Friday, 9 May 2008

Are Flat Earth Journalist Intelligent? No ... Just Dangerous

The talking snake told Eve, the only woman on earth, to eat a forbidden apple ... now men grow bald and women get saggy buzums. Miranda Devine tells us that Zero Tolerance is working and a good thing ... we are now a drug free society with no addiction, no crime, no misery and everyone has seen the light, that drugs are bad.

Why is it that some journalists can write utter shite and still keep their job? Not just shite but simple lies, untruths, biased personal views and personal agendas. I wanted to know why that if I put forward such fabrications of truth in my job, I would get the sack but some journalists just have to portray themselves as anti-drugs and they can write whatever they want ... no matter how dangerous it is.

When I hear ramblings about the earth being made in 7 days or Noah’s ark being fact, I naturally question the intelligence of the rambler. Even the catholics recognise that these stories are just symbolic and no one can really argue their validity without having serious questions asked about their reality perception. Faith in the religious context is the opposite to science. The more that something is unable to be proved, the more faith you must have.

faith [noun]

1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

-New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition

Faith plays a big part in the world’s drug policies. The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is completely dictated to by the US who push their faith based, Zero Tolerance (ZT) ideology. So much so that even today’s medical/humanity based, Harm Minimisation is now pushing the boundaries of the UN’s signed accordance with all participating countries. The US's Zero Tolerance policy, preach and strictly enforce a faith based strategy being that moral issues are more important than scientific facts or a person’s well being. This is aptly called the “War on Drugs”. Drug use is considered immoral and discipline is used for those who breach the laws. The health aspect is a side issue which is treated with an odd mixture of morals based policy and medical treatment. Since the “War on Drugs” started 37 years ago, the drug problem is now out of control worldwide and the US led policy has been an abysmal failure. Many countries are now questioning this approach and are turning back to science for answers. They are finding instant success but since it leaves no room for morals based strategies and rejects faith based policies, many are finding it hard to overcome their thinking from the years of propaganda to demonise drugs. The religious, conservatives, politicians and moralists are not so convinced but when your whole argument is faith based, some elaborate tactics are required to keep the masses on side. 

Australia has it’s share of the faithful. Not neccessarily religiously faithful but faithful to the policy of Zero Tolerance. Those who abhor the idea that drug addiction should be treated as a health issue instead of a law and order matter. Australia is a conservative country of late and our politicians are more so than usual. With overwhelming evidence pouring in every year that flies in the face of ZT, the faithful came up with with their own evidence to please the conservatives.

The evidence is already in that such approaches are foolish, and have wider ramifications than are usually considered in "evidence based" trials - especially trials by researchers with a predisposition to distribute heroin rather than minimise its use. 

-Andrew Bolt in response to heroin trials

Poor Andrew. There has never been any scientific research that ”such approaches are foolish, and have wider ramifications than are usually considered in "evidence based" trials”. There have only ever been opinions like his. This attempt to match evidence based policies with their ‘own evidence’ was given a boost when in late 2007, Bronwyn Bishop chaired the government report, “The Winnable War on Drugs”. More about that latter.

The Australian recently had an article by one of the faithful, Miranda Devine. Apart from the usual cherry picking of statistics, Devine tries to use her bizarre logic to criticise Dr. Alex Wodak and his support of Harm Minimisation.

Rather than drug harm-minimisation advocates admitting they are wrong and that their careers up to this point were misguided, they have stepped up their attacks, describing the so-called War on Drugs as a failure and those who disagree as "zealots", "ideologues" and "evangelists". But this is the pot calling the kettle black, for what else do you call people who refuse to change their minds in the face of overwhelming evidence but zealots?

