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W.R. Hearst

W.R. Hearst

    Starting with the 1898 Spanish American War, the Hearst newspaper had denounced Spaniards, Mexican-Americans, and Latinos.

    After the seizure of 800,000 acres of Hearst’s prime Mexican timberland by the “marihuana” smoking army of Pancho Villa,* these slurs intensified.

    * The song “La Cucaracha” tells the story of one of Villa’s men looking for his stash of “marijuana por fumar!” (to smoke!)

    Non-stop for the next for three decades, Hearst painted the picture of the lazy, pot-smoking Mexican—still one of our most insidious prejudices. Simultaneously, he waged a similar racist smear campaign against the Chinese, referring to them as the “Yellow Peril”.

    Hearst, through pervasive and repetitive use, brought the word ‘marijuana’ into English.

    From 1910 to 1920, Hearst’s newspapers would claim that the majority of incidents in which blacks were said to have raped white women could be traced directly to cocaine. This continued for 10 years until Hearst decided it was not “cocaine-crazed Negroes” raping white women—it was now “marijuana-crazed Negroes” raping white women.

    Hearst’s and other sensationalistic tabloids ran hysterical headlines atop stories portraying “Negroes” and Mexicans as frenzied beasts who, under the influence of marijuana, would play anti-white “voodoo-satanic” music (jazz) and heap disrespect and “viciousness” onto the predominantly white readership. Other such Jim Crow (apartheid) offenses resulting from this drug-induced “crime wave” included: stepping on white men’s shadows, looking white people directly in the eye for three seconds or more, looking at a white woman twice, laughing at a white person, etc.

    For such “crimes,” hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and blacks spent, in aggregate, millions of years in jails, in prisons, and on chain gangs, under brutal segregation laws that remained in effect throughout the U.S. until the 1950s and ’60s. Hearst, through pervasive and repetitive use, pounded the obscure Mexican slang word “marijuana” into the English-speaking American consciousness. Meanwhile, the word “hemp” was discarded and “cannabis,” the scientific term, was ignored or buried.

    The actual Spanish word for hemp is “cáñamo.” But using a Mexican “Sonoran” colloquialism—marijuana, often Americanized as “marihuana”—guaranteed that no one would realize that the proper terms for one of the world’s chief natural medicine, “cannabis,” and for the premier industrial resource, “hemp,” had been outflanked, outlawed, and pushed out of the language.

the authorized on-line version of Jack Herer’s “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”
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