New museum exhibit tackles drugs

By Abrad · Aug 11, 2006 · ·
  1. Abrad
    First there was "Just Say No." Then came the frying egg and a dire warning: "This is your brain on drugs."

    Now the anti-drug message is spread across 5,000 square feet at the Museum of Science and Industry, replete with depictions of a drug-addled brain, a mock methamphetamine lab and twisted wreckage from the World Trade Center.

    The traveling exhibit, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is equal parts science, history and social commentary. Critics say it is propaganda that lacks balance, but thousands of schoolchildren in five cities have passed through its halls, including teen drug and alcohol offenders sentenced to see it by a Michigan judge.

    "Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause" opens Friday and runs through Dec. 3.

    Peter Bensinger, a former DEA head who worked to bring the exhibit to Chicago, said it is a remedy for years of less than effective drug education efforts. The target audience, he said, is children ages 8 to 14.

    "The brain doesn't look like a fried egg," said Bensinger, who led the agency from 1976 to 1981. "This is reaching out beyond a passive message on TV or a catchy phrase.

    "We're not going to arrest our way out of the drug problem in America," he added. "We need education."

    The first scene visitors see after passing through the exhibit's double doors is jarring: a crumpled green Thunderbird that a man high on marijuana, cocaine, benzodiazepines and opiates slammed into a car carrying a woman and her three children. The woman died.

    From there, the exhibit chronicles the stages of the drug trade from production to trafficking to money laundering. A reproduction of a crack dealer's apartment includes cigarette butts on the floor, ripped wallpaper and a soiled diaper.

    Elsewhere there are faux heroin and cocaine production plants, a scientific look at how drugs affect the body and "The Chicago Story," which chronicles the local drug war by detailing advances in drug-busting technology and major arrests over the decades.

    That section also offers visitors the opportunity to watch unsuspecting museum patrons with a police camera mounted in the lobby--the same kind used to track drug deals in high-crime neighborhoods.

    What often attracts the most attention, organizers say, is the "Lost Talent" portion--photographs of people killed by drugs, ranging from teenagers to rock stars. There is also a slide show of photos of people whose deaths are linked to drugs in some way.

    Among them is Jay Balchunas, a Wisconsin Department of Justice investigator who was killed in 2004 in a gas station robbery while on his way to a drug investigation. Balchunas' sister Linda Lamm, 34, of New Berlin, Wis., took her two sons to tour the exhibit.

    "I know not to do any of that stuff," said Andy Lamm, 8, as he looked over "Breaking the Cycle," a history of law enforcement's pursuit of illegal drugs. "Don't do drugs."

    A heavy effort is made to link drugs to terrorism, and near an enormous image of Osama bin Laden it is noted that Al Qaeda has thrived in the drug trade. But the connection isn't always as clear: In the "Impact on the World" display, images from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks sit beside a photo described as "addicts getting high."

    Even Bensinger had a hard time explaining it.

    The exhibit also includes browned and distorted pieces of the World Trade Center, which sit in the middle of the hall beside pieces of the Pentagon.

    The link between drugs and those pieces of wreckage seems circuitous at best, leading critics to say the exhibit is more like propaganda than an objective treatment of the topic.

    An A-list of visitors came out for Thursday's opening, including DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, Mayor Richard Daley, Police Supt. Philip Cline and former Chicago Cub Ryne Sandberg, whose foundation is a sponsor, as is the McCormick Tribune Foundation.

    "Kids are getting all kinds of misinformation out there, from their friends, from legalizers, from the Internet," Tandy said "These are the real facts about the consequences of drugs. ... Kids will get their one-stop shopping here real fast.

    "If you go

    "Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause"

    Where: Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive.

    Cost: Free with regular admission, which is $11 for adults, $9.50 for seniors and $7 for children age 3-11.

    Hours: Regular museum hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

    Runs: Through Dec. 3.

    Information: (773) 684-1414 or

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  1. Forthesevenlakes
    sickening that this bilge should be forced upon schoolchildren.
  2. Bajeda
    Yeah thats pretty true besides the legalizers part.

    Friends give dumbass info on drugs much of the time.

    The internet has some bad info too ----> ,

    Kids will get their one-stop shopping, true to American culture. Just open your mouth and shove it in, not caring how it was made or why. Consumerism at its best.

