Milks Stoner Stereotypes in Anti-Pot Film

Milks Stoner Stereotypes in Anti-Pot Film
Posted by CN Staff on August 01, 2008 at 07:54:17 PT
By Paul Armentano, High Times
Source: AlterNet
[Scene:] suburban neighborhood ... Daytime: Our host, Professor Barnard Puck, and his trusty assistant, Baldric, cautiously scan for some unseen creature. Puck motions Baldric to the house on the left. Baldric sneaks off, taking slow, cautious steps. Puck addresses the camera.Professor Puck: It is a beautiful day. And while most people are out and about enjoying friends, activities, life in general -- the creature that we seek is sedentary, uninspired, and remarkably unmotivated. My associate and I are in search of the lair of a magnificent specimen: the mature stoner.
So begins the script of one of the most offensive and outrageous pieces of anti-drug propaganda ever produced. Part Reefer Madness, part Birth of a Nation (the notorious 1914 film that was condemned by audiences for its hateful and overtly racist portrayal of African Americans), Above the Influence's faux documentary, Stoners In The Mist, is a film so prejudiced that even the White House -- which commissioned the interactive video -- is hesitant to promote it.Available online at the website (a project of the White House's multi-billion dollar National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, Stoners In The Mist is a series of vignettes -- each designed to grossly exaggerate and exploit common pothead stereotypes. But promoting falsehoods about the physical and mental effects of weed is nothing new for federal politicians and bureaucrats. What sets Stoners In The Mist apart from prior examples of government-financed anti-pot excrement is the film's shocking and exceedingly malevolent tone.In this case, cannabis consumers are portrayed, quite literally, as less than human. Rather, they are mockingly characterized as wild game -- to be hunted, tagged, and bagged by the film's 'Crocodile Hunter' inspired narrator. Once captured, the so-called 'stoners' are subjected to a myriad of mental, physical, and psychological tasks -- such a navigating a simple obstacle course and catching various objects thrown to them at close range.Naturally, the film's 'stoner' subjects fail to perform even the most rudimentary tasks competently -- including remembering one another's names ("In his current condition the stoner exhibits an inability to communicate effectively," the hosts informs us.) or bathing ("In fact, we have learned through our intensive research that both male and female stoners tend to lack the motivation to maintain proper hygiene.") The mockumentary's slanderous message: marijuana smoking turns human beings into animals -- a denigrating theme the film's host gloats about repeatedly."The stoners' fascinating courtship rituals highlight the extreme difficultly these animals have fitting into other social groups," 'Professor' Puck states matter-of-factly, having dropped all pretense that his 'stoner' subjects are even capable of human traits, rational thought, or communication.In another scene, the host refers to pot smokers as lab "specimens" whose safety requires them to be locked up in an "artificially controlled environment" (a not-so-subtle endorsement of jail, perhaps?)In yet a third vignette, a "pack" of 'stoners' are tracked by the 'professor' and his assistant and eventually collared with a radio transmitter. ("The creatures are docile and unresponsive," the host observes.)Finally, in a closing monologue that could be readily interpreted as the director's justification for current federal drug policy, 'Professor' Puck summarizes the cannabis consumer as "a tragic species…. They are an endangerment to themselves and to the public in general."Categorically offensive? You bet. So much so that even the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy -- which is estimated to have spent some six-figures in taxpayers' dollars (NORML recently filed a federal Freedom of Information Act Request to learn the exact total; the White Houses' reply failed to provide an answer.) to produce this dreck -- is having second thoughts? Perhaps.To date, the White House has made little, if any, effort to promote the interactive website -- which, in addition to the exploitive vignettes, includes the online game "Mission to Cannabis Isle," some funky jungle theme music, and a pop quiz full chocked full of disinformation (A case in point: "What has more cancer-causing chemicals: marijuana smoke or cigarette smoke?" The correct answer, according to the film's creators, is marijuana smoke. The actual answer is cigarettes.So far, none of the vignettes have been broadcasted as public service announcements on radio or television. A teaser for the film appears on (Naturally, the viewers' comments portion of the site has been disabled for the video), but has gone virtually unnoticed in cyberspace -- attracting a pitiful 6,900 visitors in twelve months. Even the site seems to be shying away from the film. As of this writing, the website's homepage displays prominent links to various Above The Influence PSAs and user-submitted content, but features nary a peep about Stoners.Ironically, it appears that the only folks tuning in to Stoners In The Mist are, well, stoners. Various drug law reform groups (as well as the political gossip website Wonkette have weighed in with scathing critiques of the online film, no doubt stimulating the bulk of the website's otherwise nonexistent traffic. In hindsight, it's almost hard to imagine precisely whom else its creators could have been hoping to attract. Clearly, the film's content is far too derogatory and over-the-top to appeal to it's supposed target-audience (teens), and its premise is far too juvenile to gain interest among the general public.Could it be that the ONDCP spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to purposely produce a film that would only be taken seriously by those whose job description includes castigating the very agency that commissioned it? Now that would be a parody worth talking about. Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. Complete Title: Hollywood Milks Stoner Stereotypes in Anti-Pot Propaganda FilmNote: This essay originally appeared in High Times Magazine.Copyright: 2008 High Times Source: AlterNet (US)Author:  Paul Armentano, High TimesPublished: August 1, 2008Copyright: 2008 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: NORML -- Cannabis Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #14 posted by FoM on August 01, 2008 at 14:43:10 PT
I'm listening to the interview now and I have a question. I remember when Ohio changed the laws but I keep thinking the law was put in the State Constitution but I haven't been able to find anything online about how it all came to be. Do you know where there might be something about the big law change in the mid 70s in Ohio?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by E_Johnson on August 01, 2008 at 14:19:26 PT
NORML wants more African Americans 
You should get this video reviewed by African American web sites. I think it would help spark discussion about the connections between racist and stoner stereotypes.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by NikoKun on August 01, 2008 at 13:38:24 PT
Stoners In The Mist - I've never been so offended!
