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You Have Been Gaslit!

or, when someone tells you that your entire life has been a mistake

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

March 18, 2024

The following is a philosophical riff, albeit one inspired by real events. The implicit target of its criticisms is a composite character possessing the various philosophical prejudices that the author has encountered over the years. Any resemblance to actual philosophers, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

It is sometimes hard to keep pushing back against the hydra-headed evils of the Drug War when one gets so little attention and support from the powers that be, even from those whom one might have supposed to be on the right side of such issues. But the most exquisite mental torture of all arises when one of those "powers that be" finally responds to your "calls to parley" but in such a way as to suggest that you are out of your mind, that the problems you are citing are "well in hand" by the mainstream, thank you very much, and that "you take those things for bird-bolts that you deem cannon-bullets," as Olivia said of Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. This, at least, is the impression that I got from my latest engagement with a mover and shaker in the psychedelic world.

Now, to be fair, this may be my fault. I wrote a recent essay in which I apparently gave the impression that I was criticizing this gentleman in specific for not speaking out on this topic, whereas my goal was to praise him for what folks like himself were doing while yet suggesting that the subject of drugs is still massively ignored (you might say "massively under-contemplated") in philosophical discussions in general. This is not necessarily true in the paths that this guy treads, but it is clearly the problem with philosophy in general. In five years of writing about the philosophy of drugs, I have yet to find one single mainstream philosopher who will even talk about the issue, with the exception of this recent tweet which seemed to assure me that "all was well in the ivory towers" viz the importance of psychoactive substances.

And it's not that I have an abrasive writing style that turns everybody off. I have had some productive discussions with a variety of Great Courses teachers over the years on a variety of subjects, but the second that I suggest that there is a drug-related angle to the topics that they cover, these professors "go dark." They disappear off the face of the Internet as far as I am concerned. It is apparently more than their jobs are worth to talk openly and freely about such subjects. And that's the optimistic assumption. The pessimistic assumption is that they have been successfully programmed since grade school by Drug War ideology (watching TV shows whose plots were vetted by the White House, etc.) into truly believing that it is immoral to even suggest that "drugs" have any benefits whatsoever.

Where is the sense of outrage of these philosophers? Where is the sense of urgency?

Where is the sense of outrage of these philosophers? Where is the sense of urgency? As a chronic depressive, I have now gone a lifetime without godsend medicines because of this pathological sensitivity about "drugs" and the laws that such an attitude promotes - and yet I seem to be the only one in the world who is pushing back against the outlawing of laughing gas by the FDA. But do we really need a personal motive to get upset? Surely we as philosophers should be upset about the outlawing of the substance that shaped William James's philosophy of reality. Yet my 100+ emails to Harvard and Oxford on this subject have gone unanswered. Not their problem, apparently. But surely it is a problem for academia itself and for those who believe that human progress should not be outlawed by the government. Not only is Harvard not protesting, but they do not even admit that James ever used laughing gas in their biography of the man on the Harvard website.

Instead of outlawing laughing gas, we should be making it available in kits for the suicidal to keep them from killing themselves, just as we give epi pens to those with serious allergies.

So please, please, please don't try to drive me raving mad by telling me that I am imagining things, that philosophers have "got this" when it comes to drugs. To the contrary, they are bewitched, bothered and bewildered about drugs, as are most Americans, and almost all non-fiction authors. That's why the racks at the bookstore are full of works whose conclusions would be very different had the author taken into account what we know about "drugs" - what some of us have always known but what materialist science, with law enforcement looking over its shoulder, is finding out in a truly glacial fashion thanks to its dogmatic preference for microscopic evidence over mere anecdotal evidence, even if examples of the latter date back millions of years and bring entire tribal societies to the witness stand.

As I say, this suppositious "gaslighting" may have been a result of miscommunication. But the guy in question is not open to discussing the issue outside of social media, and it is irritating in the highest degree to debate philosophical issues on Twitter, especially when one or both parties are at odds over some core but as yet unidentified principle, a debate in which the facts are not so much in dispute as the interpretation and relative significance that those facts should be thought to possess. In such cases, one or both opponents inevitably take advantage of the lack of nuance possible in tweets to suggest that their adversary misunderstands the facts, after which the temperature rises and the laurels go to the biggest smart-aleck.

But let me end with a few concrete examples of books which have "reckoned without the Drug War," if only to remind myself that there is a real problem here. The majority of nonfiction authors in America pretend that psychoactive substances do not exist when they write on a wide range of subjects. Such a conclusion will demonstrate that my criticism of the quietude of philosophers is not just aimed at the ivory tower, but at the studies and dens of the majority of nonfiction writers in America, whose conclusions and moral backstories inevitably presuppose either the nonexistence of "drugs" or else their lack of utility for anyone but scumbags and filth. In other words, it is not just philosophers who argue based on unspoken philosophical assumptions, it is all of us, as Kant well knew, but unfortunately not all of us are aware of that fact.

