Poisoned by the Feds

15:36 Sun 21 Feb 2010
[, , ]

No, not by accident. Not as part of a war effort. Not as part of a biological weapons test. Rather, on purpose, as part of Prohibition enforcement efforts:

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.

Horrific. At least, as the article points out, when they tried poisoning marijuana crops in the 1970s, there was enough outcry to stop it.

The reasoning of the government agents in both the Prohibitions and marijuana cases is quite telling: they were fine with poisoning people in this manner because if people ingested the poison, they had brought it upon themselves by breaking the law. The arrogance of this is breathtaking, and boils down to the concept that once you step outside the bounds, they can do whatever they want. Sadly (and frighteningly) enough, this is still the attitude today, and most people don’t notice it because most people avoid the consequences of breaking the law—and, make no mistake, most people do break the law, frequently, because there are now so many (often vague and sweeping) laws on the books that it’s rather difficult not to.

The combination of power, lack of accountability, distance from one’s actions, and the conception of handling things as social engineering rather than as dealing with individuals is an unhealthy mix, and a mix that’s disturbingly common in government.

Leave a Reply