I’m not the least bit surprised that I disagree with Dave Winer about the Michael Phelps thing. In fact, if I ever find myself agreeing with him about anything of significance, I’ll assume that one of us has lost his mind. I am a little surprised that I (mostly) disagree with Thomas Hawk. I’ve read Thomas’s blog for a long time, and have met him (I had dinner with Thomas and his wife after a photo walk in San Francisco a year or two ago). He’s a smart guy, who, like me, out-kicked his coverage in the wife department. He’s right most of the time, particularly about intellectual property issues. But he’s wrong about this.
I’m no prude, as anyone who knew me in high school and college can readily attest. But I have no problem with Kellogg taking Michael Phelps off their cereal boxes.
Whether or not, chemically or philosophically, smoking pot is “like having a beer” is irrelevant. Even if smoking pot and drinking beer are like speeding or not wearing seatbelts, it is not good corporate or social policy to encourage it. Many sponsors and their all important customers would feel the same way if Phelps had gotten drunk and been photographed stumbling around with a beer in his hand instead of a bong. Why? Simply because he has become a role model for kids. And with that comes a whole lot of money and a little responsibility. The fact that some random guy gets a pass for smoking pot while the guy whose face is plastered all over the place can’t is neither illogical nor unfair. Would Thomas feel the same way if some grade school teachers were photographed smoking joints in the school parking lot? Doubtful.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that smoking a little pot is a world-stopping, toss ’em in jail and throw away the key event. I’m not even necessarily disagreeing that pot should be legalized. On the one hand, I don’t think many people would argue with the proposition that it’s healthier not to drink to excess, smoke, or drive too fast. On the other hand, there is no reason to allow companies to push cigarettes and alcohol and not marijuana. At the end of the day, I reconcile the somewhat inconsistent status quo under the slippery slope theory. Just because unhealthy amounts of alcohol and tobacco aren’t illegal doesn’t mean that other unhealthy things should be legal. It’s not a mathematically perfect world. Plus, as far as I can tell, there don’t seem to be hordes of narks hitting the streets every day looking to put the occasional joint aficionado in the pokey.
The decision about smoking pot, like the decision about drinking, wearing seatbelts and a whole lot of other stuff, is a serious decision that everyone has to make for themselves, when they are mature enough to consider it thoughtfully. Young kids who look up to people like Michael Phelps don’t need any more value eroding messages. TV has that covered. It’s a personal decision and, in the absence of excess, one that’s probably more about philosophy than morals. Even so, we don’t need to put those decisions on the Coke vs Pepsi level. Again, I’d feel the same way if we were talking about alcohol or tobacco.
I don’t eat any of those Kellogg products. But if I did, I certainly wouldn’t stop because of this.