Coming to a Theater . . . 

Coming to a Theater . . . 
Posted by FoM on July 13, 2000 at 14:21:46 PT
Source: Los Angeles Times
 Talk about harebrained. Anti-drug czar Barry McCaffrey's new plan to "work closely with major studios" to ensure that movies spotlight the dangers of substance abuse won't do anything to rein in drug use. It will, however, stomp on the free-speech rights of Hollywood writers and directors and divert taxpayer money to companies that don't deserve it. 
  McCaffrey's plan, outlined to Congress Tuesday, will use a small part of his $18-billion annual budget to reward studios that produce films showing characters harmed "as a consequence of their decision to use drugs." It is the latest installment in a billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded media campaign that McCaffrey says has succeeded in exposing the average American teenager to more than eight paid anti-drug advertisements each week. Is that how he measures success? A better yardstick is McCaffrey's own statistic showing that the number of illegal drug users age 12 and over has not fallen in the United States since he stepped up media spending in 1996.   Here's another statistic: Last year, McCaffrey spent $178 million taking out anti-drug ads, most of them on television. The ads are nicely enriching broadcasters and allowing them to cut the number of money-losing public-interest spots they are supposed to air.   Ultimately, what's most troubling about McCaffrey's idea of "leveraging" federal dollars to get studios to depict the "risks and consequences" of illegal drugs is the degree to which it treads on creative freedom. The financial incentives in the media drive are vague but may include publicly funded promotions for films that, to use McCaffrey's words, "communicate Campaign messages." Whatever the incentives, this is an intrusive program. Would the government ask the producer of James Bond movies to show 007 in traction in the hospital after every reckless car chase?   McCaffrey would be better off using his huge budget to support anti-drug programs that work. For example, he could beef up school-based drug counseling and ensure that all states have mandatory treatment for drug users. In most states, especially California, there is a huge gap between the number of drug abuse prevention programs needed and the number of programs available.   Gen. McCaffrey, would you rather a would-be addict watch no-no messages in movies or have access to swift and effective treatment? And why should we even have to ask such a stupid question? Published: July 12, 2000Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times Related Articles:McCaffrey, Still Smoking House Takes Anti-Drug Message To Hollywood House Wants Films To Add Anti-Drug Messages Czar To Target Film Themes for Dollars 
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Comment #2 posted by Mitchell on July 13, 2000 at 20:00:13 PT:
Of Prisms And Prisons
PRISMS AND PRISONSOne of the biggest challenges involved in making fun of the Drug War is that is regularly a parody of itself. Drug War hijinx might be as funny as downing two quarts of beer and watching Reefer Madness at the Drive-In if not for the lives ruined, the governments corrupted, and the cultures and communities left upside down in its wake. Yesterday we ran a spoof about an awards show that would hand out prizes for anti-drug content inserted into the scripts of the usual Hollywood fare. It turns out though there is just such an award already. It’s called the PRISM Awards, and thought the little acrylic looking statues have been handed out for four years, you don’t hear a whole lot of people bragging about having gotten one, do you?The award is co-sponsored by the Entertainment Industries Council and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "PRISM Awards 2000 will expand its reach this year through the launch of a television special that will be syndicated by Tribune Entertainment to Tribune’s 22 broadcast stations, the WGN Superstation, and beyond, " the PRISM chairman proclaimed. The show was taped in March and will be broadcast in September. The first year of the awards, 1997, the Scottish heroin-chic movie "Train Spotting" won in the feature film category, a movie that was about as anti-heroin as Easy Rider was anti-marijuana. Also that year the TV sitcom Grace Under Fire was recognized for a few of its episodes even though the show took a break from production that very year when the star Brett Butler went into rehab for an addiction to prescription drugs. The celebrities spokespersons have typically been an odd assortment of has-beens and rejects from casting calls over at Poli-Dent and Depends Undergarments: PRISM boasts that the 1998 show saw the return of host Casey Kasem, along with presenters Mariette Hartley, Ed Asner, Catherine Hicks, Corey Feldman, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Nancy O'Dell, Ben Jones, (Who are these people?) Sharon