Episode 75: Copaganda — The Favorite Tool of Drug Warriors with Alec Karakatsanis

No matter what the problem is, whether it’s fentanyl overdoses or mass shootings, the solution to all of our problems is always more money and bigger budgets for police, prosecutors and prisons. Funny how that works, right? If crime goes up we need police, if crime goes down it’s because of the police, so we still need more police. They can’t lose!

One of the main ways public support for police is so insidious has to do with police propaganda (e.g. copaganda) but it can be hard to detect, let alone debunk, these powerful tools of controlling public opinion. Understanding how this works is crucial to any aspect of drug policy reform and holding accountable the journalists who perpetuate copaganda is an important step in undoing the harms of police states.

On this episode of Narcotica, co-hosts Zachary Siegel and Troy Farah talk with Alec Karakatsanis, the founder and executive director of Civil Rights Corps, a non-profit organization dedicated to challenging systemic injustice in the United States’ legal system–a system that is built on white supremacy and economic inequality. Alec has helped challenge the money bail system in California and is the author of the book Usual Cruelty. He is passionate about ending human caging, surveillance, police, the death penalty, immigration laws, war, and inequality, and he has made debunking copaganda into an artform.

Follow Alec on Twitter at: @equalityAlec and read his newsletter here:

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 58: How Racism Fuels The Drug War with Kassandra Frederique
Episode 47: Can Harm Reduction and Cops Coexist?
Episode 62: Policing Pleasure — The Intersection of Sex Work and Drug Use with Tamika Spellman and Caty Simon

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Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy / Nomad1
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: The Noun Project edit: Troy Farah

Episode 42: Supervised Consumption is an Essential Service

The covid-19 crisis has exposed many weak spots in our culture and the need for radical change. It has revealed which workers are really essential—hint: it’s not executives keeping this late-stage capitalist economy afloat—and that we need to pay these workers a living wage. It has revealed that yes, healthcare is a human right and that contributing to public health is, shockingly, essential to keep everyone healthy. 

And perhaps most relevant to this show, the covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the utmost importance of supervised consumption sites, or places where people can use drugs under medical supervision. We have numerous episodes in the past on this issue, so check out our archives if you aren’t already familiar: Episode 31, Episode 26 and way back on Episode number 4. 

We have two guests today: Sterling Johnson, a housing lawyer, who is well known among Philly harm reductionists and has been fighting for a supervised consumption site for years, and Matthew Sheppeck, an organizer with the Philadelphia Tenants Union, a harm reductionist, and addiction outreach specialist that works with homeless drug users in the Kensington region of Philadelphia. 

We discuss everything from housing as a human right, whether cops should carry naloxone, representation in harm reduction institutions and the importance of supervised consumption spaces, but why they need to reflect the needs of people who use drugs. We also discuss the coronavirus pandemic that is overshadowing everything and how that is changing so much about harm reduction.

Follow Sterling Johnson on Twitter @LB_Sterling and Matthew Sheppeck on Instagram @Sheppecksees.

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Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Pictures of the Floating World
Image: Wikimedia / edit: Troy Farah
One correction: At the 21:30 mark, Zach incorrectly quoted Gov. Andrew Cuoma. There were 263 positive infections at Rikers, not deaths. We regret the error.