Jacob Sullum vs Bill O'Reilly



O'Reilly asks: Should Americans Be Allowed To Intoxicate Themselves?

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No matter what people say about heroin addicts, they are still victims, and deserve the heroin addiction treatment that they need.

Webmaster: Even if we all agree they should not be allowed to intoxicate themselves, what can you do about it. Do you plan to ban all liquor, all drinking, all bars, all drugs, etc. Do you realize how much that would cost our economy, and I thought america was the land of freedom. If you ban everything that gets you drunk or high, how is that freedom. And who decides what gets banned and what don't get banned. The drug war is a massive failure, it has no more worked than proabition did back in the 40's and 50's. If 20 to 30 million americans want something, they will get it no matter what you do.

Notice how O'Reilly always mentions heroin and kids, this is a red herring, 90% of americans who use drugs use pot, and a few of them use cocaine. Most of them are adults over the age of 18, not many are kids. Most of them never do heroin in their life, I was in the drug world for 20 years and met hundreds, if not thousands of drug users. I would say 80 to 90 percent smoked pot, about 10 to 20 percent smoked pot and did cocaine, I never met one person in my life who did heroin. If you believe it is ok to do what you want in the privacy of your home, what is wrong with getting drunk or getting high in the privacy of your home ?

These facts make O'Reilly's position on this issue laughable, not to mention you will never be able to enforce it.

Notice how O'Reilly constantly cuts the guy off in mid-sentence, he does this on purpose, this is one of the right-wing tactics he uses on liberals to keep them from getting their message out. Yet he rarely ever uses the same tactics on conservatives, most of the time conservative guests are allowed to speak for minutes at a time without being cut off.

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Date: March 13, 2001

O'REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly.

And in the "Unresolved Problems" segment tonight, although I believe it will never happen in this country, there is a growing movement to legalize drugs here. Places like Holland and Denmark allow citizens to intoxicate themselves at will, and this is the heart of the legalization issue.

With us now is Jacob Sullum, the senior editor of "Reason" magazine, and the author of the book "For Your Own Good."

All right, now, you want anybody in America to take any substance and be left alone.

JACOB SULLUM, SENIOR EDITOR, "REASON" MAGAZINE: I think that adults should be free to use any intoxicant they want, as long as...

O'REILLY: Heroin, cocaine.

SULLUM: ... as long as they don't violate other people's rights. I think you have a fundamental right to control your own body and your own mind, and as long as you're not violating other people's rights, you should be left alone, yes.

O'REILLY: But how do you know they're not violating other people's rights? SULLUM: Well, at the point where they do, for example, get behind the wheel while intoxicated, whether they happen to be intoxicated on alcohol or on marijuana or on heroin, they can be penalized for that.

O'REILLY: But isn't that reactive rather than proactive? We have right now 1.1 million arrests for DWI in the United States every year. So you're saying, wait till they do it, then get them, but allow them to do it.

SULLUM: Well, you're suggesting...

O'REILLY: That's reactive.

SULLUM: You're suggesting that we ought to ban alcohol because some people drive while drunk.

O'REILLY: No, no, this is...

SULLUM: That's the logical conclusion...

O'REILLY: ... (inaudible)...

SULLUM: ... is that (inaudible)...

O'REILLY: This is a combo here, drugs and alcohol, DUIs, OK, this is not just alcohol.

SULLUM: No, what my point is, that it's true, some people do drive while drunk. But the vast majority of drinkers are responsible, drink moderately...

O'REILLY: Correct.

SULLUM: ... and the same is true of illegal drug users...

O'REILLY: But there is a law on the books...

SULLUM: ... the vast majority of illegal drug users use drugs in moderation, either occasionally or perhaps once a week. The vast majority of illegal drug users are marijuana users, in fact.

O'REILLY: Well, OK, but look...

SULLUM: Now, we're talking about (inaudible)...

O'REILLY: ... you're getting off, you're getting off the topic in the sense that you believe -- See, I believe public intoxication should be against the law, and it is. If you're intoxicated in public, it's against the law.

SULLUM: Not everywhere. I mean, New Orleans would be an example of a place where you're allowed to drink on the street.

O'REILLY: You may be allowed to drink on the street. You're not allowed to be intoxicated on the street. There's a blood alcohol level everywhere in this United States. If you're over it, you get hauled in. And I believe that's a fair and good law. You don't.

SULLUM: Well, whatever the standard is, the same sort of standard could be applied to illegal drugs. In other words, if you're creating a nuisance because you're intoxicated or while you're intoxicated, it's...

O'REILLY: All right, (inaudible).

SULLUM: ... you can be penalized for that. If you commit an assault...

O'REILLY: That sounds good.

SULLUM: ... while you're intoxicated, no matter what drug it happens to be...

O'REILLY: That sounds good, but it doesn't...

SULLUM: ... you can also be arrested for that.

O'REILLY: ... here's why it doesn't work, and just keep -- I want the audience to keep this in mind. What Mr. Sullum is saying is reactive. You react after the fact to person being caught intoxicated and doing an antisocial act. Now, here's why intoxication is so bad and why it shouldn't be allowed anywhere.

Over the past 10 years, the number of abused and neglected children has more than doubled, from 1.4 million in '86 to more than 3 million in 1997. All right? Children whose parents abuse drugs are almost three times likelier to be abused and more than four times likelier to be neglected. Society cannot protect those children because they can't go into the home, all right?

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Webmaster: More spin from O'Reilly, that study also includes people who use liquor, he makes it sound like it only covers drug users. He uses the children red herring again, it's not about the children, it's about the right for an adult to use a drug or a drink to get high and drunk in the privacy of their own home or in a bar etc.

