Johann Hari recollects his visit to Sweden for a conference organized by the World Federation Against Drugs. This conference was publicized as a confluence for a drug-free world. Hari’s stands were contradictory to that of the conference thus, his participation was seen as a prospect for endless tales. But weirdly, his visit was discussed extremely curtly in a few paragraphs. He inadequately acknowledges one of the significant speakers, Robert DuPont and his narrative of his speech and interview is very negligible in the book.
It is also embarrassing to note that the book was released three years after Johann was exposed to have plagiarized material, misunderstood information and broadcast spiteful fabrications about peers. Hari’s awareness of these facts contributes to the extensive clarification in the notes section and online availability of all the recorded interviews. Regardless of this and the media attention, it is unavoidable to not let his delinquencies poison your experience of the book.
The betrayal by Chasing the Scream goes beyond the challenge of reality and fiction. The author’s contemporary career track landed him in a muddle. His choice of becoming a high brow writer prior to much reporting gave rise to an overemotional and gullible writer. His tone is too extreme without insufficient recognition of the flipside of the coin.
However, we cannot negate the importance of the book and extent of Johann’s effort on it. His objective is to narrate the history of the “war on drugs”, give an account of its ludicrousness and unreasonable aftermath and discover the options for prevention. He skillfully brings into play a trio of three renowned characters to outline any state of affair engaging the usage, deal, and regulation of any illegal substance. The three interconnected tales of Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics; Arnold Rothstein, the master criminal of New York; and Billie Holiday, whose dreadful past was complicated enough owing to alcoholism and an addiction to heroin, operated as models. Even though the book travels rapidly to the current day by means of several case studies, the three stories are a showcase of how the rules of the “war on drugs” are static and thus vain.
The characters that surface later vary from a transsexual dealer in Brooklyn to a grieving mother in Mexico to an accumulation of would-be reformers. The life-threatening story of Marcia Powell in the anti-drug regime of Arizona blows the reader’s mind. The book also thoroughly highlights the actions taken by places like Washington and Colorado in The United States of America, and other countries like Uruguay, Switzerland and Portugal to liberalize themselves from the absurdities of the war. He discusses the profoundly extensive use of drugs and describes it as mostly positive, the meaning of which is blemished to readers as there is hardly anything positive about substances like weed, heroin, meth or crack. The lack of light shed on the harmfulness of drugs boosts their recreational use and provides validation to addicts.
One of the setbacks of Hari’s writing is his tendency to drift from the actual story towards the personal accounts of his life. This can be seen in the section where he narrates the ugly story of a dealer being born to a heroin addict who was raped by a cop. He concludes the story by blowing his own trumpet about being born on a battlefield of the drug war.
Chasing the Scream is an influential aid to a crucial dispute but it contradicts the harsh certainties that it talks about, and instead uses a gauche tone similar to other melodramatic novels. However, this and the somewhat edgy manner of writing makes is impossible to draw a distinct conclusion.