While I was pulling up articles for my last post, I re-read the infamous New York Times piece Negro Cocaine “Fiends” Are a New Southern Menace. The article is a very convoluted argument against prohibition. And it is made by trying to scare the crap out of ignorant people.
The doctor who wrote the article claimed that cocaine “may produce the wildest form of insane exaltation, accompanied by the fantastic hallucinations and delusions that characterize acute mania.” (They didn’t have very strict standards for doctors back then did they?)
Also, when on cocaine, a person “imagines that he hears people taunting or abusing him, and this often incites homicidal attacks upon innocent and unsuspecting victims.” (Given that this is 1914 in the South, I’m guessing those black men were not imagining the taunts and abuses.)
Did I mention that cocaine makes you impervious to bullets? No really. That’s what the good doctor said. Do a few bumps and your skin turns to kevlar or something. So those poor cops in the South had to get bigger guns.
Oh and then there is this.
When we consider that even a single ounce – a quantity that does not fill an ordinary watch pocket – will keep fifty “fiends” well “doped” for a week or more, we can readily understand why every effort to suppress the traffic utterly fails.
OK now. You might have convinced me that there is some really good shit out there that gives you awesome hallucinations. I might have even gone for the bulletproof thing. But a single ounce wouldn’t have lasted me one night at Warsaw.* I’m gonna have to call bullshit.
Naturally, there is no solution to this insanity. “Once the negro has formed the habit he is irreclaimable. The only method to keep him from taking the drug is imprisoning him.”
It’s easy to make fun of this article and movies like Reefer Madness. They are so incredibly ridiculous. But what’s even more ridiculous is how much of it is still part of the public narrative. The crack cocaine reports I grew up with in the 80s weren’t a whole lot different from that 1914 article. One taste and a person is ruined for life. They are going to lose their mind. They will be violent.
There will be no social control!
And by social control we actually mean control of black men and women and “locoed” Mexicans – people like that. We can’t have bulletproof black guys just walking around. And what about those women who smoke weed and become all lusty and whatnot. The only legitimate response is to lock em all up, or at least tuck them away in a suburban kitchen making hamburger helper.
And that is the beginnings of the drug war. The only thing that changed is that it just kept getting worse.
*I cannot believe Warsaw is now a deli, that MSNBC’s Morning Joe broadcasted out of no less. South Beach has gone to shit.