    One problem with things like these is while pro-drugs people can have rallys/concerts as they have decent supporters, the DEA has much better financial resources.

    There may not be much actual outright lying at the exhibit, but it still frames drugs in a biased way. God how I hate the single-mindedness of the DEA. They need to drop some acid.
  3. Lunar Loops
    Yeah, whilst also dropping their trousers and and haveing the lastest exhibit royally rammed up their retentive holes.

    What a sickeningly pathetic message. The problem is, just how many people will swallow it? Unfortunately, I think the answer to that question is many. PR on a grand scale by the Bush admin and made to look legit by placing it in a museum. 'If you take drugs, you are effectively a terrorist'.

    Gald to see that there is some active opposition to this crock of shit. This from The washington Post:
    Drug-Terror Connection Disputed

    DEA Defends Traveling Exhibit as Critics Draw Parallels to Prohibition Era

    By Kari Lydersen
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, August 12, 2006; Page A03

    A photograph of President Bush waving a flag after the Sept. 11 attacks is juxtaposed against a black-and-white image of an African American mother smoking crack cocaine in bed next to her baby. Larger-than-life portraits of Osama bin Laden and Pablo Escobar line the walls. The central message of a traveling Drug Enforcement Administration exhibit unveiled at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry yesterday is that terrorism and drugs are inextricably linked.
    But advocates of legalization who are leafleting outside the exhibit say the DEA is leaving out an important part of the story. Critics agree that drug trafficking provides a potentially lucrative revenue stream for terrorist organizations. But they say the profit is actually fueled by the government's war on drugs, which creates a situation akin to prohibition of alcohol.
    "If we taxed and regulated drugs, terrorists wouldn't have drugs as a source of profit," said Tom Angell of the nonprofit Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which focuses on restoring financial aid for college students with drug convictions.
    "With the connection to Prohibition in Chicago we should know better," said Pete Guither, a professor of theater management at Illinois State University and founder of the blog
    DEA spokesman Steve Robertson responded: "We're a law enforcement agency -- we enforce the laws as they are written. Congress makes the laws. People say if we didn't have [drug] laws there wouldn't be a problem, but there was a problem before and that's why laws were established."
    Jeanne Barr, a history teacher at a private Chicago high school, plans to distribute fliers and bring her students to study the exhibit, titled "Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause."
    "We'll look for possible omissions and oversimplifications," she said. "They don't pin any blame on the prohibition of drugs. But from my understanding of history, the major source of the black market is prohibition. I don't think there's any difference between alcohol prohibition and what we're looking at today."
    Critics of the DEA exhibit also question its linking of drugs to al-Qaeda. Another Web site with which Guither is affiliated, , quotes the Sept. 11 commission report as finding that "there is no reliable evidence that Bin Ladin was involved in or made his money through drug trafficking."
    The 2001 attacks are clearly the centerpiece of the exhibit, with a display of rubble and artifacts from Ground Zero under a banner reading "Traffickers, Terrorists and You."
    "For al-Qaeda it's hard" to prove a link, said DEA public affairs chief Garrison Courtney. "I don't think we're saying 9/11 was caused by drug financing. But we're saying there is a link between drugs and terror, and September 11 is a poignant example of terrorism. Terrorists don't hold bake sales to raise money."
    The exhibit includes a list of organizations designated as terrorist by the State Department, with the explanation that "nearly 50 percent" of them get funds through drug trafficking. There is a replica of a heroin-processing lab in Afghanistan and references to heroin production funding the Taliban.
    But it does not mention that the Taliban publicly opposed heroin production, though federal prosecutors allege that Baz Mohammed, a recently convicted Afghan drug kingpin, had ties to al-Qaeda; that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported in 2003 that production of opium poppies in Afghanistan rose dramatically after the Taliban was overthrown; or that a top U.S. anti-drug official recently acknowledged allies' doubts about the effectiveness of poppy eradication in Afghanistan, where poor farmers have few options on crops.
    "The Taliban said they had a moratorium on the production of opium poppies, but they were taxing the farmers who were doing it anyway," said DEA agent David Lorino, who was in Afghanistan.
    The exhibit says the 2004 Madrid train bombing involved a hashish-for-explosives swap, and that in 2002 federal agents foiled two plans to trade heroin and hashish for Stinger antiaircraft missiles that suspects planned to sell to al-Qaeda and a Colombian paramilitary organization. The exhibit features Colombian and Peruvian guerrilla forces financed by cocaine.
    The exhibit opened in Dallas on Sept. 11, 2003, and has been shown in New York, Omaha and Detroit. It was brought to Chicago at the request of Mayor Richard M. Daley (D), who blamed drugs for "80 percent of the crime factor in our city" in his remarks when the exhibit opened.
    The Chicago component of the exhibit highlights terror caused by local gangs involved with drugs. DEA spokesman Robertson also took a broader view of terrorism and drugs.
    "Terrorists' goal is to tear down current societies and governments and offer something else," he said. "Drug abuse degrades societies from within because of the effect on society, on users and on health services. Drug trafficking is a way to degrade societies, which helps terrorists in their goal."
  4. Bajeda

    Good find on the article. Its good that that someone is trying to show that the link between terrorism and drugs is pretty much bullshit, just as the link between all anti-american terrorism and islam is bullshit as well.

    I love how its a poor black lady smoking crack behind the twin towers. Why not a rich white guy snorting some coke? Or better yet how bout a picture of thousands of black convicts in prison overlayed with a picture of some columbian drug lords sitting around a table toasting the DEA?

    The symbolism the DEA is trying to use in this case is sickening. They are using incredibly deceptive marketing to try and demonize drugs and they show an appalling lack of morality and respect for others. The picture of sept. 11th with the black lady smoking crack disgusts me to no end. The paralells they are trying to draw there reflect some of the major problems with American society as a whole.

    Stop inflamming terrorist groups to go after America when they didn't even want to do that in the first place and stop demonizing drugs and wasting money and lives fighting for prohibition.

    Maybe if they stop all of that they can actually deal with the problems of race and social inequity and religious hypocrisy that are the real issues driving this nation apart.

    *end rant*

    And they can't see any way that prohibition could be a major cause of these problems they are attributing to the drugs themselves? [​IMG]
  5. old hippie 56
  6. old hippie 56
    seen this little tidbit: Following the president's logic in linking domestic drug use to terrorism, he himself is directly financing terrorists through his involvement in the oil industry. Most terrorist activity is funded by the oil trade.
  7. Paracelsus
    that is definitely political propaganda. i hate the part with the reproduced crackdealers apartment and with drug-sponsored terrorism.#

    and exposing pieces from the WTC relating 9/11 to Al-Quaida's drug trade is a major offense against intelligence if any is left in the government.... So now they got drugs as a scapegoat for 9/11 while its getting more and more obvious that the US govt was behind this one. So now schoolchildren will "understand" that drugs were responsible for 9/11, because they dont seem to be able to understand the profound backgrounds of government-sponsored terrorism and stuff like that. In a couple of years, when some kid sees a smoker he will tell him "YOU are paying terrorists".

    agree with you hippie. it is proven that oil exports provide the money for terrorist organizations (mostly islamistic ones).
  8. OccularFantasm
  9. pankreeas
    This offends me down to my core, as it should anyone else with half a brain. Next step: curators that hold your hand as you go about the exhibits and when you leave they plant drugs on you and have police waiting outside. That would get you into the "feel" of what it's like to be a vicious horrible pot smoker... after that.. safe injection sight wing of the museum so we can watch and gawk at all the addicts getting their fixes.. ahh so funny. I'll take a popcorn, medium root beer, and a twix please!
  10. pankreeas of Contemporary Art

    "The outreach program, called Women on the Rise!, has been introduced by the Museum of Contemporary Art at six centers for teenage girls coping with juvenile detention, drug abuse, sexual and physical violence or emotional disorders."

    that bullshit exhibit is spawning all sorts of other garbage that tries to keep the propaganda steadily flowing..heck they are making art to showcase something nobody wants to tackle. If there was only proper education and guidelines laid down by authoratative figures, rather than no. it's bad ok. Your mother tells you something is bad you wanna know why. I think parents should explain everything to their kids through proper data / fact sheets, then test them on it. Heck there should be that course in school as an elective. Harm prevention 101..102..1.......

    sorry I wasn't done with this 1
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