-Miranda Devine. The Australian

“Overwhelming evidence”? Devine is wrong. Not only wrong but either deceitful or plain stupid. Any argument can be made by citing biased information and the faithful have made an art of it. Piers Ackerman, Andrew Bolt, Steve Price, Neil Mitchell, Janet Albrechtsen etc often reinforce the view that Harm Minimisation is "a theory in which addicts get free needles, free drugs and shooting galleries". Apart from all working for the same media organisation of truth, News Ltd., these buffoons regularly pump out their simplified and always biased articles. The truth is the furthermost item in their tiny little minds and will create the most fanciful evidence to prove their point. If the government point out that alcohol causes a problem, these people are the quickest to claim their individual rights and for the government to leave social engineering alone. But if the issue is the right of individuals to use any substance apart from the drug, alcohol then they will claim we need to stamp it out, regardless of the cost to human suffering. Then they trot out their ‘evidence’. Well not usually evidence but more opinion than anything.

It is irresponsible for a doctor in his position to play down serious research showing the link between marijuana and schizophrenia, and not just for those who are already psychotic.

What he is doing is no different from the tobacco industry denying the links between smoking and lung cancer.

-Miranda Devine. The Australian

Devine’s article will get the attention she seeks. Mocking one of the world’s leading experts on drug issues gives her the superior mindset that alludes to her information being correct. The gullible faithful readers will lap it up once more and more misinformation has been spread. And isn’t that what we need ... more misinformation.

Medical opinion is moving against him, with the journal The Lancet, on July 28 last year, recanting its 1995 editorial which claimed smoking cannabis was not harmful to health, and citing studies which showed "an increase in risk of psychosis of about 40 per cent in participants who had ever used cannabis".

-Miranda Devine. The Australian

A 40% increase on almost none is still almost none. An increase in risk is not a absolute increase but a ‘risk’ of an increase. And only 40% of that. The fact is, the 1995 report said there was no evidence that cannibis caused psychosis but it is now accepted that there is a risk especially to those who have existing problems. It’s hardly damming statistics that cannabis is dangerous to most of the population.

Another long-term Swedish study of 50,465 Swedish Army conscripts has found those who had tried marijuana by age 18 had 2.4 times the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia in the following 15 years than those who had never used the drug. Heavy users were 6.7 times more likely to be admitted to hospital for schizophrenia.

-Miranda Devine. The Australian

Sweden’s record for fudging figures is well known and it seems so is Miranda Devine. Cherry picking information is another tactic used by the faithful to fight real evidence. The Swedish study had only a minor amount of cannabis users to draw statistics from and they were the heaviest users. It’s this type of blatant misrepresentation that The Australian should call Devine in to explain. Why don’t they? Below is an extract from the same publication that Devine got her ‘evidence’ from.

Cannabis and Psychosis - Fact Sheet

What is the evidence that cannabis use is associated with psychosis? 

It is difficult to provide a definitive answer to this question, however, it should be noted from the outset that much of the evidence for cannabis-associated psychosis has been based on subjects who have used large doses of cannabis and/or used cannabis chronically. 

A great deal of the data has been derived from small studies, some of which have contained inherent flaws, and the findings of some of the larger studies conducted over the last 20 years have varied considerably. 

[...]

A very large study of 50,465 Swedish army conscripts determined their cannabis use at age 18 and followed those individuals for the next 15 years. Recruits who had tried cannabis by age 18 had 2.4 times the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia in the following 15 years than those who had never used cannabis. The risk increased if the conscript used greater quantities of cannabis 

However, of the conscripts who developed schizophrenia: 

• Most had never used cannabis, and 

• Only 7.7 per cent were heavy cannabis users 

Therefore, cannabis use is only one possible factor contributing to an increased risk of developing schizophrenia or other psychosis. This is especially true when one considers that most people who develop a psychosis have never used cannabis. 

-Department of Health and Human Services - Tasmania

One of the direct effects of ZT is driving users underground and along with them go access to real information. ZT harshly criticises anyone who uses drugs at all and those who do are not as willing to admit to their usage. This is a winning point for governments that push ZT as the usage rates will always be down compared to the real numbers. The easiest targets are employees who risk losing their jobs and school students who risk disciplinery consequences from teachers or parents. 

It is exactly the wrong time to legalise cannabis, just as its popularity among young people is diminishing, as shown by the latest Australian Secondary School Students' Use of Alcohol and Drug Survey.

