This is prompted by something Brendan Nyhan tweeted:
Followed by this:
Here’s the problem: no group ‘owns’ the opioid crisis. AIDS, for better and for worse, was seen as a ‘gay disease.’ While that added stigma, it also meant there was a coherent group that realized they had to mobilize to stop the problem. Gay activists were also fighting on other fronts, such as equality and gay marriage, so AIDS activism could be folded into a larger gay rights movement.
The response to police killings and brutality by black citizens has followed a similar path: there is a group disproportionately affected by a problem that mobilizes to stop that problem. Here too, this issue is folded into a larger context of discrimination.
So who owns the opioid crisis? It’s largely affecting white people (though, as with the issues mentioned above, it affects other demographic groups too). It’s clearly tied to a larger problem of societal breakdown.
But when the affected group is the ‘default cultural setting’, what organizations, subcultures, and communities organize? In other words, a white opioid user is just an opioid user. Many white people won’t identify with him. In a sense, the quip of ‘movement conservatism never fails, only individual conservatives–who then are no longer conservatives’ is the operating principle. This is where ‘suburban culture‘ (heh) is a real problem: opioid users are not seen as part of a (white) community that needs help, but as outcasts from that group who do not deserve help.
To answer Nyhan’s second question, this could very well be worse than the HIV outbreak.