Essay date: December 7, 2022

Blaming Drugs for Nazi Germany

the philosophical problems with 'Blitzed' by Norman Ohler

the philosophical problems with 'Blitzed' by Norman Ohler

t's becoming fashionable lately to ascribe Nazi madness to drug abuse, thanks in large part to the 2017 publication of "Blitzed," by novelist Norman Ohler. But this implicit scapegoating of drugs for homicidal madness is problematic. First because, taken to extremes, this line of argument could be seen as excusing Nazi atrocity. "They were 'on drugs,' after all, and did not know what they were doing." But there is another troubling (though very telling) problem with this attribution as well.

Hitler was like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson when it came to drugs. He did not consider himself a drug abuser or an addict. Why not? Because he was receiving substances from a physician, not a "dealer." He was, he believed, therefore receiving medicine, not drugs. In other words, Hitler was a hypocritical drug prude just like modern Americans. He shared our modern drug-war belief in what Julian Buchanan calls a "drug apartheid," a world in which there are God-blessed "medicines" that we are obliged to take every day of our life and devil-sent "drugs" that we are obliged to never take, ever. Hitler believed that he only took the former kinds of medicines and therefore was simply looking out for his own health. He would be the first to agree with us that there were lousy drug addicts out there, but he would never have counted himself as one of them. In this way, Hitler is like the 1 in 4 American women who are dependent upon Big Pharma meds for life: they, too, would never consider themselves to be addicts. Why not? Because in the age of a Drug War, the term 'addicts' is an aesthetic term. This is clear when we consider the relevant Drug War Newspeak. Addicts go to dealers to get their "fixes." American women go to doctors to receive "their maintenance meds."

The Drug Warrior might argue, "Well, still, at least we can all agree that morphine really screws people up, Hermann Goering included." But that conclusion is wrong as well. Yes, Goering was a boor and no doubt used morphine in excess, that is to say, to the detriment of his duties; but the mere regular use of morphine does not destroy lives (unless the Drug War is on hand to ensure that outcome by withdrawing supply and demonizing and incarcerating the user). Dr. William Henry Welch, a founder of Johns Hopkins University, used morphine for a lifetime, and that use was so far from interfering with his work that his colleagues were not even aware of it until after his death -- at which point they asked naive questions amounting to: "How could he have accomplished so much while using a dirty evil drug called morphine?" Of course, as Thomas Szasz would point out over a half century later, it never occurred to those baffled colleagues that Welch might have accomplished so much THANKS to the morphine use.

Why not? Because it is a firm tenet of the Drug War religion that criminalized substances can have no positive uses whatsoever. It is therefore anathema for the Drug Warrior to think that cocaine could have helped Robin Williams be funny or that coca wine could have helped HG Wells write great short stories. In fact, the Drug Warrior is so oblivious to common sense psychology that they will tell us that these self-actualized individuals would have been so much more successful had they only said "no" to today's long list of demonized substances. But this belief is just that: a belief, a tenet, a faith. It is anything but a prima facie conclusion to which all unbiased minds would naturally accede.

The title of Ohler's book shows his drug-warrior bias. The title is "Blitzed," suggesting that drug use can only lead to scatterbrained and distracted mental states. This is far from the truth, however. Did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's great detective, Sherlock Holmes, use cocaine in order that he might think less clearly? But Ohler is under the spell of Drug War ideology as promulgated by America's Office of National Drug Control Policy, which says that "drug use" must be a sign of pointless hedonism and can have no positive outcomes, like greater mental clarity, for instance, or self-insight. In reality, one might have WANTED the Germans to get "blitzed," if they did so by using entactogens such as MDMA and psilocybin, which might have taught them how to feel empathy for their fellow human beings.

There is another problem with referring to the Nazi leadership as being "blitzed" on "drugs." It is hypocritical. As Thomas Szasz reports, JFK and his wife were routinely prescribed what we would call "speed" today by their doctor. But there are no books out there provocatively describing how that drug use could have impacted his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Indeed, most American writers will not even acknowledge that drug use, let alone speculate extravagantly about how it might have affected his abilities to keep us out of World War III. This is not to say that I blame or condemn that use. To the contrary, I think that it is likely to have helped him in trying circumstances (not by "blitzing" his mind but by focusing it). My point here is only to underline the hypocritical selectivity with which modern Drug Warriors employ the phrase "drug abuse." The term seems to be a weapon that we reserve for use against someone of whom we disapprove, rather than a concept that we apply according to some objective criteria.

