is composed primarily of soundbites from government officials.

Mr. Bush won re-election by a margin of only three percentage points, 51%-48%. Yet he was quick to claim a mandate, and was especially proud of being the first "majority vote" President in many years. Proposition 215 (Medical Marijuana), won in California in 1996, 55.6% to 44.4%. This is an 11.2% margin of victory, which was seen as beefy at the time of the election, and has come to be described as "overwhelming" in the nine years since. How is it, then, that an 8% margin of victory is "thin" in Denver, yet an 11% margin was so impressive in California, that it has become legendary? Someone's bias is showing.

I have become convinced that, if you don't have time to actually sit down and read the newspaper articles, or to pay attention to the entire broadcast report, it actually hurts you to only read the headlines, or only take in the "teaser" bullet points at the top of the program. The spin and inaccuracy inherent in so many will poison your world view, and thus it is best to ignore them altogether and save your brain cells for something else. Make a point of actually reading articles; I think you'll be amazed -- perhaps disgusted -- with how often the facts in the body of a report undermine or altogether contradict the impression that is given by the corresponding headline.

In this case, the facts are clear: Denver voters said, loudly and clearly, that marijuana possession and use should not be a crime. The State responded that it remains a crime under State law, which will be enforced. This is just another demonstration that the War on Drugs is really a war on the citizenry, and that we do not have a government "of, by, and for the people." It will be interesting to see whether a similar statewide initiative can get on the ballot in Colorado soon, and whether the State government will honor the public will, should it pass.


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