Case, Josh Server, Teddi Sidall, and Clinton Jackson." Typically awards go to works of art like "Friends: The One Where Rachel Smokes."Seeding television programs and now movies with his meddlesome little messages is McCaffrey’s last stand. Even government research suggests that preaching to kids about drugs does little or if anything has the opposite of the intended effect. A Congressionally mandated study called Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising, A Report to the United States Congress, which the New York Times called "the most comprehensive study ever of crime prevention, stated that:"No significant differences were observed between the D.A.R.E. and control schools on measures of cigarette, alcohol, or marijuana use either during seventh grade or at any later point. These studies and recent media reports have criticized D.A.R.E. for (a) focusing too little on social competency skill development and too much on affective outcomes and drug knowledge; (b) relying on lecture and discussion format rather than more interactive teaching methods; and (c) using uniformed police officers who are relatively inexperienced teachers and may have less rapport with the students." Another study from National Institute of Justice Issues and Practices called "Kids, Cops, and Communities" concluded that: "approaches that simply provide information about the risks or wickedness of delinquency can backfire and make kids more delinquent."Approaches that researchers have found to be most promising for preventing violence and delinquency are relatively long-term, continuous, comprehensive approaches that involve adults as tutors and mentors who teach children and teens cognitive and social skills and provide them an opportunity to cooperatively practice these competency skills. You could spend ten thousand dollars each on mentors for 4 million kids if the 40 billion dollars federal state and local governments spend each year in tax payers dollars on the Drug War were re-diverted to the effort.This seems like a more humane and sensible approach than having the entertainment industry cravenly caving into the latest whims of General McCaffrey’s P.R. campaign backed up as it is with more prisons, more invasions of privacy more graft, more pesticides and more helicopters. Mitchell GreentowerRef:http://www.preventingcrime.org
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on July 13, 2000 at 18:54:18 PT
Drug War: Another Battle 
Published: July 13, 2000President Clinton's drug czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, outlined a plan this week to members of Congress that involves "leveraging" the drug war into movies. Apparently, the general has already successfully done that in the TV industry.It was disclosed earlier this year that McCaffrey's Office of National Drug Control Policy had been quietly giving major TV networks millions of dollars in financial credits for getting producers to include anti-drug messages in popular, prime-time shows, among them "E.R."and "Beverly Hills 90210."The idea, of course, is that such shows are popular with young Americans, who are the highest risk group when it comes to using illegal drugs. McCaffrey's office reasons that if producers and network officials incorporate anti-drug messages, it could help reduce drug use among young people. Now he wants to start a similar program within the movie industry.We admire McCaffrey's dedication to his mission -- reducing drug use in America -- but there are two distinct problems with his methods.First, the messages being transmitted through prime-time TV shows don't seem to be having any measurable effect. In fact, since the financial credits program began, the number of illegal drug users 12 years and older in America has remained about the same.Second, we are uncomfortable with a situation in which the government is directly influencing the media on the nature of its content. It's just a little too close for comfort to George Orwell's vision of government's role in society. And a bit too close to censorship.Clinton administration's anti-drug efforts are being pointed in the wrong direction. McCaffrey has authorization to spend about a billion dollars a year on anti-drug messages in the media -- including the TV and possibly now movie industry credits -- and that is money substance abuse experts say could be put to better use in community education and treatment programs. Anti-drug messages are good; direct-contact programs are better.Paying off the media is not the most effective means of spreading the anti-drug message. The News-Press editorial pages have carried the anti-drug message for years because it is the right thing to do -- not because a government agency is offering cash incentives for doing so.John Lankford, Editorial Page Editor805/564-5161E-Mail: jlankford newspress.comContact Us: Santa Barbara News-Press
Santa Barbara News-Press
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