Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Drug Hysteria - Headlines from News Ltd.

Drug references in headlines must be a winning formula for News Ltd. media outlets in Australia. I have provided a collection of some wonderful examples of how headlines often have very little to do with the actual article.

In my  previous article, Everyday Examples of Drug Hysteria, I mentioned that News Ltd ran a story about singer, Shannon Noll, who had admitted to drinking a lot and smoking marijuana. The headline was, ‘Noll Admits to Drug and Booze Addiction’. The article explained that Noll had ‘admitted to using drugs and bingeing on alcohol’ and made references to well known hard drug users from the music industry like Keith Richards and Jimmy Hendrix. There was no mention of addiction at all and the only drug referenced was alcohol except, ‘He did confirm that he had used marijuana heavily.’You would get no points for seeing the headline as media sensationalism.

This got me thinking about the other drug related sensational headlines that News Ltd was responsible for. I did some digging through news.com.au and found a collection of headlines that would make any self respecting media mogul shudder. A headline with a drug reference must be guaranteed success even if the story has very little to do with drugs. The only bigger prize for headline sensationalism is a drug reference and a celebrity. 

News Ltd is responsible for news feeds to the Herald-Sun, Daily Telegraph, The Courier-Mail, The Adelaide Advertiser and others. I have not included articles from the well known Zero Tolerance wackers like Ackerman, Laws, Jones, Devine, Bolt, Price, Mitchell etc. They deserve their own article.

'Sex, Booze And Drugs' At Club 21

A story about a group of female students who formed a girls club. A major news story? How this got in the news initially is still a mystery and even more so is how it made it onto TV.

The issue has made headlines in newspapers and on national breakfast television.

St Patrick's College principal Eamon Hannan today said the school community had been "devastated" by the media coverage and students had been offered counselling.

He said some students had been harassed on their way to school and others were in tears because they "cannot understand why they are on the front page of the paper or on the television news".

The only mention of drugs in the whole article was, ‘The ex-members alleged that sleeping around, binge drinking and drug taking were all activities encouraged by the king pins of the group.’ The rest of the article was still about a group of female students who formed a girls club. 

Be Paid To Take Drugs

AUSTRALIAN backpackers are offering themselves as guinea pigs in risky drug trials to fund their European holidays.

Instead of slogging away in London pubs, Australian travellers are being willingly injected with previously untested drugs in exchange for a few thousand pounds.

These poor, unfortunate backpackers have had to give up the accepted practice of ‘slogging away in London pubs’ and be exposed to injections of god-knows-what for a lousy $5,000 Australian dollars. ‘Injected’ sounds so sinister but it is the required drug reference ... perfect for this article. An article about participants in legal, pharmaceutical drug research. I would be more worried about the ‘slogging away in London pubs’ comment. It’s OK to pump massive amounts of an addictive and socially destructive drug into yourself day after day but being a participant in medical drug trials is questionable? 

Peaches Geldof seen 'buying drugs' from Amy Winehouse dealer

Two named celebrities and two references to drugs! This story was bound for the main page of the news.com.au website.

Drug user 'masturbated in ambulance'

What more can I say?

Zero Tolerance Works

Zero Tolerance is a drug policy practised by the US and Sweden which is supported by moralists and the religious right. It has caused much media attention since John Howard started pushing it as a possible policy for Australia as part of his ‘Tough on Drugs’ approach. This article though, is about horses.

War On Drugs Must Go On

One of the most contentious issues of the last 30 years that has resulted in over a million unnecessary deaths and over 2 trillion dollars going to organised crime. But this article isn’t about the actual "War on Drugs" but rather, performance enhancing drugs in sport. I suppose it’s a better headline than “War on anti-competitive, performance enhancing drugs must go on”.

Nigel Kennedy Hits Out At Substance Abuse In Classical Music

Substance abuse is serious and ... What? Orchestra musicians taking drugs?! I thought only rock musicians, junkies, desperates, losers, the poor, those crazy celebrities, Greens’ voters, the unemployed, pregnant single mothers, Wayne Swann, fallen sports stars and a third of Australians took drugs.

I was interested in the term ‘Hits Out’ in the headline. I get the feeling there was not so much ‘hitting out’ at all but rather ‘selling out’ of the unknown reporter to get their article published.