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So if you are going to say, and say anybody can take whatever substance they want, heroin, crack cocaine, regular cocaine, methamphetamine, hallucinogens, you are putting children in danger, and society cannot protect them. And that is the crux of this matter.

SULLUM: All right, we could say the same thing about alcoholics. (inaudible) percentage of...

O'REILLY: No, look...

SULLUM: Hang on, hang on...

O'REILLY: You're just dodging the issue.

SULLUM: You said -- no, I'm not...

O'REILLY: Stay with the powerful drugs.

SULLUM: ... the issue is...

O'REILLY: Stay with the powerful...

SULLUM: ... there's a difference between use and abuse.

O'REILLY: Don't wimp out with the alcohol business.

SULLUM: No, alcoholics beat their children...

O'REILLY: Don't wimp out with it.

SULLUM: ... right?

O'REILLY: That's a wimpy thing, you always divert...

SULLUM: (inaudible)...

O'REILLY: ... to alcohol.

SULLUM: You're saying (inaudible)...

O'REILLY: I'm saying heroin is more powerful...

SULLUM: ... (inaudible) what's the difference? In what sense is it more powerful?

O'REILLY: ... than a beer? More powerful than a beer.

SULLUM: And it's going to make you beat your children in a way that being drunk is not going to?

O'REILLY: Cocaine -- sure will.

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Webmaster: That statement is insane, I have used cocaine a hundred times in my life, not once did it make me want to beat a child, or anyone. Cocaine makes you horny, it mellows you out and makes you want to have sex. The above statement by O'Reilly is the stupidest thing I have ever heard in my life. If anything makes you want to beat someone, it's liquor, I personally know a couple guys who want to fight when they drink jack daniels. These same guys also do cocaine, neither one of them want to fight someone when they do coke. Especially jack daniels, whiskey is what makes people want to fight after drinking it. Yet you don't hear a word about that from O'Reilly.

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SULLUM: Well, that's a myth. I mean, if you look at so-called crack- related homicides, all right, which I'm sure you've heard about, and you say, what actually happened? Almost never is it the case that a quote-unquote "crack-related homicide" is committed under the influence of crack. Almost all of these crimes are related to the black market. And those conditions of violence are created by prohibition, the same way that we had violence during alcohol prohibition.

SULLUM: That's an important point (inaudible), the drug does not cause the violence...

O'REILLY: We have a...

SULLUM: ... the violence is associated with the black market.

O'REILLY: All right. We got you.

SULLUM: OK.

You want to compound that problem by allowing all intoxicants, all illegal drugs, as powerful as these drugs are -- you know how powerful methamphetamine is. You want to say that's OK, bring it on in, compound the alcohol problem by 10, so that these children, 3 million of them, can be abused, because society can't stop it, can't go in the house.

SULLUM: What I'm saying is that the same kinds of moral dis -- and legal distinctions that we apply to alcohol can and should be applied to other drugs.

O'REILLY: It's nuts.

SULLUM: So we don't say, because some drunks beat their kids or beat their wives or screw up at work or get drunk, get behind a wheel, and kill people, therefore all drinking is banned. We distinguish between responsible and irresponsible use, between moderate drinkers and alcoholics. Furthermore, we distinguish between alcoholics who ruin only their own lives, right, they drink themselves to death, but they still show up for work on time, they still -- you know, they don't beat anybody, they don't drive while drunk...

O'REILLY: But this is such a -- this is such a morally...

SULLUM: These kinds of distinctions...

O'REILLY: ... hollow argument that it makes me shake.

SULLUM: Why is it hollow? Explain to me the distinction...

O'REILLY: It makes me shake.

SULLUM: ... between...

O'REILLY: It makes me shake, because what you're saying is that you don't care about these 3 million children...

SULLUM: That's not what I said.

O'REILLY: ... you don't care about them.

SULLUM: We could play back the tape...

O'REILLY: You would rather that...

SULLUM: ... and I'm pretty sure that's not what I said.

O'REILLY: Well, I'm telling you, this is what I'm taking from your argument. Your argument is that any adult in America has a right to intoxicate themselves, period. Society shouldn't intervene...

SULLUM: All right, so (inaudible)...

O'REILLY: That's what you're arguing (inaudible).

SULLUM: ... so are you -- if you -- do you want to ban alcohol? (inaudible), do you...

O'REILLY: What I would say is...

SULLUM: ... ban alcohol? No.

O'REILLY: What I would say is this. You deflect the argument against drugs...

SULLUM: Because the principle...

O'REILLY: ... by falling back on alcohol.

SULLUM: Alcohol is a drug, and the principle is the same.

O'REILLY: Right. We have a big problem with alcohol...

SULLUM: I want you to explain to me the distinction, what's the...

O'REILLY: ... we have a big problem with alcohol. You want to compound it, compound it by adding all of these other intoxicants in, and the kids are going to suffer.

SULLUM: All right, let's -- (inaudible) let's step back...

O'REILLY: I'll give you the last word, I'm...

SULLUM: ... let's step back, OK. Let's talk about the typical drug user.

O'REILLY: I don't have time...

SULLUM: The typical drug user...

O'REILLY: ... (inaudible), wrap up your argument. We're through. And the audience can decide.

SULLUM: The typical drug user is not beating his kid. The typical drug user is a responsible citizen...

O'REILLY: Oh, yeah.

SULLUM: ... and who is using marijuana from time to time, perhaps at that...

O'REILLY: All the stats...

O'REILLY: All the stats show that as the intoxicants rise in this society, child abuse rises, DUIs rise, and all kinds of other social things, homelessness and everything else.

But look, the audience will make up their own mind (inaudible). Thanks for a lively debate, we appreciate it.