I remember seeing that thing last year... It was so offensive, I felt sick to my stomach... I wanted to punch whoever thought that was a good idea to make... How dare they.As a satirical silly joke, I wouldn't have cared. The concept of it all, might even had made me laugh...
But they did not intend this as a joke... No, they portray this bullshit as true, making tons of unsupportable bullshit claims, and then feed it to our youth.
They lie like this, to children...The stereotypes they force upon us responsible cannabis users, are just beyond offensive... They are HARMFUL... And will only lead to further persecution and oppression of our rights. -_-
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by rchandar on August 01, 2008 at 13:21:19 PT:
Professor Puck thinks that life is wonderful, and all Americans are wonderful people whom you can spend time with, learn from, enjoy.And nothing could be further from the truth. The world has changed, Professor Puck. Your America, I am sorry to say, is basically gone. There are many of us who abstain from social activity because most of the people we see are far from the beliefs and practices that we espouse. There is much more hatred and small-mindedness, even among our best. America did not, nor does she, stand for "truth" and "justice"--we have seen so many cases in which this has been flouted. Your children are growing up angrier, meaner, more disenchanted--because you have perfected the fine art of going backwards, pretending insolently that life is "good" and that products should therefore be purchased outside our buying power.And maybe some of us don't like to clutter our brains and our lives with the megalomaniac chance at consumerism, religion, recreations. Maybe we don't think the job that you did with the country was all that good. Maybe some of us lost people by your hand, and we enjoyed their "humanity"--the way they laughed, cried, dreamed, talked. Maybe, Dr. Puck, you could F#$k off. Just maybe.And you could take that laboratory experiment, and shove it IN YOUR GILEAD ASS.--rchandar
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by rchandar on August 01, 2008 at 13:08:37 PT:
People, I want to make a point, and hope that you will see where I am going.Two years ago, Iran President Mohammed Ahmedinejad held a symposium in Iran disputing the fact of the Holocaust. White supremacists in the Midwest and South routinely deny that it ever occurred.It is simply wrong for the US Government to "write" the legitimacy of human history. As a precedent, funding this movie sends us back to the Middle Ages, when humans were only humans if they obeyed the cultural, religious, and ethical wishes of the government. Basically the government is encouraging Americans to think that MJ does not include a "true" culture, lack any "motivation" to do anything save sit at the TV or computer, and are "laboratory specimen" who should be examined and studied for their peculiar, inferior, state of person. THAT IS RACISM. THIS IS A TECHNIQUE VERY ENCOURAGING OF RACISM, ETHNIC CLEANSING, GENOCIDE. Now, there is no problem with the films existing in theory, PROVIDED THAT THEY INVOLVED NO GOVERNMENT MONEY. Anyone associated with this project should retract the project. We as citizens should expect that America means America, and that all of us are entitled to human rights and human dignity.Remember, George Bush himself stopped short of apologizing for America's role in keeping blacks slaves. We cannot write history or culture; our understanding of it in 2008 must be objective. It is the government's responsibility to promote fairness. This is NOT a fashion which successive Administrations can toy with, cheat on, retract. Other ads by ONDCP are offensive, but at least allow that we are people like anyone else. Nothing excuses this act of crass racialism, and we should not import the chance that the government is right in any fashion."WIR WOLLEN EINE GROSSE RACE"--Adolf Hitler, 1933--rchandar
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by rchandar on August 01, 2008 at 12:52:21 PT:
I think these people should be sued for defamation. It is not the job of the Federal Government to produce humorous dramas that dehumanize a segment of our population. Like it or not, we are all human beings and should not be portrayed as creatures without an intellect or a culture. The described narratives are offensive, and many pot-smokers work, pay taxes, have kids, and put them through college.I think NORML itself could file suit, and perhaps even take it to the Supreme Court. Meaning to say, in the Orwellian judgment: you (the government) cannot say that we (plaintiffs), simply because we smoke an illegal substance, are not human beings entitled to all the other rights as citizens outside of the drug laws. This post introduces a horrific debacle, a major, major gaffe of the Oval Office which good citizens should simply prosecute.We HAVE TRIED SO HARD to eliminate governments that preach and legislate the "humanity" of fringe groups. We routinely condemn others for their barbaric or offensive rules that deny human status to minorities. This should be prosecuted as a minority case. To say that 97 million people, because of their choice of an illegal drug, are not human beings violates every good thing that our society embodies. It should be treated as a discrimination case, and the progenitors--and the program--funded by ONDCP should be fired immediately.THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION FOR THIS RETURN TO NAZISM AND BARBARIC PREJUDICE. SIMPLE.--rchandar
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by dongenero on August 01, 2008 at 12:39:09 PT
cops-mixed bag
I know a couple cops that are bright, likeable guys but, lets face it, many of these guys are not the sharpest knife in the drawer. That's why they are in this type of career.I think that sometimes such a career choice is related to self esteem issues as well. Once you have the badge, you are no longer the loser of society, the dirtbag. Not only are you now elevated above that status, you can now persecute those who you believe are the losers and dirtbags. What an ego boost! This further elevates you in your own mind. The police are people like anyone else (though in many cases the lower IQ percentile unfortunately) but, put in a position of authority and power. You cannot fix stupid and to be sure, many of them are. The abuse from law enforcement comes as a tool of government. Our elected government.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by E_Johnson on August 01, 2008 at 12:28:23 PT
It was the Rodney King scandal, I looked it up
From the LA Times Archives for 1991:"Officer Laurence Powell, hours before he turned his baton on King, had sent out a squad-car computer message describing an unrelated spat among African Americans as “Gorillas in the Mist.”
