Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Did They Really Say That? Part 1 - The Media

As I was writing an article recently, I had to look for a certain quote. Searching through my research, I noticed I was smiling like Tim Blair with a free 4 litre cask of wine. Quote after quote of some the most fascinating commentary that deserved to be packaged and sold off like a precious commodity. Quotes and comments that should be collated and put into a time capsule for the sake of future generations. 

So I wondered if there were any quotes or comments made by the pro-Harm Minimisation crowd that were as silly as the anti-Harm Minimisation lot and I drew a blank. I did some digging through comments from Dr. Alex Wodak, Tony Tringingham, Prof. David Pennington etc. but I was unable to find an equivalent to the often crazy quotes from prohibitionists, moralists, Zero Tolerance supporters and the religious right. Even the suggestions about doing a full 360ยบ turnaround in drug policy were logical and relevant but the responses often weren’t.

DR. ALEX WODAK: Under the current system, of course, all the most vulnerable people in the country can roll up to any criminal and corrupt policeman that they know of and buy the drug and no questions asked about age or are you pregnant, or do you have a mental illness or whatever. If we had a taxed and regulated system, not only would we be able to have warnings on the packages, but we'd also be able to regulate the people who obtain cannabis from the regulated outlets. 

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I don't accept that. I don't think you should regulate poison because it would be easier to manage it if you did. This is a poison and it's destroying our young people. It's affecting their mental health and the idea that governments should somehow get involved in it, regulate it, tax it, control the strength of it and then spend that money that's raised in taxation as though it was any other kind of revenue raising tool, I think, is an abomination.

Like alcohol and tobacco?

This is the first in a 3 part series that puts the spotlight on some of the most remarkable comments aimed at brutalising drug policy in Australia.

The comments with the most influence at cloudy the drug debate, seem to be from the media with a special mention to the Daily Telegraph. The DT has some of the most vocal opponents of Harm Minimisation and drug reform, even to the point where one particular Piers Akerman was quoted by John Howard as someone who shared his views. Why were the DT so opposed to Harm Minimisation? Where did it come from? The answer is the editor, Col Allen.

QUESTION: Col Allen, is it right for a newspaper editor to have his mind made up so firmly to be so dogmatic on an issue like this, which is still tearing the community apart?

COL ALLEN: Well I'm not dogmatic about it. I believe, and I believe very firmly, that certainly the audience at large of The Daily Telegraph is not interested in seeing shooting galleries and injecting rooms flourish in our city.

-Col Allen. Editor - Daily Telegraph

Well, there you have it. But Col doesn’t write articles but he at least added his own DT version of the truth.

The (heroin) trials failed in Switzerland and Switzerland is now, along with other countries in Europe, returning to a tough, hard line and fighting crime, and it didn't work

-Col Allen. Editor - Daily Telegraph

It’s amazing that someone working in the news as an editor can let so many fallacies and strong opinion pieces through but to add his own is hilarious. For the record, law enforcement and health officials in Switzerland declared the program a success. So did voters. In a nationwide referendum in September 1997, over 70 percent opposed an initiative that would have ended the trials. In October 1998 parliament voted overwhelmingly to make the program permanent.

But what about everyone’s favourite DT bulldog (or bull toad), Piers Akerman? Piers is a well known anti-drug crusader but less known as a former druggie himself. During Piers peak, he was singled out as John Howard’s main media ally to opposing the ACT heroin trials. In fact, MediaWatch pointed out that 10 of 17 paragraphs in an article from Akerman on drugs were directly lifted from a press release from the Prime Minister's office. It was all too much for independent MP, Richard Jones (1988-2003) and during parliament in 1997 he called Akerman an ex drug addict who used cocaine, LSD and marijuana regularly. He told of Akerman’s co workers listening to him each morning at 9 AM snorting lines of cocaine and he even accused him of sexually harassing young female employees. He questioned why Akerman would campaign so heavily to stop the trials and in rebuke, named and shamed him as a hypocrite drug user.

What does Akerman really think about HM?

Up to a point, Premier, up to a point. Your government is responsible for legalising the intravenous injection of illicit drugs - how family-friendly is that?


Drugs remain one of the greatest scourges of our society and while a member of the NSW police force was reminding prospective attendees of the Big Day Out that there are no such things as "recreational" drugs, only "illegal" drugs, your government still subscribes to a dangerous, but politically correct, policy of "harm minimisation".

-Piers Akerman

His is very happy to tow the line when it comes to spin. Notice the imaginary link between policing and saving lives.

... he was the driving force behind a website designed to let drug users know where police sniffer dogs might be assisting police drive down drug crime and save lives.

-Piers Akerman

But Piers, like most of the ZT pundits, are happy to accept moral importance over evidence even going as far as calling a “scientific trial”, unscientific. Akerman’s spin was completely ignoring the fact that the proposed heroin trial was exactly that ... a trial, to gather research. Misleadingly, Akerman calls it an “unscientific free heroin handout”. Attacking science is the call of the ZT loonies and discrediting the proposed heroin trials as “free heroin for junkies” is journalism at it’s lowest. Akerman was paramount to misleading the public with fear and lies. Was he afraid the trials would prove it was indeed a good policy like overseas?

