By Cliff Kincaid
CNN’s Don Lemon is under fire for making the elementary observation that some of the Ferguson protesters planning violence and mayhem were smoking pot. Linking dope to violence is taboo for most of the media.
Reporting from the scene, Lemon said, “Maybe a minute, two minutes ago we heard a gunshot and watched people scattering. And we’re watching people on the roofs of cars, on the tops of cars and … Obviously there’s a smell of marijuana here as well.”
“Lemon’s comments sparked fierce backlash on social media,” reported Toyin Owoseje of the International Business Times. She said “many members of the online community” accused him of “adding fire to the flames and promoting his own agenda.”
It’s the marijuana, not Lemon’s observation, that added fire to the flames. He was just pointing out the obvious. Are journalists supposed to ignore the use of mind-altering substances by demonstrators planning the burning and looting of businesses?
That Lemon’s simple observation has generated outrage in the press demonstrates how most journalists are trying to play down the harmful effects of the drug and ignore the epidemic of drug use in minority communities. Our media, and some libertarian politicians such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., want everyone to believe that police who enforce the laws and the “War on Drugs” are the problem.
No, it’s the drugs and their consequences, including mental illness and violence.
Don Kaplan of the New York Daily News called Lemon’s remark a “culturally insensitive comment,” as if dope-smoking were something indigenous to Ferguson residents. He also called it a “useless observation” that “polarized critics” against Lemon.
Catherine Taibi of the always politically correct Huffington Post said the remarks sparked a “backlash” against Lemon.
Why so much outrage over a simple observation of fact? Aren’t journalists supposed to report facts?
It is apparent that Lemon’s critics were concerned that viewers might conclude that some of the burning and looting may be linked to the weed that some of them smoke for alleged “recreational” or “medical” purposes. The “backlash” probably came from other marijuana smokers, or those sympathetic to the demonstrators.
Lemon’s critics were obviously concerned that his observation of fact would put the protesters in a bad light.
But, remember that Michael Brown, who assaulted police Officer Darren Wilson, was high on marijuana as well. That is something else the media have tried desperately to downplay.
The idea that this “harmless” substance isn’t so harmless after all is something that the liberal media cannot tolerate. That’s why anything negative about the weed has to be suppressed. If it is reported, such as in the case of Don Lemon, the offending journalist must be ridiculed and ostracized.
The Lemon incident brings up another critical point.
Any reporter who reads the grand jury documents in the case and covers them objectively will note there was an extensive discussion of the possible effects of marijuana on Michael Brown.
DeForest Rathbone, chairman of the National Institute of Citizen Anti-Drug Policy, or NICAP, saw the evidence of dope playing a role in the confrontation between Brown and Wilson, and found a strange omission in the Washington Post’s coverage of the grand jury proceedings. In a letter to the paper, he wrote:
“Michael Brown is continually being described as an ‘unarmed black teenager.’ And that mantra prevails among the liberal media and government officials, enflaming [sic] violent reactions by people believing that the ‘innocent’ teenager was irrationally killed by police.
“But in a glaring example of media bias exacerbating racial tensions in the Michael Brown shooting death, Post reporters left out the key exculpatory fact in the grand jury finding officer Darren Wilson not guilty: The fact that Michael Brown tested positive for marijuana, which could explain his irrational violent behavior, not only in the convenience store which he strong-arm robbed while physically attacking the store clerk, but also in provoking the violent confrontation with police officer Darren Wilson.
“If it weren’t for the mainstream media’s reverence for the ‘sacred cow’ of marijuana, they would see the valid scientific studies showing that pot is currently being produced in varying strengths from a mildly intoxicating 2% THC up to school-shooter-psychosis-inducing 40% to 70% THC. And that early childhood use of pot is a major cause of psychosis and violent behavior … which could be the ‘unknown motive’ frequently cited in news articles on the Ferguson affair.”
Rathbone’s reference to the “unknown motive” is the discussion we have seen on CNN and other networks expressing surprise that Brown would have charged or attacked Wilson. Being stoned on pot, as Brown was, explains his behavior. Many notorious cases of violence have been linked to the drug in the past.
Rathbone said Attorney General Eric Holder’s suspension of enforcement of federal drug laws against marijuana in “Stoner States” has resulted in “producing and shipping brain-destroying, violence-inducing strains of pot throughout the nation.”
“Therefore,” he adds, “it’s not the police, or white racism, that is causing this devastation; it is U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder who turns a blind eye to the malignant impact of marijuana and then tries to blame everybody else for the resulting social chaos.”
Rathbone urged “responsible journalists” to focus on the problem.
But that’s clearly not going to be the case. After attacking Lemon for mentioning the smell of pot amidst the protests, some in the media have decided to attack the prosecutors for even bringing the subject up before the grand jury.
Anthony Zurcher of the BBC questions the role of marijuana in the attack on Wilson and quotes Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine as his authority in saying the dope couldn’t have played a role.
Jacob Sullum is a libertarian who favors legalizing dangerous drugs, and once wrote an article on why heroin is supposedly less dangerous than alcohol and how people can use the drug without harmful effects. He has compared heroin to nicotine. “Even daily opiate use is not necessarily inconsistent with a productive life,” he wrote.
However, there are some reporters beginning to cover the subject objectively.
Rathbone points out that Kevin Torres, a reporter for KUSA in Colorado, where marijuana is legalized, has done a balanced story on the issue, noting that researchers from Harvard and Northwestern University recently found “younger marijuana users are more likely to have learning and mental health problems.” He cited an article from the New England Journal of Medicine showing high THC use being linked to paranoia and psychosis.
Michael Brown was not only high on THC but was apparently preparing to smoke more dope when Officer Wilson caught him walking down the center of a street and asked him to move to the sidewalk. The swisher sweet cigars Brown had stolen from the convenience store are notorious for being used to make marijuana “blunts.”
Our media are desperate to maintain the narrative that the police are shooting black youth for no reason. If the media admit that marijuana is being used extensively in the black community, that fact could lead to other disturbing questions. For example, did Brown’s mother and father know about his drug use? Did they do anything to stop his use of the drug? Have they used drugs themselves?
You and I know these questions won’t be asked because they are considered to be “culturally insensitive.” So the problem will get worse.
Such questions might prompt some serious scrutiny of the Obama/Holder policy of encouraging drug use in America’s communities by failing to enforce federal laws against the possession or distribution of dangerous mind-altering substances.
Drug use helps explain the violent conduct of Brown, as well as some of the protesters. It also explains why they continue to blame Officer Wilson for Brown’s death when the evidence shows that Wilson was only defending himself against what he described as a “demon” coming toward him.
Reporters like to laugh about the old “reefer madness” film depicting crazy conduct resulting from marijuana use. It’s not so funny anymore.
Cliff Kincaid is the director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected].