Proposition 19 battle escalates

Over the past week, two high-profile signs of opposition to Proposition 19 have cropped up – signs that have also engendered a fierce and passionate backlash from the proponents of the measure. So fierce is this backlash, In fact, that it is a fair question to ask whether the backlash could do more to advance the case for the measure than the original opposition measures did to retard that case.

The first measure came when Reddit’s corporate parent Conde Nast announced that it would no longer allow Reddit to feature ads by entities that support Proposition 19. The reasoning was never made clear, although presumably Conde Nast feared for its corporate image, and saw this as a potential route to make sure that said image was not compromised.

However, as is the case with all attempts to control the internet, the plan backfired spectacularly. Redddit announced that it would still feature ads from pro-Proposition 19 groups, but for free, simply as a route to stick it to the proverbial man. The result was a flood of anti-corporate, pro-Proposition 19 posts  on Reddit, accusing Conde Nast of censorship and corporate control in profanity-laced terms. Geekosystem has the details:

“The whole brouhaha has served first, to bring tons more attention to an issue that Condé Nast had hoped to sweep under the carpet; second, to plaster the site with pro-Prop 19 ads anyway – for free!; and third, to highlight how much money the occasionally cash-strapped site could have potentially made by selling ad space to groups that support Proposition 19, given the relevance to the community.

Condé may be fearful – and not wholly without justification – that this episode will scare big corporate advertisers away from Reddit, thinking its community to be a bunch of ornery, bacon-hungry potheads; in truth, while in truth there are some marijuana-centric subreddits (FDL mentions trees, marijuana, weed, cannabis, and prop19), these comprise a pretty small portion of the site’s overall readership, whereas issues concerning free speech and corporate influence tend to rouse a much larger percentage of the beehive.”

The fallout has been going for too short a time to gauge its long term effect, but there’s little doubt that actions like this by Conde Nast do more to encourage Proposition 19 supporters than to discourage them.

Similarly, a recent op-ed by former Drug Czars of the Obama, Clinton and Bush I and II administrations opposing Propostiion 19 may have done more harm than good for opponents of the measure. The Czars raise several points of opposition – that marijuana is a public safety hazard, that the United States would be unique if it took such a radical step towards decriminalization and that the higher tax argument is a red herring at the point where a pre-existing black market could still flourish. The result has been an outpouring of sentiment in favor of Proposition 19 on various friendly blogs, to say nothing of the potential antigovernment fervor that the presence of Drug Czars could harness in favor of the measure. In other words, in an era when technocracy is distrusted, the decision to foreground arguments by technocrats is unwise no matter what area of the political spectrum it comes from.

The debate is far from over, of course, and to pronounce the measure either dead or unbeatable would be the height of folly. However, if the past weeks have seen a spike in opposition to Proposition 19, it seems equally the case that proponents of the measures are beginning to find their feet this week. Where it will go from here can only be guessed.