Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Meth Project: An Exercise in Pointlessness

How could kids not respond to a public service campaign exploiting sensationalism, hypocrisy and blatant homophobia?

You don’t need be to tell you this, but yes, crystal meth is indeed bad.

It’s bad for the people that use it, because it rots their skin, makes them lose a shit load of weight and think those robot bats from the second “Mega Man” game are chasing after them at all hours. It’s also bad for society, because people get hooked on methamphetamine and decide to start robbing small businesses so they can get their next fix, preferably from a dying chemistry teacher that looks a lot like the dad from “Malcolm in the Middle.”

Clearly, methamphetamine use is economically destructive, because if all you care about is shooting ice into your eyeballs, you’ll probably slack off on the job and fail to take care of your children. As a result, you go on unemployment, your child has to go on welfare and at some indeterminable point, there’s a 100 percent likelihood that you’ll end up in one of those exploitative, regional “blotter” magazines, looking like Nick Nolte’s electrocuted corpse or something.

All in all, you really don’t need to invest a lot of resources in getting people to stay away from meth, because just about everybody in society acknowledges that it leads to some bad shit a’ happening. I highly doubt anyone waltzes into a Wal-Mart, sees a guy that weighs 108 pounds with scabs all over his arms picking at invisible chiggers, and says to themselves “You know, this crank I’ve been hearing so much about? I reckon I want to try me some of that.”

As such, the fact that any taxpayer subsidized government campaign is even in existence to “inform” people about the ills of methamphetamine is pretty damn pointless. I’m not really sure why we need billboards insinuating that if you do crank, you’ll get sodomized in a county jail to steer us away from meth, especially when the best billboards against drug use we have are most often the homeless, junkie vagabonds living underneath those billboards en masse all across the United States.

It doesn’t help that, for the most part, a lot of the information we were given about meth when the “epidemic” first kicked off was pretty erroneous, or at the least, very, very exaggerated.

Back in 1998, I recall watching a Fox News special about meth, the latest and gravest drug craze sweeping the nation. Per the news magazine program thingy, meth was so potent that every time you did it, you had a 50/50 chance of not dying, and if you did one hit of meth dust, you were destined to be a hopeless ice addict for life. Needless to say, there’s just a few instances of hyperbole there, beginning with this crazy idea that “meth” is something new in U.S. society.

Crank, in some manifestation or another, has been a part of U.S. culture since the early 20th century. In fact, speed has been a pretty important player in the history of the 1900s, as Hitler, Elvis and most of the Kamikaze pilots of World War II were said to have been habitual amphetamine takers. Modern American logistics were pretty much founded on amphetamine, as the construction of the nation’s Interstate system was handily coupled with the proliferation of early meth use by the country’s pioneering truckers.

Oh, and if you took diet pills up until the 1980s, you were most likely doing a legalized form of meth in the process, too.

It’s also kind of funny to me that meth wasn’t granted “epidemic” status until the mid 2000s, when ice abuse (a misnomer, really, since that seems to imply there’s a proper way to use crank) crept out of the trailer parks and into the suburbs. The reality is, the blue collar countryside of America had been a haven for meth use and production for decades, serving as an almost essential “aid” for the thousands upon thousands of rural laborers forced to work grueling hours in equally grueling conditions. I suppose one could say that meth didn’t become a major problem in the Southeast and Midwest until the late 1990s, when an economic Cerberus in the form of mass immigration and outsourcing resulted in many crank-sniffers out in the boonies feeling the global recession a good five or six years before the rest of the country. If you wanted to get really controversial, you could argue that it wasn’t necessarily meth use by itself that proved degenerative for the countryside, as much as it was meth dependency in the absence of steady employment.

But, in today’s society - in which many rural communities are suffering from underemployment levels as high as 50 percent and the cold, clammy hand of crystal meth has firmly fisted its way into many metropolitan areas - I suppose a mass media jihad against crank was inevitable.

The Meth Project - a federally funded campaign, by the way - began bombarding the airwaves in 2008, with its budgeting ratcheted up every year since. By 2012, the Meth Project had TV spots running in practically every state in the Lower 48, and now, the war on ice has been taken to that last frontier of civility, YouTube.

The bluntness of the Meth Project ads are pretty hard to overstate. Forget all of that “this egg represents your brain” metaphorical bullshit from the ‘80s, the anti drug PSAs of today have no patience or desire for anything that even remotely resembles “subtlety.”

One ad - which is in no way, shape or form kind of homophobic or anything - implies that if you use meth, you’ll end up becoming a gay courtesan. Another shows a cranked up big brother rampaging through his little brother’s room, in desperate pursuit of about $4.32 so he can shoot some more juice between his toes. And then, there are the ads that insinuate that methamphetamine use is a DIRECT precursor to date rape, unwanted pregnancies and vehicular homicide. The irony that alcohol - a totally legal substance - is said to be a factor in at least half of all date rapes, vehicular homicides and murder in the U.S. seems to be just a little lost in all of this anti-meth crusading, doesn’t it?

I guess some of you more conservative types will be wondering why I’m objecting to the Meth Project in general. Sure, we can all agree that meth is a destructive element that causes a lot of damage to society (and in my humble opinion, it should remain illegal, alongside a lot of other stuff that’s a little less popular to criticize), but jeez, don’t we already know that by now?

So, the feds keep pumping millions and millions of dollars into this Meth Project thingy, when the money could be allotted to more productive services, like, I don’t know, establishing effective rehabilitation services for people that are suffering from meth dependency. Never mind the fact that, in exaggerating the effects of meth use (and no, it probably won’t turn you into a beige, anorexic version of the Incredible Hulk and make you pull your own skin off with your teeth), it’s just going to get kids to discount the message of the ads altogether. The same way that highly ineffective DARE program of the 1990s just gave stoners something ironic to wear while they got toasted and watched cheesy anti-drug PSA compilations, who’s to say that the ads of today won’t inadvertently result in the kids of tomorrow thinking the chill pipe is no “big deal?”

That, and let’s not pretend that there’s a double standard in play here. Each year, alcohol results in exponentially more homicides, arrests, and taxpayer expenses than methamphetamine, but when was the last time you saw an ad on TV telling you that alcohol was going to make you strangle your wife, lose your job and turn into an STI-infected gigolo?

Kids are aware of that kind of inherent hypocrisy, you know. You wonder why teens across American consciously take up ultra-destructive habits like meth use?

Probably because they see one potent drug that causes social problems comically demonized on TV, followed up by an ad that celebrates an even more potent drug that causes monumentally more social problems promoted as a vital part of their national identity.

We tell them that one earns you a stay in the slammer, and the other wins you a ticket to the Super Bowl. With that in mind, just how in the hell could they take anything we say seriously?


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