What Primetime TV Says about the War on Drugs & Terror
Would it surprise you if I told you that Primetime TV is not depicting the racial and religious stereotypes that we generally associate with the War on Terror and the War on Drugs?
It sure surprised us.
Our new report, The Primetime War on Drugs & Terror, offers a unique glimpse into how these wars are depicted in popular culture at a key historical moment: not only are we nearing the tenth anniversary of 9/11, this year also marks the 40th anniversary of President Nixon's declaration of the War on Drugs.
[Before you do anything else, have a look at Joe Sabia's amazing video about our findings on the War on Terror. Just go watch.]
Soon after Jane Mayer's piece about 24's impact on interrogation practices in the U.S. military appeared in the New Yorker, we began talking with the ACLU about how those two wars look on TV We were convinced that depictions of the War on Terror and the War on Drugs were helping shape public dialogue and private opinion, but we just couldn't be sure how. We determined early on that a content analysis would be the best way to find out what was actually being depicted in primetime. We knew that there were a lot of stories being told about these topics, but without the rigorous application of a coding instrument, it would have been impossible to say whether most terrorists were Muslim; whether most drug dealers were black; or whether primetime was depicting as much prescription drug abuse as we see in the real world.
Working with Princeton Survey Research Associates International, we developed a complex coding instrument with 145 variable and over 800 sub-variables in order to capture as carefully as we could the depictions of these wars. We selected episodes that addressed the War