Cannabis use by 12-to-15 year olds in the previous month plummeted from 15 per cent in 1996 to 6 per cent in 2005, with the percentage of 12 to 15 year olds who had ever tried cannabis falling from 28 per cent to 13 per cent. The evidence is that fewer children are even experimenting with cannabis, which is a far more potent drug today than it was when Nimbin's hippies were young.

-Miranda Devine. The Australian

Devine quotes a school survey that shows more clearly than her presumptions that kids are not as willing to disclose their usage when it might bring on condemnation rather than understanding. In 1996, the climate was more realistic of users than 2005 which was in the middle of Howard’s “Tough on Drugs” campaign. Of course kids aren’t going to admit to using drugs if the PM and his government are pumping out multi million dollar campaigns telling them they are losers and will go to jail if caught. So using her logic, since marijuana use is down, it is not a contender for decriminalisation. A national survey by Australia’s national health and welfare statistics and information agency showed that ecstasy use had risen by 500% for 14-19 year olds. and speed use had risen 25% for the same group. Do we decriminalise them?. By the way, what is so important about one age group? The survey also showed that 34% of Australians had tried marijuana and even that is greatly less than the real figure. Shouldn't that be the figure used?

We just finished 11 years of John Howard trying to disassemble our Harm Minimisation polices and introduce ZT under the misleading term “Harm Prevention”. This was the most destructive period of the last 50 years to Australia’s progression towards sensible drug policies. John Howard was the symbol that the faithful could look up to. The problem was that science was producing real evidence that his socially conservative views were flawed. Howard was using Sweden as an example of ZT which he continually cited as a model for Australia. Unfortunately for Howard, Sweden was breaching human rights and fudging figures but after years of falsely boasting it’s success, the faithful had already taken for granted Howard’s spin.

Just as the PM was preparing to vacate the lodge, The Libs produced a report called, The winnable war on drugs : the impact of illicit drug use on families. Chaired by Bronwyn Bishop, it showed the extent to which the government was prepared to take ZT. The report was slammed by nearly every medical and welfare group in Australia and was heavily condemned overseas. The faithful now had an official report to quote from and it seemed like it had especially been written just for them. The problem was, the report wasn’t full of real statistics but a road map to a country under ZT or as they liked to call it, Harm Prevention. Incidentally, the term Zero Tolerance was not the official drug policy of Australia and the term never actually appears in any official report from the government. ‘Harm Prevention’ though was being tossed around, not as a preferred model but arbitrarily to deliberately be confused with Harm Minimisation.

Some of the report’s 31 recommendations:

-Compulsory treatment for teenage addicts

-Restrictions on methadone programs

-Withdrawing funding from drug programs that promote harm minimisation

-Young children be taken away from drug-addicted parents permanently and adopted out

-A review of needle exchange programs

-Closing the safe injection facility

-Random workplace testing for anyone working in public hospitals including doctors and nurses

The powerful and strong recommendations would benefit families of addicts and would help win the war on drugs.

-Bronwyn Bishop

Of course all the medical and welfare groups said the report disregarded existing evidence and research.

This report ... is a road map to disaster which would bring untold harm and misery on young people and the Australian community. It is a disgrace that a committee of our national parliament should display the ignorance that it has done and close its mind to reason and science.

Brian McConnell. President  - Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform

Even though the report was dismissed as political posturing and held no real worth in medical terms, some journalist were ecstatic to have their very own personal source of evidence. The hoo-ha has died down now and the report has gone into the history archives as a new government took over. But it is not the end of it for the faithful. This was the holy grail for them and even the knights of nih weren’t going to rob them of their grail.

For a full demolition of the soft-on-drugs approach, the Bishop report is a goldmine, concluding: "The evidence received … in the course of this inquiry has shown there is a drug industry which pushes harm reduction and minimisation at the expense of harm prevention and treatment [which has as its aim] making an individual drug free."

The inquiry found the push for legalisation of illicit drugs flies in the face of overseas evidence. Sweden, once a harm minimisation pioneer, has learnt from bitter experience, adopting a restrictive drug policy, criminalising illicit drug use, and providing early intervention and treatment, with spectacular results.