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by E_Johnson on August 01, 2008 at 12:23:24 PT
Maybe that's why they're downplaying it?
Maybe some black staff members saw the video and thought it was too similar to racial hate mongering material they're familiar with from other contexts?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by E_Johnson on August 01, 2008 at 12:19:09 PT
Paul: You might highlight racist roots here
Does anyone here remember the Gorilla in the Mist scandal with the LAPD?Around the time of the Ramparts scandal or the Rodney King scandal, one of those big LAPD scandals, there was an audio tape circulated of LAPD officers driving around a black neighborhood, making jungle noises and saying they were watching "Gorillas in the Mist."Recall that the LAPD was the originator of D.A.R.E.I wonder if anyone involved in Above the Influence came from the D.A.R.E. group in the LAPD.It sounds sooo much like the LAPD's old attitude towards blacks. Perhaps this video needs to be shown to black civil rights groups like the NAACP.We all know the War on Drugs has racial aspects and implications, but in this video I think we can see a very strong link being exposed between racial hatred and the hatred of stoners.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by paul armentano on August 01, 2008 at 11:46:25 PT
Relating this essay to the death of Rachel Hoffman
Wonder why police and politicians think so little of ruining the lives and seizing the liberty of citizens for no reason other than they smoke cannabis? Wonder why the police in Tallahassee thought nothing of putting Rachel in a position that could -- and did -- cost this 23-year-old college graduate her life? Wonder why LEOs and politicians express little if any remorse when the policies they enact and enforce end in these sort of tragedies?Answer: It's is because decades of government propaganda such as SITM have dehumanized us in their eyes to such a degree that we have become less than human to them.Need more proof? Check out the posts from law enforcement on this internal message board.'ll note that our community is routinely referred to as "dirtbags" and "the losers of society." This mentality is a direct result of our government's, in particular Congress, actions -- SITM just being the latest example. They fund this propaganda, they green-light it, and they disseminate it. And we deal with the consequences.(And then they expect our community to vote for them!?)
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Storm Crow on August 01, 2008 at 10:24:00 PT
OT- Religious use in Arizona
AZ court: marijuana can't be used for religious purposesAn Arizona court finds no constitutional right to use marijuana for religious purposes.The state Court of Appeals' ruling upholds the conviction and sentences of Danny Ray Hardesty in Yavapai County for possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by user123 on August 01, 2008 at 09:15:39 PT:
Where do non-stoners get their typical image of a stoner? Why Cheech & Chong of course. 30 years later and we're still stuck with the unwashed dumba** hippy image. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by dongenero on August 01, 2008 at 08:48:29 PT
comment copy from alternet article
Hope it is ok to copy this comment from Alternet's original posting of the above article. This is sort of off topic, McCain related but, the alcopop product referred to, and sold and marketed by Mrs. McCain's liquor company is a great indication of the hypocrisy of alcohol=good vs cannabis= bad.Hey, here is a deadly drug being specifically marketed at youngsters. wtf. Why isn't the AA Whitehouse spending millions to combat this?"While the White House-sponsored National Drug Control Policy (NDCP) is clearly obsessed with youthful marijuana usage, it does warn about the far more dangerous problem of teenaged drinking.Assuming John McCain wins in November, imagine the irony and conflict of interest over his wife's ownership of Hensley & Company which is marketing a fruit-flavored beer nicknamed "Alcopop" aimed at young people.For other reasons why McCain shouldn't be our 44th president, visit my new nonprofit Web site,, which shows how he distorted his "heroic" POW record and exploited it for political gain.Hugh E. Scott, Vietnam veteran, lifelong registered Republican and former McCain supporter." 
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment