Our third series starts today. We’re going to be looking at the history of the “War On Drugs”.
Theme music: Holy Deep by The Passion HiFi
* Once upon a time, less than a century ago, You could go to any American pharmacy and buy heroin and cocaine.
* In the 1890s the Sears & Roebuck catalogue, which was distributed to millions of Americans homes, offered a syringe and a small amount of cocaine for $1.50.
* The most popular cough mixtures in the United States contained opiates.
* a new soft drink called Coca-Cola was made from the same plant as snortable cocaine,
* in Britain, the classiest department stores sold heroin tins for society women.
* Back in George Washington’s day, he grew hemp at Mount Vernon as one of his three primary crops.
* In the 1850s, you could buy Medicinal preparations of cannabis in American pharmacies
* By the 1880s, there were hashish parlors and opium dens in every major city on the east coast.
* It was estimated there were around 500 such establishments in New York City alone.
* An article in Harper’s Magazine (1883), describes a hashish-house in New York frequented by a large clientele, including males and females of “the better classes,” and further talks about parlors in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.
* So When did the war on drugs start?
* And why?
* That’s the question we’re going to investigate in this series of thebullshitfilter
* Our story starts with Prohibition in the 1920s.
* Americans, apparently, used to be hard drinkers.
* In 1830, on average, Americans consumed 1.7 bottles of hard liquor per week, which is three times the amount consumed today.
* And this really bothered certain Puritan religious groups, especially the Calvinists and Methodists.
* Throughout the first 1,800 years of Church history, Christians generally consumed alcoholic beverages as a common part of everyday life and used “the fruit of the vine” in their central rite—the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper.
* They held that both the Bible and Christian tradition taught that alcohol is a gift from God that makes life more joyous, but that over-indulgence leading to drunkenness is sinful or at least a vice.
* In the mid-19th century, some Protestant Christians moved from a position of allowing moderate use of alcohol (sometimes called moderationism) to either deciding that not imbibing was wisest in the present circumstances (abstentionism) or prohibiting all ordinary consumption of alcohol because it was believed to be a sin (prohibitionism).
* Many Protestant churches, particularly Methodists and Evangelical groups, started advocating abstentionism.
* Which is weird.
* The Puritans who migrated to America, were huge drinkers.
* But then the Second Great Awakening happened.
* This is the name given to the Protestant religious revival that started in the U.S. around 1790 and grew through the early 1800s
* It was a backlash against the skepticism, deism, and rationalism that were becoming popular from the Enlightenment.
* The religious preachers used enthusiasm, emotion, and an appeal to the super-natural.
* This is when the Mormons were created along with lots of other movements, like the 7th Day adventists, the Church of Christ, etc.
* They believed Christ would return to earth after the “millennium”, which could entail either a literal 1,000 years or a figurative “long period” of peace and happiness.
* Christians therefore had a duty to purify society in preparation for that return.
* It emphasized personal holiness and perfectionism.
* The American Temperance Society was started in 1826 by a Calvinist minister, Lyman Beecher.
* Father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
* He and his children were big supporters of the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, and, of course, not drinking.
* They thought booze was one of the main causes of bad behaviour and violence.
* Especially violence towards women.
* They were the forerunners of the #metoo movement.
* Within five years there were 2,220 local chapters in the U.S. with 170,000 members who had taken a pledge to abstain from drinking distilled beverages.
* Within ten years, there were over 8,000 local groups and more than 1,250,000 members who had taken the pledge.
* After a while, temperance groups increasingly pressed for the mandatory prohibition of alcohol rather than for voluntary abstinence.
* The American Temperance Society was the first U.S. social movement organization to mobilize massive and national support for a specific cause.
* A forerunner of the NRA.
* After the end of the American Civil War, the national Prohibition Party was founded in 1869, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in 1873.
* The WCTU advocated the prohibition of alcohol as a method for preventing abuse from alcoholic husbands.
* In 1881 Kansas became the first state to outlaw alcoholic beverages in its Constitution.
* A woman called Carrie Nation became famous for walking into saloons, yelling at the customers, and using her hatchet to destroy bottles of liquor.
* Then in 1895 The Anti-Saloon League was created.
* Founded in Ohio by another religious fundamentalist, Howard Hyde Russell.
* It quickly became the most powerful Prohibition lobby in the country.
* It’s still around today, but now it’s called the American Council on Alcohol Problems.
* A key guy in the ASL was Wayne Wheeler.
* As a young man, he’d been stabbed through the leg with a pitchfork by a farm hand who was drunk.
* His hatred of alcohol never left him.
* He ended up as the de facto leader of the ASL.
* He invented pressure politics, a political action that relies heavily on the use of mass media and mass communications to persuade politicians that the public wants or demands a particular action.
* AKA Wheelerism
* He was able to get people who supported Prohibition voted into government, regardless of which political party they were in.
* He also strongly supported getting women the vote, because he knew they would support Prohibition.
* according to Justin Steuart, his former Publicity Secretary:
* “Wayne B. Wheeler controlled six Congresses, dictated to two presidents of the United States, directed legislation in most of the States of the Union, picked the candidates for the more important elective state and federal offices, held the balance of power in both Republican and Democratic parties, distributed more patronage than any dozen other men, supervised a federal bureau from outside without official authority, and was recognized by friend and foe alike as the most masterful and powerful single individual in the United States.”
* At one point the Anti-Saloon League decided that the only way for people to stop drinking any alcohol drinks was to add poison to as much drinkable alcohol.
* Wheeler was even quoted saying “The person who drinks this industrial alcohol …is a deliberate suicide”.
* Different studies claim deliberately poisoned alcohol killed between 10,000 – 50,000 people.
* Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was “our national experiment in extermination.”
* As the Chicago Tribune editorialized in 1927: “Normally, no American government would engage in such business. … It is only in the curious fanaticism of Prohibition that any means, however barbarous, are considered justified.”
* The highest paid speaker of the ASL was Richard Hobson, who served from 1907–1915 as a Democrat U.S. Representative from Alabama and is often called “The Father of American Prohibition”
* As a young man, his total abstinence from alcohol and tobacco created problems when he joined the navy, people thought he was a total square.
* He became a hero during the Spanish-American war when he was captured after sinking his ship and the press made a big deal out of his being a prisoner in Cuba.
* When he was released during a prisoner swap, he became super famous back home.
* Dinner with the President, a sex symbol, “the most kissed man in America.”
* He resigned from the navy in 1903, went into politics
* After he left Congress, he dedicated himself to fighting alcohol and drug use in the country.
* He wrote in Alcohol and the Human Race (1919) that he was
* “shocked to find that this toxin causes degeneracy in all living things, disrupts the germ plasm, blights offspring, and, in the end, entails sterility and extinction. I saw at once that instead of being a mere matter of local police regulation its handling was the most fundamental and organic question confronting society, involving not only the integrity of free institutions, but the lives of nations, and the perpetuity of the race. “
* “It is scientifically impossible for an individual, a state, or a nation growingly to apprehend and follow the teachings of Christ, and persist in drinking alcoholic beverages regularly, even though temperately. The general decline of religion among a people as the drinking of alcohol advances is marked. If this drug be left a free hand the Christian nations Will destroy the un-Christianized nations with rum before they can convert them to Christ. Christian civilization and drink cannot abide together.”
* So there you have it – booze and Jesus don’t go together.
* He said in one of his speeches:
* “Alcohol is a protoplasmic poison, the loathsome excretion of living organisms, the ferment of germs, belonging to the family of toxins. It is an insidious, habit-forming drug. Alcohol tears down the top part of the brain, so that every time a man drinks, will power declines. In destroying the seat of the will power, alcohol destroys the seat of the moral senses, and of the spiritual nature, the recognition of right and wrong, the consciousness of God and of duty and of brotherly love and of self-sacrifice. It is this same lowering of the average citizen’s character in the past that entailed the overthrow of the liberties of Greece and Rome and other Republics. It is the greatest question in the life history of the human species, actually determining more than all other questions combined — the perpetuity of any civilization.”
* So obviously alcohol was going to be the end of civilisation if it wasn’t banned outright.
* We’ll have more on Hobson later in the series.