Last year a UN review of Swedish drug policy found: "The vision of a drug-free society … has, on occasion, been derided as 'unrealistic', 'not pragmatic' and 'unresponsive' to the needs of drug abusers … The ambitious goal of the drug-free society has been questioned … Nevertheless … the prevalence and incidence rates of drug abuse have fallen in Sweden while they have increased in most other European countries. It is perhaps that ambitious vision that has enabled Sweden to achieve this remarkable result."

-Miranda Devine. The Australian

Divine's rhetoric is summed up when she claims Sweden's ZT policy as having "spectacular results". Sweden has been criticised by the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights for fudging their figures and have been asked to explain their human rights violations re their drug policy. Sweden has been caught out many times falsifying it's so-called success. A recent report on cannabis production levels proves a gross underestimate of 10 times actual production and usage ... that’s ten times more than reported. Drug use in Sweden is NOT dropping at all but is in line with the rest of Europe. The spectacular results include extremely high HIV/AIDS levels, suicide rates of addicts going through the roof, criminal records for minor amount of marijuana and overdose rates above the average.

Sweden despite its policy of ‘a drug free society’ has clearly not been achieved. Quite the reverse; by comparison with the period when this goal was formulated, the available indicators show that drug consumption has increased. This increase in the use and abuse of drugs has taken place in spite of a substantial expansion in control measures.

-Henrik Tham, Professor of Criminology at Stockholm University

What do independent organisations think of Sweden’s ZT? Remember this is the model that Devine claims is the best strategy for Australia. The Senlis Council is an international policy think tank with offices in Kabul, London, Ottawa, Rio de Janeiro, Brussels and Paris. The Senlis Council encompasses foreign policy, security, development and counter-narcotics policies and aims to provide analysis and proposals within these areas.

As you can understand, the Swedish model for drug policy therefore has lead to a great amount of alienation for the drug user. A large number of drug addicts in Sweden have no actual relation with or trust in anyone outside the drug community. Social workers are considered enemies. The police as well of course, but also doctors, teachers and psychologists! 

This might be a little hard to understand, but one of the fundamentals of the Swedish anti-drug policy is propaganda. By this I mean the systematic spread of politically-induced disinformation in order to create a strong and wide support for the extreme measures taken in the struggle for a drug-free society. This is naturally also a question of age and generation. The so called “MTV generation” has a totally different attitude from its predecessors and therefore the basis for the Swedish drug control is diminishing. But among “grownups” the attitude towards drugs is extreme and therefore many teachers, parents, doctors, school nurses, etc. overreact and take drastic measures such as contacting police or social security. In the case of an overdose, addicts sometimes even avoid calling for an ambulance because they are too scared of attracting the social workers’ or the police’s attention. 

-The Senlis Council. London

I could go on but what’s the point? Devine, like the other faithful, Bolt, Ackerman etc. have an agenda and that doesn’t include the truth. Miranda Divine’s article is not only flawed but totally incorrect. The Australian has allowed her to produce a superficial article without any scrutiny. Is this what the media is about? As long as you follow the ideology of the owner, you have carte’ blanche over fabricating stories? I know if most of us, in our employment, produced something that was as flawed as her article, we would be told to pack our bags. What industry allows their employees to lie and pass it off as the truth? Politicians are also guilty of this. John Howard, Chris Pyne, Bronwyn Bishop constantly bent the facts to push their drug strategies. The claim that they stopped the ‘heroin epidemic’ was complete nonsense just as they claimed the so called ‘ice epidemic’ was the number one drug problem. Even the politicians got the sack in the end.

