The war on drugs was a government campaign started in 1971 by Richard Nixon to stop illegal drug use, distribution, and trade.
The goal of the campaign was to make drugs less accessible so that they would no longer be a threat to the country. Since the start of the campaign the US has spent over a trillion dollars trying to accomplish this goal but it still has yet to be successful. In fact, the war on drugs has only led to a bigger strain on the American justice system. From the start of this conflict, many have seen it a racial issue just as much as a drug issue due to the amount of African Americans in jail compared to Whites even though both use and sell drugs at the same rate. In a short film called “The War on Drugs in an Epic Fail,” the government campaign is briefly explained by Jay-Z, or Shawn Carter, the narrator and lyricist of the video. He explains how the war on drugs came about and gives an overview of the main points of the conflict, especially those in support of his argument agreeing that the war on drugs coincides with racial issues. Carter, along with Dream Hampton, a filmmaker and co-author of Jay-Z’s book “Decoded,” created the video in response to a statement made by Michelle Alexander author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” Alexander believes that “it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways in which it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans (http://newjimcrow.
com/about).” In the video, Carter provides more information on the subject in hopes of bringing about change to the judicial system. Through the use of ethos, logos, and pathos he effectively convinces his audience that the continuing fight against drugs is a situation in which needs fixed.Throughout the film, Carter makes several strong statements each building up to his final point and his purpose of the film, to rethink our policies and laws regarding drugs.
In the film, he focuses his points on New York. Carter focuses in on New York because that is where he is from and it is where he has witnessed the racial bias. In the film, he states, “Young men like me who hustled became the sole villains and drug addicts lacked moral fortitude.
” His personal experience gives him credibility because it shows that he’s familiar with the situations that he refers to in the film.During the film, Carter also makes several statements that appeal to logos. The first is that war on drugs had caused the Black and Latino populations to grow more than 900% since the beginning of the war. He also states that even though the crack era has ended, the war on drugs continues.
Carter mentions that there were more than 1.5 million drug arrests in 2014, more than 80% were for possession only. This goes along with the fact that the US imprisons more people than any other country in the world even those the US considers repressive. His use of statistics allows for the audience to get a sense of the overwhelming amount of unfair arrests being made each year. While Carter seems to focus in on logos, the visual portion of the video makes several appeals to pathos. As he is speaking, the audience is witnessing artist Molly Crabapple create paintings pertaining to what Carter is talking about at the moment. Many of the paintings show Blacks as criminals portraying them in handcuffs, wearing orange, or behind bars. One painting even shows some wearing devil horns.
This is all while the white people in the video are shown smiling or wearing nice clothing. To further emphasize the difference between the two groups different sound effects are played for each. In one painting, while the White man is being drawn there is a soft piano playing in the background, but when the Black man is being drawn, a harsher beat is played. This appeals to the audience’s emotions by showing that there is a clear difference between the two groups and how they are seen through the system.Carter’s hopes for the short film were to bring about change to the judicial system so the main audience that he is addressing are those who have the ability to make those changes to the policies and laws regarding drugs. For the film, he partnered up with The New York Times to spread his word to not only his fans but to anyone with access to the paper, expanding his audience.
By expanding his audience to a much larger group he is trying to get them to respond by first acknowledging the problem. He wants to kickstart a change to these policies by first informing the people of the problem so that more than just those who have experienced the bias are aware of it.