It is a very depressing thing to watch a well-discussed debate in which one side is so fully, objectively wrong.
Google and IQ2 could have chosen a more balanced topic, and we could have seen people on both sides exchanging rational arguments. Instead, we had rational arguments on one side – and emotion and fundamentalist morality on the other.
The anti-drug side believes that taking any mind-transforming substance is wrong. Period. Peter Hitchens said as much: ‘taking drugs is wrong, therefore it is illegal.’ They believe it so strongly that when asked outright whether they think alcohol prohibition is a bad idea – they stumble. If they could, they would, again. They would ban coffee, too – although here their religious morality might stop them, as Julian Assange rightly pointed out: we tend to condone the usage of substances that make us relaxed and peaceful, rather than substances that make us agitated and hard-working.
The drugs are, in fact, so wrong that any means to fight them become justifiable. You could see it in the way the arguments were presented, though it was not said outright by anyone, of course: it is better to die or perish in prison than to take a drug. The most fundamental argument against legalization and regulation was ‘the use of drugs would increase’. Yes, it would – at first, although eventually it would probably go the way of tobacco. But even so, what of it? Only if you believe that taking drugs is fundamentally, morally, objectively wrong is this argument valid in any way. All the deaths, poverty and increase in persecution and criminal activity (and contrary to the falsified statistics the war party peddled, there was an increase in criminal activity linked to the war on drugs) mean nothing if on the other side of the scale is put ‘increase use of drugs’. The threat of somebody doing harm to themselves willingly trumps any harm the society and government could force him to do. And when you see the world in that way, there really is no debate possible.
There were a few gimmicks – pitting Russell Brand against Peter Hitchens or getting Julian Assange out of hiding were obvious ploys to make the debate more engaging (ie. get more views) and it kind of worked. Although I would have preferred Stephen Fry rather than Russell Brand, as he would have made a more eloquent point. There were a few annoyances – like the war party insisting that the debate was ‘not really about the war on drugs’ even though it VERY OBVIOUSLY WAS (hint is in the title). Also, why have all the Americans chosen to appear on the panel were of the anti-drug variety? Surely the organizers could have found some pro-legalization citizens of the USA, or are have they all been put to jail by now?
There was not enough public engagement through the Hangout, and the questions from the public, although much more valid than they usually are in this sort of thing, have not been followed to any conclusion. Hopefully there will be more of it the next time. But all in all, this week’s events – the Versus debate and the Kony 2012 debacle – like the Arab Spring last year, has shown us that the traditional media are becoming more and more irrelevant. The internet is now definitely ‘where it’s at’.