The DEA’s Cringeworthy Twitter Hashtags Exemplify Drug War Logic

    Surprisingly and unfortunately, prohibition enjoys some trendy branding. Look no further than DARE—the 1980s anti-drug curriculum taught by police in schools that is now emblazoned on a cult T-shirt sold at retailers like Urban Outfitters.

    But prohibition has not adapted well to the Twitter Age. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s cringeworthy hashtags.

    No one likes Mondays (except, maybe, when it’s #ManCrushMonday). But DEA Chicago, one of the agency’s most avid hashtag abusers, likes to celebrate #MisuseMonday:

    The hashtag seems designed to warn Twitter users, especially parents, about the dangers of certain controlled substances.

     

    #MisuseMonday aims to “engage the parents and community members” around “the demand side of things [which] is a concern,” Special Agent Sharon Santiago of the DEA Chicago tells Filter. It’s an attempt “to get more education out there, especially for the younger generation that follows Twitter and other social media outlets.”

    Additionally, #MisuseMonday stokes fears around the threat of misuse and diversion of methadone and buprenorphine—fears that already lead to prohibitively strict regulation and control.

    Later in the week, the DEA brings us #ThinkTwiceThursday:

    If we delve into the mystery of this hashtag’s origins, the DEA launched a website called “Just Think Twice” in 2006. It includes information on drugs and personal testimonies of teenagers who use drugs. Predictably, the site mostly features people who have overdosed—not those who have been able to use substances in less harmful ways (the vast majority).

    In one tweet, DEA Chicago includes an incoherent video that surely horrifies even the Saturday morning-ready DARE animators:

     

    But the week still isn’t over! #FugitiveFriday, the DEA’s most widely used hashtag, is perhaps the most troubling. Blatantly evocative of fugitive slave posters—and a direct descendant of their progeny, “Most Wanted” listings—the hashtag was started by DEA headquarters, according to Santiago, and is now used by other agencies, like the FBI and sheriffs’ departments.

    #FugitiveFriday places police operations and the victims of the drug war within the lighthearted cultural space of #ThrowbackThursday or #TGIF. The Chicago DEA refused to comment on this criticism.

    Like most, Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections is thrilled when it’s Friday–unfortunately, though, for the most deplorable of reasons:

    (Identifying information redacted by Filter)

    In line with its lo-fi #MisuseMonday video, Chicago DEA posted a bizarre clip, featuring upbeat rock music and editing quality significantly inferior to most home videos.

    Even major newspapers like the Houston Chronicle have gotten on board the DEA’s Twitter trend:

    And thank goodness that Rick Leventhal of Fox News didn’t forget!

     

    According to Santiago, the hashtag aims “to build awareness of those who are trying to avoid law enforcement in one way or another” and who may be in “your community [and] you might not know.”

    But at the end of the day: “It’s an easy retweet.”


    Photo by Con Karampelas on Unsplash

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