Bullshit in a China shop: Free Tommy Chong


I presume most readers of this journal may have seen at least one Cheech and Chong movie. I've been getting increasingly annoyed by the treatment of Tommy Chong as the recent case has unfolded in the States. The guy, now 65, has been put in prison for 9 months for the crime of selling glass bongs and pipes, like the beautiful example above, one of Chong's 'hammers'. Your granny could have that on her mantelpiece. Chong was targeted by 'Operation Pipe Dreams' in the 'War on Drugs' mainly, it seems, because of the films he made with Cheech Marin. It's effectively punishment (belated revenge) for acting a role in a series of films that operated in a universe completely divorced from that of law and order, not to mention conventional sanity. Stoner slapstick, that's all it was.

One day you're providing work for a team of glassblowers who're producing some fine creative items, minding your own business, not bothering anyone, next day you've got the Feds breaking down the door, smashing about the place with sledgehammers, and throwing you in prison. Isn't this a bit Fahrenheit 451? What's the crime again? Deroy Murdoch has put it well in an excellent article on AlterNet:

Prosecutors were not impressed that his Nice Dreams Enterprises marketed a morally neutral product. Chong's pipes, after all, could be used with loose-leaf tobacco, just as any stoner in an Armani suit can smoke pot in a lawful Dunhill meerschaum.

In fact, as the Los Angeles Times reported October 10, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Houghton's court pleadings sought Chong's harsh punishment because he got rich "glamorizing the illegal distribution and use of marijuana" in films that "trivialize law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking and use."

Chong must have wondered when such activities became criminal. Perhaps the FBI now will arrest Sean Penn for hilariously smoking grass in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Then they can handcuff Denzel Washington for portraying a crooked narcotics officer in "Training Day."

At last, the homeland is secure from Chong, a 65-year-old comic whose merchandise spared potheads from fumbling with rolling papers. Could there be any greater triumph for public safety than that?

Although Chong's website was pulled, 'The Memory Hole' downloaded his site as soon as they heard of his arrest and has preserved pictures of all this highly illegal glassware. This is a gallery of pictures of things deemed too subversive for modern-day America, not respectful enough of the regime. It seems this 'War on [insert banality]' rhetoric has replaced the Cold War by the back door, except now absolutely everyone is regarded as potential enemy within, and those most vulnerable will be shown the jackboot first: those who don't appear to recognise authority and are easiest to spin as reprobates. This deliberately plays on the fact that most law-abiding citizens just don't care what happens to a guy who played a stoned hippy in films they have never seen.

It's just so sickening, they can't get the guy for actually possessing any drugs so they make his life a misery for not disapproving, even get him to humiliate himself in court to try to seek mercy before imposing what is a ridiculously harsh sentence.

Anyway, I can't say that I pay much attention to 'the news' these days, it's all rather like something seen in out-of-date television transmissions picked up in outer space to me. But occasionally some injustice hits me, yeah, the world is full of injustice I know, but sometimes it's worth mentioning one in particular that bubbles up out of the mundane newstream.