Can someone be that thick to actually believe their own bullshit and publish it to the Australian public? She had to do some research and to wade over the masses of facts to come up with obscure and obviously biased information is unbelievable. But this is not just about bimbos who should be writing for Women’s Weekly. There is a responsibility attached to writing such pieces. She is feeding the masses with more misinformation and this leads to influencing government decisions. Those decisions kill people. That’s right, the damage from the existing drug policies are bad enough but ZT kills even more people. Encouraging such behaviour is morally wrong and if Devine had done her research properly, she would know this. Picking out Dr. Alex Wodak as some sort of left wing loony is disgraceful and shows the contempt of conservative, armchair critics for fellow humans. Bronwyn Bishop did the same, calling him and other Harm Minimisation supporters as ‘elitists’. This was during the enquiry she chaired so it is not surprising that Devine followed suit.

That is a success in anyone's language and it is perverse for Wodak and others in the "helping" professions to deny that success, and pour scorn on the federal "Get Tough on Drugs" approach that underpins it, and which the Rudd Government has shown no signs of dismantling.

-Miranda Devine. The Australian

Does she actually consider the ramifications of a ZT policy? If ‘success’ is measured by people in jail and addicts off the books then ZT will certainly be more of a ‘success’ than she thinks. If people committing suicide and lives being ripped apart with no support, then more success. If pushing science and medicine under the mat and ‘sending the right message’ is a better outcome than facing the reality that people are suffering, even more success. The ability to play with people’s lives for the sake of pushing personal agendas is serious and should be highlighted more. The discrimination they create against addicts should be questioned. More appropriately, maybe they should examine themselves.

UPDATE:

Ross Sharp from Smelly Tongues got in first with his article, The Ballad Of Alex And Miranda.

10 comments:

phallacy said...

".. what else do you call people who refuse to change their minds in the face of overwhelming evidence but zealots?" Miranda Devine.
Errr... straight from the horse's arse. So in the face of all fact, rationality & reason she contiues with her tendentious mendacity.
Wotta surprise.

Mikey_Capital said...

Yeah, I saw your mistake in the first para man. You foolishly claimed Miranda Devine was a "journalist".

Change it to "Opinionist" and you'll be happier.

Oh she gets away with it because she's writing on the opinion pages. That's what SMH say when I complain that Gerard "LIBERAL PARTY FOREVER, LABOR NEVER" Henderson doesn't even do basic things like disclose conflict of interest that "journalists" have to do.

mpcwebdev said...

Yup. There's so much wrong with that piece, it has to be Devine. Least we get an idea of the ZT argument - very familiar. It's been run in papers across the country - bloody desperados. Abuse the subject by abusing the person.

What I liked was the first para' where she sets the scene for industry elites plotting with "harm minimizers" to enslave humanity.
Wodaks Oz Post suggestion "wasn't just a throwaway line". It's all part of a strategy to convince the government to legalise drugs.

It seems clear to even my fuddled mind that serious discourse was lost in media glare of Oz Post using those scales for extra-curricular activities.
So, best to ensure readers follow her lead and avoid the real issue - Harm from Prohibition.

Oz P. was his second suggestion after small business.
Her piece summarises the necessary righteous ignorance to formulate such contrary tantrums. As with all Zero Tolerance proponents the evidence is hand picked and narrow. She can't really have missed the UN's "order" to Sweden to implement HR immediately if she'd dug up recent UN-Sweden-Drugs commentary.

Remember the Media Watch Classic? It helps me steady myself when her compassion doth overfloweth:

This is no New Orleans, so enough with the whingeing
I’m sorry but, if you live in a place prone to cyclones every 80 years and a cyclone comes along after 80 years what’s the surprise? We in Sydney are very sorry for the people in northern Queensland who have lost their homes to Cyclone Larry. But, much as we will miss their avocados and bananas on our supermarket shelves, we can live without their whingeing
.

— Sun-Herald, Miranda Divine, 26th March, 2006

As someone notes. Ironic she wants whingeing to stop when she does it for a living...

Good post Terry. Glad someone pulled her up.

DFAW.

Ross Sharp said...

Thanks, Terry ... the likes of Devine & Bolt fall well the bounds of what Richard Dawkins define as "the enemies of reason". They are the "end-of-times rapture-ready" hysterics of the popular media, forever flapping on about how civilisation and the world as we know it will go to hell in a hand-basket if a 19 year old smokes a joint with a few mates on his birthday, and has a 6-pack of beer. I was fascinated last week to hear some knob drearily intone that having 2 standard drinks a day will increase the risk of cancer by 75% and then warn us all that the alcohol should be taken "in moderation, if at all".