Small wonder then Mr Howard’s decision to derail the ACT’s unscientific free heroin handout was attacked by apologists for drug addicts and pushers.

-Piers Akerman

When you have exhausted all the dirty tricks, there is always one more lurking about. Piers was determined to attack heroin addicts anyway he could and even down played addiction to heroin. Again, Akerman and co are obviously much more informed than the million or so workers in the addiction field.

I am not convinced that addiction to heroin is any more compelling that any addiction to any other pleasure.

-Piers Akerman

Is it really about drugs? Or is Akerman just a Liberal Party hack supporter? His hate of Labor and especially The Greens is consistent in nearly every article he writes.

In the truest expression of lunatic libertarianism they (The Greens) want illicit drugs permitted for personal use, they want to ban the use of sniffer dogs and even the use of helicopters for the detection of drug crops.

-Piers Akerman (on The Greens drug policy)

So, is it right for the media to set the atmosphere for the drug debate or to report on it? Alan Jones was asked that very question.

QUESTION: But was it right for a media professional to influence public opinion against the trial, when medical professionals said the trial should go ahead?

ALAN JONES: Well of course if you leave education to educationalists or politics to politicians Rob, you'll get into trouble. So I don't think health issues are the province of the health professionals.

-Alan Jones. 2UE 

You can stop thinking that right now ... these are real quotes and not made up. Yes Alan Jones did say that. 

Although Alan Jones has apparently changed his mind and now supports trying a new approach, he did once say this.

(Harm Minimisation:) a theory whereby addicts get free needles, free syringes, free methadone and shooting galleries.

-Alan Jones. 2UE 

Many of you may be asking, where’s Miranda Devine? To be frank, there are so many classic Devine quotes that it took me hours to cut them down to be manageable and even then, there were dozens. 

For those who don’t know, Miranda Devine is an ‘opinion writer’ for the Sydney Morning Herald who has a habit of quoting research out of context. She somehow feels her “facts & figures” are her strong point but like most Zero Tolerance proponents, her research is biased and cherry picked. I found a few links that examined her evidence and reveal some blatant examples of misleading her readers including a few articles from myself. There is even a whole page devoted to her supplied evidence for an article she wrote in 2003. How she continued with her own incredulous brand of research after this web page appeared and exposed her, is mind blowing and just as interesting is how the SMH lets it get through?

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. Sydney Morning Herald

I see, the tobacco industry and lung cancer ... marijuana and mental health, there has to be a connection somewhere.  Miranda’s ability to put the complexity of addiction issues and why people use drugs into black or white is the trademark of Zero Tolerance twats. She follows the usual comparative analogies of most groups that have no clue about the subject they support so rabidly. The statements by her Zero Tolerance cohorts must seem normal to them but absolutely a mind fuck to the rest of us. 

The war on drugs in Australia is working. The Bali Nine are just part of the price

-Miranda Devine. Sydney Morning Herald

Her insistence that prohibition is working may excite a few readers of Murdoch’s trash media but those in the D&A field are horrified. Apart from always down playing the damage of alcohol, the current drug policies based on prohibition must get even tougher against illicit drug use according to Devine. The actual policy of Harm Minimisation fits in uncomfortably with the prohibition style laws which causes Miranda much duress.

The naysayers cite America's prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s as the great failure which proves prohibition of drugs is doomed.  But alcohol use did fall significantly in the US during prohibition, as did cirrhosis.  Suicide rates dropped by 50 per cent, as did alcohol-related arrests, according to US drug policy resource, the Schaffer Library. 

-Miranda Devine. Sydney Morning Herald

Miranda Devine is one of the few who think alcohol prohibition was successful. This should be enough put her on the cover of MAD magazine or at least the poster girl for Drug Free Australia (DFA). Funny enough, director of DFA , Salvation Army Major and ANCD Chair, Brian Watters backed up her comment. Watters is probably the most dangerous man in Australia. A Christian extremist who makes up one of the 13 members of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). But more about Watters in the 3rd part of this series.

It (prohibition) was the most lawful period in US history.

-Brian Watters. Chairman of ANCD.

The latest furphy that started with the Bishop Report, is that HM is the cause for the current drug problems. Using traditional arguments from those opposed to the "War on Drugs" is a trend of late for the the ZT crowd who could not compete with the evidence based positions of reformists. One tactic was to take the situation of 38 years under a "War on Drugs" mentality and changing it to “25 years of Harm Minimisation’ being the root of the problem. They forget that HM is dealing with the fall out of strict prohibitionist laws like the "War on Drugs" and not the problem itself. But since they are steadily losing the battle and competing with evidence, they have to turn up the rhetoric.

The story of Australia's heroin drought is an extraordinary good news story.  But it is getting little publicity because it destroys the popular myth that the illicit drug problem will never be eased by prohibition.  It is a fascinating case study in how ideology blinds people to the truth.  

Our heroin drought is unique in the world.  It began about Christmas 2000 in Cabramatta, the nation's largest heroin market, when a sudden shortage of heroin was accompanied by a sharp rise in price and decline in purity.  

