Hey man, like were we libeled by the Wall Street Journal?


Yesterday, the "Best of the Web" section of the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com site ran a short piece extolling a recent REASON Online column by our Washington Editor Michael W. Lynch. (Scroll to "Getting Railroaded") The column addressed three major and ongoing Amtrak scandals: the rail line's very existence; its horrible, taxpayer-subsidized performance record; and its immensely disturbing for-profit collusion with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Lynch's column is available here.

In the same squib that directed readers to the Amtrak column, however, OpinionJournal also took the space to level a series of wholly accurate, partly accurate, and wholly inaccurate accusations against me and my staff. In the interests of fairness, full disclosure, and–coff, coff–clearing the air, I am prompted to respond to them point by point:

1. "Reason magazine," charges OpinionJournal.com, "has recently become the High Times of the policy world. The Los Angeles-based monthly has long championed the legalization of drugs on principled (though in our view wrongheaded) libertarian grounds."

It is completely accurate that REASON has long championed the legalization of drugs based on the libertarian notion of self-ownership–that individuals have a right to dispose of their bodies as they see fit (and, by the same token, individuals must take responsibility for harm to others that ensues from their actions). But in fact, we have not become the High Times of the policy world, as High Times does not support legalization of all currently illegal drugs; nor do we subscribe to High Times' distinction between natural and synthetic drugs.

We do agree that OpinionJournal's view on all this is, to use its own term, "wrongheaded."

2. OpinionJournal.com declares: "Under new editor Nick Gillespie…Reason has been running pieces that actually celebrate drug use, such as this signed editorial in which Gillespie acknowledges that he has 'used drugs on a recreational basis' and declares on behalf of casual stoners everywhere: 'Far from our drugs controlling us, by and large we control our drugs; as with alcohol, the primary motivation in taking drugs is to enjoy ourselves, not to destroy ourselves. . . . There is such a thing as responsible drug use and it is the rule, not the exception.'"

It is wholly accurate that REASON has recently run pieces that, if not "actually celebrat[ing] drug use" then discuss the matter in rational, open terms rarely seen in contemporary coverage of the topic. I did in fact write the words attributed to me, have used both legal and illegal drugs recreationally (even, on occasion, medically) and did once live on West Los Angeles' curiously named Stoner Avenue (odder still, I ingested no illegal drugs during my time there). My conviction that there is such a thing as "responsible drug use" proceeds from personal experience (and that of my friends), reviews of relevant medical research, and the same libertarian principles by which REASON argues for drug legalization.

3. "We imagine," write the OpinionJournal scribes, exhibiting a burst of creativity that could hardly have been fuelled simply by shots of whiskey and baskets of Twinkies, "the editorial meetings at Reason consisting of a bunch of earnest, well-scrubbed young wonks in bow ties sitting around a table debating the fine points of Social Security reform amid a haze of marijuana smoke."

As REASON's attorneys go to work preparing legal documents for a potential libel suit, let me state unequivocally that:

a) given the dispersed, decentralized nature of REASON magazine–with staff scattered across this great nation like so many methamphetamine cooks–we rarely have a staff meeting around any sort of table (our L.A. office is, to boot, located in a smoke-free building);

b) some–though by no means all–of REASON's staff are indeed earnest, well-scrubbed, and young (none, however, is a wonk of any sort); and

c) while some of REASON's staff do reportedly own bow ties, none has ever worn one to a staff meeting since my becoming editor. Indeed, though I leave personal dress decisions mostly up to individual staffers, I have always strongly discouraged bow-tie wearing, regardless of age, gender, and circumstance.