A Debate for the Ages, Part IV: The Parent Movement, Or “Mama Said Knock [the Drug Culture] Out”

Editor’s Note: In this, the fourth – and final – installment of Points’ “A Debate for the Ages” seriesEmily Dufton discusses the Parent Movement, Teen Challenge, and the peculiarities of youth-centered anti-drug messaging.

Frank Zappa: Straighter-edge than you might think

Stumbling around YouTube the other day, I came across this incredible video of an interview with Frank Zappa, recorded by Canada’s CBC Television on Valentine’s Day in 1971. Interviewer Ralph Thomas asks Zappa what the drug culture had done to the youth of America.

“It’s taken away a lot of their ambition,” Zappa explained. “I think we have yet to reap the so-called benefits of the acid generation as the burn-outs begin to turn up more frequently.” Thomas continued, asking if rock music contributed to this change. Was radio a “propaganda vehicle for the way drugs have been sold?” “Certainly,” Zappa replied. Radio, both AM and independent stations, have “definitely assisted in the popularization of various forms of drugs.”

When I found this video, my jaw dropped. Finally, after years of searching, I knew the answer to the age-old riddle, what do Frank Zappa and the Parent Movement have in common? As it turns out, the answer is: a lot. Both faulted a powerful popular culture (movies, television, and rock & roll) for luring innocent kids into drug abuse, and both found the results similarly upsetting: drug-using kids showed a frightening lack of ambition (later known as ‘amotivational syndrome’), and a tendency to take both a metaphoric and a literal “stumble down the stairs.” 

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