"End Times"
by Bryan Walsh

Some problems are just too huge to be seen. Why are we on the brink of nuclear annihilation in the first place, Bryan? Because we have refused to seriously consider the widespread use (indeed, even the merely legal use) of empathogenic drugs that could help bring the world together. But Bryan ignores this entirely in a book about various roads to Armageddon??? And so we demonize MDMA, for just one instance, one of the safest drugs on earth, thereby ensuring the need for militarization and the thermonuclear weapons with which humanity (absent divine intervention) is sure to eventually hoist itself by its own petard.

"The Dream of Enlightenment"
by Anthony Gottlieb

Gottlieb does not mention drugs. Why should he, right?

Yet in any critical analysis of philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, we need to ask the contrafactual question: what if such philosophers had used empathogens like MDMA and other phenethylamines? How might that have modified their philosophies, which now seem to tell us so authoritatively and ineluctably how the world must truly be? Such philosophers made these pronouncements long before the western world had learned about the influence of "drugs" and what they seem to tell us about the nature of ultimate reality - although the accounts of user experiences at Eleusis have been known for centuries and read like so many psychedelic trip accounts on Erowid. These drugs also tell us that our fundamental world views are elastic, that our habitual mindsets CAN be changed (as when, for just one instance, the teenage Paul Stamets "unlearned" his habit of stuttering in one afternoon with the help of so-called "magic mushrooms"). So the question should become increasingly relevant in academia, especially with regard to the study of cynical and bellicose philosophers: have they used empathogens and related substances that are known to inspire a feeling of peace and wellbeing and a desire for human harmony? A negative answer to that question will help some of us take their armchair grumblings with a grain of salt.

Nor should these questions just arise in podcasts about psychedelics and other niche venues: they should be front and center in any philosophical curriculum.

"Liberalism and Its Discontents"
by Francis Fukuyama

Francis does not just ignore how psychoactive drugs could help the world: he blames psychoactive drugs for causing inner-city violence, which is a typical Drug Warrior ploy, by the way: namely, blaming the failure of prohibition on drugs. Yet as Ann Heather Thompson wrote in the Atlantic in 2014, "Without the War on Drugs, the level of gun violence that plagues so many poor inner-city neighborhoods today simply would not exist."

Remember, these anti-drug attitudes are not always moral ones: many "scientific" books today "condemn drugs with faint praise" because the author believes that reductionist science can cure the ills of humankind without any help from mother nature.

"Reality Is Not What It Seems"
by Carlo Rovelli

In his triumphalist account of modern science, Carlo is blind to how materialism has helped justify the war on drugs by denying the utility of anecdotal accounts in establishing drug efficacy and requiring microscopic analysis instead.

"Drug Use for Grownups"
by Carl Hart

Although a brave and necessary book, Carl tells depressed folk like myself that the vast (and ever-growing) world of outlawed psychoactive drugs is not for us. This strange discriminatory notion stems from Carl's devotion to scientific materialism and is completely at odds with common-sense psychology, not to mention my 50-plus years of personal experience during which Big Pharma drugs have turned me into an eternal patient while yet not "curing" my depression. The idea that I cannot benefit from drugs that elate and inspire is just crazy to me. But in the language of Charles Fort, Hart has been "hypnotized" by the reigning zeitgeist such that he is blind to all negative evidence, like the fact that 1 in 4 American women are dependent on Big Pharma meds for life, which is nothing less than the greatest mass pharmaceutical dystopia of all time.

Author's Follow-up: March 18, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

The entire "self-help" genre, so typically American as it is, is a result of prohibition. We can no longer achieve the insights and peace that drugs can bring, but our desire for the same never perishes, and that means there's great sales potential for books that tell you how to achieve those states in 5, 10, or 20 easy steps. So hucksters keep the dream alive, whether on prime-time television or on PBS specials during a beg-a-thon. This makes perfect sense to the stealth Christian Science, but to me it sounds like sour grapes, as in, "Who needed those rotten old drugs anyway? Humph!" And so we make a moral virtue out of our disempowerment, meanwhile lowering the baseline for our expectations from life in conformity with what government will allow us to think and feel.

Next essay: The Racist Mindset of Substance Prohibition
Previous essay: Drug War Comedy Routine

More Essays Here

William James Tweets

William James knew that there were substances that could elate. However, it never occurred to him that we should use such substances to prevent suicide. It seems James was blinded to this possibility by his puritanical assumptions.
So he writes about the mindset of the deeply depressed, reifying the condition as if it were some great "type" inevitably to be encountered in humanity. No. It's the "type" to be found in a post-Christian society that has turned up its scientific nose at psychoactive medicine.

front cover of Drug War Comic Book

Buy the Drug War Comic Book by the Drug War Philosopher Brian Quass, featuring 150 hilarious op-ed pics about America's disgraceful war on Americans

You have been reading an article entitled, You Have Been Gaslit!: or, when someone tells you that your entire life has been a mistake, published on March 18, 2024 on For more information about America's disgraceful drug war, which is anti-patient, anti-minority, anti-scientific, anti-mother nature, imperialistic, the establishment of the Christian Science religion, a violation of the natural law upon which America was founded, and a childish and counterproductive way of looking at the world, one which causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, visit the drug war philosopher, at (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)