Most readers know the first part of the answer: The war on drugs has from the first been fought not just against meth mules, but more so against the possibilities of open debate and open minds; it has been a war waged primarily in the realms of image and ideology. As in earlier wars on one drug or another (Becker 1963, pp. 135-146), political and media machines have operated in tandem to construct self-confirming moral panics around particular drugs and drug communities, to push the agendas of the powerful in the guise of public awareness, and "thereby...to forge a public prepared to swallow the next junkie stereotype and to enlist in the next drug war"
(Reinarman and Duskin
1999, p. 85).
The answer's second part parallels the first, and reverses it: An ongoing automotive war on people and the environment has for decades been masked by the same machineries of media and politics that promote the contemporary war on drugs; carefully constructed universes of image and ideology minimize the dangers of the automobile in the same way that they inflate the dangers of drugs. Governmental transportation policy not only underwrites the economics of the automotive industry, offering up the infrastructure on which it continues to ride, but intertwines with an endless campaign of car commercials and automotive sponsorship that infiltrates everyday life to a degree the most eager of war-on-drugs campaigners can only envy. In this world,
40,000 deaths a year somehow serve not to create moral panic, but to deflate it.