While we're on this subject, how does the frequent and often excessive use of alcohol, coffee, tobacco, chocolate, sugar and caffeine affect world leaders and their decision making? That's a question that the Norman Ohlers of the world will never ask, because the world they live in considers substances like these to be like water, substances whose use may be considered a baseline condition of all modern societies. Meanwhile, the substances of which we disapprove can be allowed no positive uses whatsoever and are to be demonized in every way possible, with all past episodes of positive use being censored from historical accounts and biographies.

But the popularity of the book "Blitzed" is not surprising given that American's have been taught for many decades now to blame all social problems on the boogieman called "drugs." It makes learning 20th-century history so much easier for us, after all. "Oh, the Nazis were on DRUGS," we cry. "Why didn't you say so? Now I understand everything!"

But this naive way of viewing the world makes sense only in light of Drug War lies.

The fact is, people are always on "drugs," many of which intensely focus the mind rather than "blitzing" it. Some of us use coffee in excess, many of us use sugar in excess, some of us drink in excess, and some of us (myself included, alas) are dependent on Big Pharma meds for a lifetime. So, why are WE not blitzed? Answer: because Norman Ohler is a typical Drug Warrior: he ascribes the apparently negative outcome of getting "blitzed" only to the use of the substances of which American politicians disapprove, not to any of America's "favorite poisons." The success of his book merely demonstrates how bamboozled Americans have become by the insidious Drug War logic of substance demonziation.

Author's Follow-up: September 14, 2023

I have recently given a detailed critique of the term addiction in my essay entitled "Prohibition Spectrum Disorder, where I parsed the definition given by Webster's and found at least four reasons why the term is more political than scientific.

Next essay: Let's Hear It For Psychoactive Therapy
Previous essay: The Origins of Modern Psychiatry

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old time radio playing Drug War comedy sketches

You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at Brian is the founder of The Drug War Gift Shop, where artists can feature and sell their protest artwork online. He has also written for Sociodelic and is the author of The Drug War Comic Book, which contains 150 political cartoons illustrating some of the seemingly endless problems with the war on drugs -- many of which only Brian seems to have noticed, by the way, judging by the recycled pieties that pass for analysis these days when it comes to "drugs." That's not surprising, considering the fact that the category of "drugs" is a political category, not a medical or scientific one.

A "drug," as the world defines the term today, is "a substance that has no good uses for anyone, ever, at any time, under any circumstances" -- and, of course, there are no substances of that kind: even cyanide and the deadly botox toxin have positive uses: a war on drugs is therefore unscientific at heart, to the point that it truly qualifies as a superstition, one in which we turn inanimate substances into boogie-men and scapegoats for all our social problems.

The Drug War is, in fact, the philosophical problem par excellence of our time, premised as it is on a raft of faulty assumptions (notwithstanding the fact that most philosophers today pretend as if the drug war does not exist). It is a war against the poor, against minorities, against religion, against science, against the elderly, against the depressed, against those in pain, against children in hospice care, and against philosophy itself. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.

It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, meanwhile violating the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America. (Surely, Jefferson was rolling over in his grave when Ronald Reagan's DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated the founding father's poppy plants.)

If you believe in freedom and democracy, in America and around the world, please stay tuned for more philosophically oriented broadsides against the outrageous war on godsend medicines, AKA the war on drugs.

Brian Quass
The Drug War Philosopher

PS The drug war has not failed: to the contrary, it has succeeded, insofar as its ultimate goal was to militarize police forces around the world and help authorities to ruthlessly eliminate those who stand in the way of global capitalism. For more, see Drug War Capitalism by Dawn Paley. Oh, and did I mention that most Drug Warriors these days would never get elected were it not for the Drug War itself, which threw hundreds of thousands of their political opposition in jail? Trump was right for the wrong reasons: elections are being stolen in America, but the number-one example of that fact is his own narrow victory in 2016, which could never have happened without the existence of laws that were specifically written to keep Blacks and minorities from voting. The Drug War, in short, is a cancer on the body politic.

Rather than apologetically decriminalizing selected plants, we should be demanding the immediate restoration of Natural Law, according to which "The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being." (John Locke)

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