We still manufacture controversy like nobody's business.
Last week, I wrote a post about the picture that was circulating of Olympic champion Michael Phelps taking a hit off a bong in a friend's dorm room at a South Carolina university. In my original post, I wrote that none of his sponsors had dropped him, but that was premature. Both Kellogg's and Subway have now abandoned him, and several of my blog buddies and other folks on the left blogosphere are also asking for a boycott.
I'm willing to avoid their products on principle, though I buy their products only rarely, so my actions alone won't make that much of a dent. I think the boycott is a good idea, but I'm sure if the companies hadn't dropped him, Focus on the Family would have started a much better organized boycott. I don't expect it is an even trade in the grand scheme of things for Subway and Kellogg's.
You might detect very little bile in the previous paragraphs, and that is because I really can't work up much outrage about Phelps smoking dope or companies deciding to drop him as a spokesman. There are a couple of other details that are coming out that I do feel more strongly about, and those deal with law enforcement.
First, Phelps was found guilty of DUI in 2004, after his first Olympic triumph in Athens. This much more serious offense didn't make any corporation think twice about using him as a spokesman once he became the greatest gold medalist in history. (In Athens, he only won six golds and two bronze. Obviously a young slacker compared to the eight gold in Beijing.) I suspect that the companies assumed the public's memory would be short, and on that point, they are clearly right.
The second and much more disturbing story is that Richmond County sheriff Leon Lott has arrested eight people in an attempt to make a case against Phelps. For me, this is the absolute stupidity of the war on (some) drugs, written in letters a hundred feet high. Why waste all this time and money and screw with so many people's lives over something so trivial?
I'm not a huge advocate for drug legalization. My position is more along the lines of someone who has heard both sides and finds the arguments for continued prosecution of the war on (some) drugs very unconvincing. I might feel more strongly about it if I was a regular user of some illegal substance, but I'm not. I have smoked pot, but I've never bought any and it is not a habit with me, largely because I am no good at smoking anything, cigars, cigarettes or joints. My throat and lungs really don't like it when I suck on irritating fumes, and they let me know their displeasure rather quickly.
I might be more sympathetic to the anti-drug arguments if I had kids, but I can't be sure. I am anti-addiction. I can work up a pretty good wrath over watching my students who can't stay off the cell phones and texting for an hour at a time, but I don't want to ban cell phones, except maybe in my class.
It's ironic how many people who love the free market also love the war on (some) drugs, though it is a war against the free market, and the chances of winning in the long run are slim to none. I had hoped the drug laws in this country would make more sense by now, but I was foolish to hope for it. They may yet change, but I am not holding my breath. My lungs and throat find breath holding almost as irritating as fume sucking.