Debating the Drug War : Race, Politics, and the Media book cover
1st Edition

Debating the Drug War
Race, Politics, and the Media

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after March 16, 2021
ISBN 9781138239692
March 16, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
200 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Since President Nixon coined the phrase, the "War on Drugs" has presented an important change in how people view and discuss criminal justice practices and drug laws. The term evokes images of militarization, punishment, and violence, as well as combat and the potential for victory. It is no surprise then that questions such as whether the "War on Drugs" has "failed" or "can be won" have animated mass media and public debate for the past 40 years.

Through analysis of 30 years of newspaper content, Debating the Drug War examines the social and cultural contours of this heated debate and explore how proponents and critics of the controversial social issues of drug policy and incarceration frame their arguments in mass media. Additionally, it looks at the contemporary public debate on the "War on Drugs" through an analysis of readers' comments drawn from the comments sections of online news articles.

Through a discussion of the findings and their implications, the book illuminates the ways in which ideas about race, politics, society, and crime, and forms of evidence and statistics such as rates of arrest and incarceration or the financial costs of drug policies and incarceration are advanced, interpreted, and contested. Further, the book will bring to light how people form a sense of their racial selves in debates over policy issues tied to racial inequality such as the "War on Drugs" through narratives that connect racial categories to concepts such as innocence, criminality, free will, and fairness. Debating the Drug War offers readers a variety of concepts and theoretical perspectives that they can use to make sense of these vital issues in contemporary society.

Table of Contents


  1. Introduction
  2. The War on Drugs as a Contested Social Issue
  3. How the Media "Frames" the Debate
  4. Debate Dynamics: Racial Silence, Resonance, and Code Words
  5. Identity Construction in the Heat of Debate
  6. Conclusion



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Michael L. Rosino is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Connecticut. He holds a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Cincinnati and Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Anthropology from Ohio Wesleyan University. His research specializations include race, politics, media, and human rights. His work primarily focuses on the ways that 12 individuals and groups reproduce and resist racial inequality through mechanisms such as discourse and identity, rights and political power, and communication and information technologies. His previous research has examined social learning in an online community, diversity discourse in business media, and racial discourse in drug policy debates. His current research projects focus on inequality and rights discourse in social movements, white racial identity construction, racialized and gendered dynamics of political power, and party politics. He also currently teaches a writing intensive undergraduate course on race, class, and gender.