I’m watching Narcos, first season. Excellent show, but like Homeland, it has a fascist heart. The latter’s heart was all in the war of civilization, aka Muslims equal terrorists. It was never, the West equals massive war dealers and makers killing Muslims and erecting totalitarian states, aka the Saudis and company.There was not even a hint that this was part of the argument. In Narcos, the first show begins with the DEA agent embracing the idea that a criminal investigation is a “war” and gives an approving nod to Pinochet’s death squad action against those terrible ‘dealers’. Then of course there’s the quick flick to America, where the fact that cocaine was increasingly being used in the eighties is taken not as an indication that the particular form of suppression chosen by the state, in particular the formation of the DEA and the extraordinary powers granted it, were a huge mistake, but instead, that the dealers are more evil than we ever thought they were. The DEA, operating as a catalyst to make the smuggling much more violent, then legitimates itself with reference to the violence. And then there’s the money – which is depicted, hilariously, as going from the US to Colombia. This, we are gravely assured, alarmed the good business community of Miami. Miami in the eighties went through an economic boom precisely for the opposite reason. Nobody was investing in Colombia. Like good Latin American capitalists, the dealers invested in the US, and the US banking system and government was complicit all the way. The deregulation of finance and the increasing acceptance of offshore banking just happened, by amazing coincidence, when cocaine’s black money became a major presence in the international system.
About the money, the show is DEA dumb, siting street prices as though they were writ in concrete. The problem for the dealers was that, in spite of the great fiasco of the DEA, they had too much product, so the street price went down.
“Cocaine’s wholesale price fell sharply during the 1980s, rose somewhat in 1990, and then declined fitfully during the rest of the decade. In 1993, the wholesale price dipped below $50 per pure gram, and has never exceeded that level since. The price has fallen every year since 2000, settling at its all-time low in the first half of 2003 ($37.96)” I take this quote from WOLA, which takes it from the American government. Even so, prices and amounts should be viewed with caution. The DEA and police department habitually inflate the price of the drugs they either interdict or claim are on the street. There is really not a reliable index in this area. Estimates are made in the most hazy way, and then, unsceptically, distributed by a press that has long identified with the DEA and the “war on drugs.”
Narcos, unfortunately, is still animated by the spirit of Harry Anslinger, the founder of the Federal antinarcotics bureau and the man who, from the 1920s to the 1960s, did more than anyone else to create the drug mythology. It is painfully stupid to broadcast a series about cocaine that includes crackpot evidence about how rats will prefer cocaine to food or anything else when the audience, and sans doute the people who produced the show, have largely experienced cocaine in their own lives, and know how various responses to it can be. It is and will be the case that cigarettes and alcohol cause more damage than cocaine and heroin put together. The state may well have reasons to suppress the latter two, but those reasons shouldn’t be allowed to trump reality or fill our prisons. Now, of all times, is not the time to make the DEA heroic.