Monday, November 3, 2008

When Pundits Fight, Who Loses?

As you can see from the video, a discussion on today's Democracy Now! veered into O'Reilly Factor territory, when drug legalization advocate and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance Network Ethan Nadelmann squared off with California attorney general and former governor Jerry Brown over California ballot initiative Proposition 5. Prop 5, like our own Measure 57 here in Oregon, calls for treatment for certain drug offenders, and for that reason alone, I would vote for it, were I a Californian. Unfortunately, Nadelmann, who is clearly a smart guy (he's a recipient of both a JD and PhD from Harvard, as well as a masters in International Relations from the London School of Economics), couldn't keep his cool, and early in the debate actually attempted to shout Jerry down, employing that classic O'Reillian rhetorical device, "Shut Up!" Despite host Amy Goodman's attempts to restore some civility to the discussion, Nadelmann's demeanor didn't improve much from there.

While I agree with nearly all of Nadelmann's positions regarding drug policy, I'm terribly disappointed in his utter failure to express his ideas in anything resembling a diplomatic and rational discourse. The "war on drugs" has, of course, been a disaster, filling our prison system with non-violent offenders while denying addicts the treatment they so desperatley need (to say nothing of the state of dysfunction in our education system which creates this problem in the first place), but for Nadelmann to behave in this manner can only serve to discredit all the rest of us who demand of our leaders a sane and rational approach to drug policy. It also discredits those in the alternative media who offer a venue for these views. I can only hope that this will be the last time Goodman invites Nadelmann onto her show.

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