To discussing crack is tackling a litany of larger and intertwined American issues: racial and economic disparities; poverty and crime in city centers; media reporting and sensationalism; political and legislative campaign and action; mass imprisonment and exploitation; and personal and community responsibility. All these topics are present in Crack: cocaine, corruption and conspiracy. Yet at just 89 minutes, Stanley Nelson’s new Netflix documentary (which premieres Jan.11) bites far more than it can chew – resulting in analysis that ranges from persuasive to superficial to borderline. bad faith.
Crack: cocaine, corruption and conspiracy uses a general chronological structure to tell its sprawling story, starting with the rise of cocaine in the 1970s-1980s, the cost of which gave it an aura of being the “glamor drug” of the rich and powerful. This made it inaccessible to most low-income black Americans, whose dreams of using coke, according to the film, were spurred by films like Scarface. However, things changed when drug dealers started distilling crack cocaine, a cheaper, more potent variant that became an immediate sensation of addiction. In no time, entire urban communities – already struggling with rising unemployment, poverty and crime – were wiped out by the scourge of crack, perpetuated by these young men and women who saw an opportunity to take advantage of the crisis. suffering of others, and became instant millionaire marketers.
‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross, Corey Pegues and Samson Styles are three of these crack moguls featured in Crack: cocaine, corruption and conspiracy, and their candid commentary proves one of the film’s highlights, providing a window into a world where individuals were motivated by the promise of immediate wealth, then forced to resort to heavily armed violence to protect what they wanted. had acquired. Of this trio, Styles is the only one in the film to express remorse that his actions directly hurt his own community; Pegues and Ross are mostly proud of their past as a self-taught kingpin, bragging about the weight, money, and beautiful women they had available to them through their lucrative positions in the underground industry. And in a disturbing moment that shows the ugliness that drove them on, Pegues laughs as he remembers his cohorts accepting payment for crack in the form of sexual favors (handed out in a van reserved for these private deals) from desperate drug addicted women. .
Crack’s particularly disastrous effect on black women, and the cultural vilification that followed, is also discussed by Crack: cocaine, corruption and conspiracy, as Nelson argues that the reporting of “crack babies” – and, therefore, bad motherhood – was based on a myth that has since refuted. The implication is that this slander was racist in nature, and it certainly was, although its supporting evidence comes from a scene by John Singleton. Boyz n the Hood and hip-hop songs, which seem to undermine the idea that these performances were only propagated by fanatical white Americans.
Contradictions like this abound Crack: cocaine, corruption and conspiracy, which despite its seemingly straightforward approach, has a scattered collection of opposing (and often not reconciled) ideas. In the agonizing testimonies of several former drug addicts, as well as in archival reports, crack is presented as a deadly virus that has devastated individuals, families and neighborhoods, and has been ignored by the general population – and by the police – because it primarily affected black Americans. . Yet the film also criticizes the media for overestimating the crisis (presumably like a tabloid) and for calling it an “epidemic”. The same goes for politicians, who are by turns censored as indifferent, as insincere for taking the war on drugs seriously, as fools (and / or prejudiced) for launching anti-drug campaigns. – and pass increasingly harsher bills during the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations – and as failures to do nothing successfully.
That efforts such as Bill Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill deserve tough assessments is not the problem; it is rather that Crack: cocaine, corruption and conspiracy lack of a coherent overall thesis on its subject, thus leading to ubiquitous argumentation (often by talking heads who are loosely identified as “journalist” and “historian”). One second, he poignantly exposes the widespread wreckage caused by crack; the next second, he criticizes the traditional portrayal of crack as destructive, and users as victims to pieces, as this leads to negative stereotypes. While looking at things from multiple angles is a worthwhile goal, there is a frustrating feeling of trying to do it all.
“While looking at things from multiple angles is a worthwhile goal, there is a frustrating feeling of trying to do it all.“
The cops’ disinterest in tackling the infiltration of crack into black American communities is briefly touched upon, as is the corrupt involvement of the police in the drug economy, whether by stealing or taking profits from the dealers. . Unfortunately, no in-depth investigation into this matter is forthcoming; this is just another of the doc’s many bullet points to deal with on an ephemeral basis. This is also true of the long-held theory – first popularized by a 1996 San Jose Mercury News series of articles – that the CIA was either tacitly or actively responsible for the influx of cocaine and crack in the 1980s into downtown America, thanks to its efforts to help fund the Nicaraguan Contras in their war against the Sandinista government. A brief history lesson on the Iran-Contra scandal, married to excerpts from a 1996 town hall meeting in Watts, Calif., In which black American citizens cursed at the CIA chief of the era, John M. Deutch, suggests – as well as A Bold Interview claims that the US government is primarily responsible for the pervasiveness of crack. (The CIA has denied this.) Unfortunately, this too is dealt with quickly and superficially.
Crack: cocaine, corruption and conspiracy concludes with his strongest view: namely, that the extreme criminalization of narcotics has, over the past decades, led to a catastrophe of mass incarceration – mainly punishing black Americans, even though two-thirds of drug users crack people from the 80s and 90s would be white people – which we still deal with today. Nelson’s film convincingly argues that America needs a revised public drug policy that views drug addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal issue. So it’s a shame that this discussion only includes a small segment of the documentary, which unfolds in so many different and contradictory directions that it ends up giving little lasting value.
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