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TinotopiaLog → Hey Kids! ( 9 Oct 2003)
Thursday 09 October 2003

Hey Kids!

The New York Times reports that Westchester County is going to start using Archie Andrews and friends (Reggie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, etc.) in a campaign to encourage kids not to drink, smoke crack, join the Communist Party, etc., etc., etc.

Part of the initial campaign is this bus ad:

Archie Bus Ad

I cannot believe the ham-fistedness of this. Encouraging kids not to drink: that’s fine.

But I cannot help but notice that every reason they give not to drink has to do with external threats. It’s not “Don’t drink because you’ll likely behave like an idiot for a few hours, and then puke your guts out” — this is how most teenagers drink — it’s “Don’t drink because the judicial hammer will (may) come down on you.” It’s not about teaching kids to make the decision not to drink on their own; it’s about teaching kids to fear the wrath of the police state. This doesn’t seem to be the most-effective anti-drinking campaign possible, but then maybe that’s not the main purpose.

And anyway, Archie? A grinning Archie Andrews, issuing these legal threats and prefacing them with a jovial ‘Hey kids’? Good Lord, what are they thinking?

I’ll tell you what they’re thinking. First of all, the Westchester Youth Alcohol Board (or whatever) is thinking that kids today have any idea who Archie is. They’re not considering that youth culture might have moved on since 1975, when Archie was, if not popular, at least recognized.

And, second, they appear to be under the impression that kids — teenagers, mainly — drink in violation of the law because they’re not aware of the potential penalties. This strikes me as unlikely, what with today’s mandatory drug-‘education’ propaganda classes, and the presence of police officers in ‘educational’ programs in most public schools. The kids are not unaware that using a fake ID is illegal; they just don’t give a shit.

Most legislatures in the United States, including the Congress, seem to have forgotten the lessons of the past: that you can’t really change society by passing more laws, or by enforcing existing laws more vigorously. We’ve seen this throughout history, most recently with alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and with the War on Drugs and the copyright battles today.

For a law to actually be effective, society has to believe in the law. An effective law reflects the will of the society; society does not, outside of a police state, easily bend to the will of the law.

Society just doesn’t consider under-age drinking that big of a problem. Oh, sure, nobody’s in favor of twelve-year-olds getting loaded, but this particular bus ad is clearly about people who can pass as adults. No even marginally ethical person will sell liquor to a twelve-year-old, regardless of what his ID says. The kids who can buy liquor are 17- and 18-years old or older. Many of them can drink legally in most of the world, and most of their parents grew up when 18-year-olds could drink legally in the United States, before Libby Dole federalized the drinking age at 21.

These parents, their kids, and most of the rest of American society, recognize that while there are some risks involved in drinking — by anyone of any age — it’s not really that big a problem.

I could understand, though not agree with, an attempt to change that opinion. I can’t understand the impulse to take out advertisements to scare people into compliance with the law. If all that’s keeping people from doing x is the risk of punishment (and not an actual societal consensus that x shouldn’t be done), the premise of your law is faulty.

And this is before you get to the whole Archie thing.

Posted by tino at 15:41 9.10.03
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This is so over the top that if it were not for the Times’ article I’d say you had photoshopped that to pull our collective leg. Archie characters? The “This will go on your permanent record” threat? What the fuck?

If I were a resident of Weshchester county I’d be demanding drug tests for the County Exec. and any other elected officials.

I give the Times credit for questioning the use of Archie characters so early in the article. The WaPo would have waited until the end.

Posted by: RRP at October 10, 2003 05:42 PM