Tuesday, January 30, 2007

ENGL 1020: Blog Post III

Select a video from Youtube that you find interesting, humorous, unique, or important. What is the focal point of the video? How does the context effect the way you, as a member of a broader on-line community, understand the video? Hint: Think about a) the content of the video, b) any aspects of the video that may have been altered by the person who posted the video, & c) the fact that you are watching this particular clip, not on television or in the movie theater, but on a computer at home/school. These questions should initiate the process of inquiry for you, but do not feel limited by them. If you can think of any other relevant questions concerning context that (sh/c)ould be asked, please feel free answer them.


The above Youtube video clip entitled “LSD Educational Video (Part 1),” an archival film from a 70s-era anti-drug campaign, focuses on a pseudo-dialectical exchange between a teacher & her students with the intent of encouraging teenagers not to ingest lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). The video’s logical structure necessitates the prefatory “pseudo” tag because the clip presents the viewer with only the veneer of a dialectic in order to construct a more convincing piece of propaganda. But, to forward such a claim, one must examine the actual argument—& the logical fallacies therein—to demonstrate how it fails.

The initial argument Mrs. Andratti must confront contains two parts: the first question deals with "those freaky chromosomes" & LSD's ability to alter, presumably an unborn infant's, genetic structure; the second question confronts youth culture's fatalistic/apathetic attitudes—"If LSD won't kill my chromosomes, the pollution in the air & water will. So what's the difference?" Mrs. Andratti, rightly, divides these two issues so as to address each in isolation; but she fails to construct an adequate response to either argument.

Regarding the gene-damage, Andratti claims: "We know that if we don't take LSD, we won't damage our chromosomes. All scientists know is that it is too soon to know what the damage will be." Her response is based off of widely held beliefs during the late-60s that LSD triggered chromosome breakage & mutation within human subjects. The tests that produced these theories were highly flawed, & as early as 1971, scientific studies disproved these previous held beliefs. Whether or not she was aware of these findings is irrelevant. What is relevant, though, is her choice of diction. Given the fact that no scientific evidence can support her claim, she can neither illustrate nor define the adverse effects; but, her decision to speak of the “damage [that] will be,” as opposed to the “damage [that] might be,” infers that, although no damage can definitively be proven at the moment, uncovering such discoveries are only of temporal concern.

The second issue—that of fatalism—does not fair much better. In an effort to divert attention from LSD usage, Mrs. Andratti conflates society's concerns over drug usage with then current environmental problems & thus links the "bad people" destroying our natural resources with acid users (The initial separation, it would seem, has dissolved). I quote her final thoughts at length to demonstrate her tactic:
I don't agree that we should sit back, swallow some acid, & say "Wow, man, pollution is gonna kill us anyway." This time, the whole country is worried about pollution, & things are being done about it all the time*. How much are we doing about it if all we do is complain & swallow a drug? Not much better than bad people doing bad things about our water & air. This world is in bad shape, but it’s the world your generation is going to have to run in the next 10 to 30 years. So what kind of preparation is LSD...for what you're going to have to do to straighten it out?

In addition to the unwarranted conflation of two separate issues, Andratti presents two other logical fallacies as necessarily sound. First, her implied cause & effect argumentation that when one ingests LSD, they become apathetic ("pollution is gonna kill us anyway") & lethargic ("we [will] sit back") is not grounded in reality. In fact, many of the drug swallowers she references were actively protesting the Vietnam War during this time period in an attempt to induce a fundamental shift within American paradigms of foreign policy & military operation. Her second flaw resides in the assumption that, if one consumes LSD, (s)he will not be able to (Assuming they can actually get off their ass, right?) contribute effectively because they are unprepared. Many would argue just the opposite. LSD-users often times claim they experience an altering of perception & consciousness that enables them to be more fully in-tune with the rhythms of the natural world & come to a better understanding of the way in which they are delicately integrated into the fabric of a global community.

Of course, none of the students attempt to refute or dispute Mrs. Andratti’s logic. The students’ acquiescence is due to the fact that this video, obviously, is a propaganda piece funded by an anti-drug campaign & not an actual classroom seeking to participate in a dialectical exchange. In an effort to mimic logical discourse without actually entering into such an arrangement, Andratti’s arguments are not rigorously attacked, which in turn does not necessitate a rigorous defense. But, absent of a well-rounded defense, she allows for her reasoning to be easily dismantled by any semi-intelligent (Yeah, that’s me.) viewer.

In retrospect, "LSD Educational Video (Part 1)" strikes the viewer as a rather under-developed & facile attempt to convince a younger generation of the possible dangers of drug use. Yet, as anti-drug campaigns became more attuned to television & other multi-media avenues, so did their propaganda. One need only consider the highly-effective "This is your brain on drugs" campaign to witness the transition from ineffectual didacticism to slickly conceived advertising strategies.

* It appears that, even today, not much has been done about the environment. If the current administration’s actions are indicative of Mrs. Andratti’s claim that “things are being done about it all the time,” the global community has much to worry about.

For more LSD & Youtube fun, check out these videos: LSD Educational Video (Part2), LSD Kids, UK Soldiers & LSD

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