For God's sake, these pseudo-puritanical prohibitionist ponces are really beginning to give me the shits ... yet, they cannot and will not be argued with. They're like barnacles on a pier. Dey've made dere decision and dat's dat.

If they want to "save the children" from drugs and drink, perhaps they should lock them in a cupboard under the house. Apparently, that was the logic that Joseph Fritzl operated under. They have much in common.

Chade said...

I always thought the best indicator of the quality of the previous Governments' report was Bronwyn Bishop's interview on Triple J's Hack program: the best justification she could muster were "illegal drugs are bad", and the best treatment and education: "just say no".

Brilliant.

Terry Wright said...

Bronwyn Bishop's interview on Triple J's Hack program: the best justification she could muster were "illegal drugs are bad", and the best treatment and education: "just say no".

How fucking funny is this! This is the git in charge of the "The winnable war on drugs" report that the Howard government presented to professional doctors and welfare experts. I dare say there are pictures of her on the walls of many labs or clinics with her quotes underneath them. Dumb as dogshit!

-For God's sake, these pseudo-puritanical prohibitionist ponces are really beginning to give me the shits ... yet, they cannot and will not be argued with.
-You foolishly claimed Miranda Devine was a "journalist".
-Ironic she wants whingeing to stop when she does it for a living...
-the likes of Devine & Bolt fall well the bounds of what Richard Dawkins define as "the enemies of reason"
-So in the face of all fact, rationality & reason she contiues with her tendentious mendacity

Why is it that every comment made here so far just ridicules Devine and other like minded pundits as thick, out-of-touch morons? Are these people adults? BB is the worst to me. An absolute Neanderthal with an IQ of a bus stop.

God help us!

mpcwebdev said...

Here's a link to about 5 min of audio from an incredibly dangerous expedition - 'Apocalypse Now' style - by "Agent FS" from Firesnake, to Beehive Island for "The Winnable War" episode.

Bishop was launching Morality in the final battle of the WOD.

BeeHive Island

In it, I've spliced together every time she says "we have a moral responsibility" or similar, in replies on the Hack program. No repeats - just in sequence.

Enjoy... if you dare.

DFAW.

Chade said...

lol. A "moral obligation"... like a broken record has a moral obligation to stop playing! ;)

Anonymous said...

An article filled with a twisted description of the present situation in Sweden

The present situation is that
* Sweden has in an international comparison a low drug use.
* The present drug laws have a very broad support among the citizens in
Sweden.
* Sweden has in an international comparison low number of prisoners.

Sweden tested in the 60s a harm reduction policy. It did not work. A fast increasing number of amphetamine users and hash smokers in the 60s was the basic reason for the change to the present restrictive drug policy.

Terry Wright said...

Sweden has traditionally had a low rate of alcohol and drug use which makes it unique. The open drug trials in the 1960s is a really good example of what not to do. The whole fiasco was mismanaged with some doctors abusing the system and no proper research protocols established. This gave ample room for the anti-drug movement to influence the government and public opinion. The problem is they went from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Sweden's drug policy is "accepted" by the public because any support of Harm Minimisation is frowned upon as "pro-drug". Like in Australia, if a politician calls for a rational debate on drug policy, they are labelled "soft-on-drugs". Sweden have driven their drug population underground and I keep reading that addicts don't trust anyone including health workers.

I wish the whole world had Sweden's historical low drug usage levels especially their reluctance to use heroin. Funny thing is that heroin use has increased significantly since the harsh Zero Tolerance came into full force. I am saddened that Sweden, with a low level of drug and alcohol use, didn't consider themselves lucky and work on helping that small group that were effected but instead tried to wipe out the problem with barbaric law enforcement. They will now do ANYTHING to try and keep their reputation regardless of the damage they do.

As usual, the addicts are just political fodder.