WE'RE used to rockers coming clean about their use of drugs. Now star violinist Nigel Kennedy has hit out at substance abuse in the highbrow world of classical music. He said that orchestra musicians often took drugs to head off stage fright.

"There are drugs that enable people who are nearly dead to perform," the Brit said.

"They don't lead to mistakes, but not much else happens."

Kennedy said he was not averse to the odd joint himself, but only after a concert.

"Performing under the influence of alcohol or dope would be cheating the audience," he said.

By the way, that’s the whole article.

High Society Awash With Drugs

First, orchestra musicians, now the rich. Who is left to make headlines? We better add them to the list - rock musicians, junkies, desperates, losers, the poor, those crazy celebrities, the Greens voters, the unemployed, pregnant single mothers, Wayne Swann, fallen sports stars, a third of Australians and the rich ... take drugs.

Corby 'Not A Drug-Taking Party Animal'

Read the article and you will not find one instance of a ‘Drug-Taking Party Animal'. Maybe reporter, Margaret Scheikowski needed a new headline to stand out from the constant Corby stories or they ran out of headlines with the words ‘Corby’ and ‘drugs’.

Angelina Drug Den Video A 'Lesson To Others'

A celebrities name will make a lame story ... well, er, a lame story ... with a celebrity.

The footage, shot in 1999 when she was 23, does not show the Oscar-winner using drugs, however she does talk about S&M practices and killing pets.

The video has been published by British newspaper The Sun - which says its an example to other troubled stars that they can turn their lives around.

So no drug use here. Just idle chat about how some of her pets died when she was a kid and a mention of being tied up during sex. I am glad, British newspaper, The Sun has a moral for all those junkie celebrities, that if Angelina can do it, they can do it too. See, drug addiction is simple.

Kids Offered Drug Disguised As Lollies

My favourite. 

•Ice disguised as flavoured lollies

•Offered to primary children

•Parents warned as ice epidemic continues

A note sent home by Rozelle Public School in Sydney's inner-west warned that children could be approached and given crystal methamphetamine in chocolate, strawberry and peanut flavour.

The alert, written in the school newsletter, says the substance "looks like a crunchy sweet".

THE drug ice is being offered to school children disguised as lollies, parents have been warned.


It adds: "A child in Leichhardt may have been offered such a substance recently.

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Training said last night a "concerned and responsible Rozelle Public parent advised the school they heard a child (not a Rozelle student) was offered chocolate that may have been tainted with drugs".

The whole article is about warnings that lollies might have the drug, ice in them to lure children. No drug dealer is going to give away his product with the absurd hope that some kid will become ‘addicted’ to his product. There’s plenty of customers already. Maybe the dealer will leave a business card for future sales? This crazy notion that dealers give out free samples to children to get them ‘hooked’ was a propaganda stunt from the anti-drugs zealots, over 80 years ago. Also most dealers are user/dealers with the same ethics as anyone and are trying to support their habit. The idea of giving drugs to young kids offends them just as much as anyone.

The only actual evidence from the article is that, a government worker said a parent told a school they had heard about a child from another school was offered lollies that might have been laced with drugs’. No child has actually been offered anything. In fact, it’s an urban legend from the US which made news in the UK last year. It’s even made it to Wikipedia.

From a rumour that one person mentioned to someone else, we got a school alert sent to parents, a warning for the school community, a response from the Department of Education and Training, a concerned group of parents, more hysteria that Australia is battling an ice epidemic,  more ‘fears that drug abuse is taking hold of the young more than ever before’, a reminder that the previous government spent $30 million on an advertising campaign that was ‘highlighting the savage effects methamphetamines have on users’, a reminder that ‘Australian National Council on Drugs chairman John Herron, a former government minister, called for children aged 6 to 12 to be be targeted by anti-drugs campaigns to help them "say no", a reference to a story where ‘In October last year three children at a NSW South Coast primary school were taken to hospital after they appeared to have taken ecstasy at lunchtime after mistaking them for strawberry lollies’, that ‘Data collected by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows that drug incidents in schools are falling’ and even that ‘serious incident reports obtained by The Daily Telegraph under Freedom of Information reveal a number of concerns’.

That’s a lot of story from an urban legend.

1 comment:

The Editor said...

This is why I have a T-shirt which reads:

"Is that the truth or did you read it in the Daily Telegraph"