This phenomenon came two years after a much-criticised change in Australia's drug strategy.  We switched from a disastrous decade-long experiment with harm minimisation and lax law enforcement ( which saw a doubling of daily heroin users ) to an official Tough on Drugs strategy, overseen by the Australian National Council on Drugs ( ANCD ).  In charge was Salvation Army Major Brian Watters, a zero-tolerance advocate hand-picked by the Prime Minister and scorned as an anachronism by the influential drug liberalisation lobby.  

-Miranda Devine. Sydney Morning Herald. 2003

There’s that idiot, Watters again! 

Miranda made no mention that the drug kingpins in S.E. Asia had switched from heroin to methamphetamines and while the government was back slapping with cheering from Devine & co., an “ice epidemic” had exploded under their noses. The “tough on drugs” policy had no effect, what-so-ever as claimed and this was latter admitted by the AFP. 

Not only is the ZT crowd now using the HM argument about strategies up to date but now they are also reversing the fact that the world is slowly rejecting prohibition and instead claiming HM is on the way out.

...the drug harm-minimisation lobby, which has shaped debate about drug use in Australia for 25 years - but is losing credibility as contrary evidence piles up

-Miranda Devine. Sydney Morning Herald

Evidence piling up? Does she mean the same, regurgitated junk science that the anti-HM zealots try to pass off as evidence?

Or does she mean the rubbery statistics she cherry picked from convenient sources?

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. Sydney Morning Herald 

Of course she is ignoring the fact that hard drug use amongst children has increased dramatically. Her “children” demographic are a portion of the overall user base and the stronger potency just means less usage is needed. As usual, her comments are just laughable when examined.

Meanwhile, Miranda pushed on with her belief that the “tough on drugs” approach was a success and declared that the world’s experts were somehow misguided because the case for Zero Tolerance had been settled as the winner.

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. Sydney Morning Herald

It’s great reading isn’t it. 

We haven’t forgotten the Bishop Report. You know, “The Winnable War on Drugs”. The report that was criticised by nearly every D&A expert in Australia and was just laughed at overseas and dismissed as a political stunt.

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."

-Miranda Devine. Sydney Morning Herald

And just to make sure we all get the message that the "War on Drugs" has been won, more of the “sending the right message” propaganda. Remember that “sending the right message” is more important than reality.

Although it is impossible to stamp out drug use entirely, it is important to realise the symbolic importance of sanctions - even if they aren't always enforced. By cracking down on dealers and mounting occasional raids on nightclubs, authorities send the message that drug use is unwise.

-Miranda Devine. Sydney Morning Herald

I could fill another 10 pages with Miranda Devine quotes but I value my sanity.

Another Murdoch trash paper, The HeraldSun, has a team equally as potent as The Daily Telegraph. The HUN of course, is home to the fearless fruitcake, the spitter of spin, the ranting, raving, Rudd-hating, racist of the right and spokesman for the anti-climate change religion, Andy Bolt. 

You may remember Andy for his most famous quote to date:

There is a reason Iraq has almost disappeared as an election issue.

Here it is: The battle is actually over. Iraq has been won.

-Andrew Bolt. HeraldSun

LOL. A few months later and faster than Steve Price riding his scooter to the pub, he removed all references to his article.

Andy, like Miranda Devine, has problems with research and facts. Not that he doesn’t do research or present the facts, it’s just that he presents his research with a rather unique conclusion with his own version of the “facts”. These often unknown facts are a source of delight for many but some of the right wing persuasion, see them as truths that a PC crazy Australia has tried to hide. It makes for some mind bending logic labyrinths which often leave you with a “Bolta headache”.

My first big lesson, and best. In 1999, then Premier Jeff Kennett was keen to give us a "safe" injecting room, and picked Prof David Penington to sell us the funky idea. Injecting rooms had slashed the death toll overseas, declared Penington. Without them, overdoses here could explode. (They didn't.)

Drug experts cheered. The Age ran graphics showing that "success" overseas. "Everyone" thought the case so strong - the cause so moral - that Labor tried to trump Kennett by offering not one "safe" room but up to half a dozen. Being of Dutch migrants, I was raised to respect authority. So imagine my astonishment when I checked the most basic claim of this campaign.

In fact, only two countries had "safe" injecting rooms, as well as other get-soft policies, and in Switzerland the overdose deaths had then tripled.

How was it that so many people repeated a claim that was simply false and so easily checked? Because, you see, it seemed "good" to say it. That sure sobered me up.

-Andrew Bolt. HeraldSun

Confused? Overdoses didn’t explode in the late 1990s? Heroin overdoses doubled to 21,000 non-fatal overdoses from 1990 - 2001. As Andy wrote his article, it was at the peak of recorded overdoses in Australia.

What’s with the problem that only 2 countries had (Safe Injection Sites) SIS? No one ever said any different but Andy has declared it was a false claim and even managed to tie in “other get-soft policies” as some sort of logical conclusion to SIS. There are now over 48 SIS worldwide.

And only something that could be written by the likes of Andy was the claim of overdose rates tripling after the establishment of the SIS program. Not one person died of an overdose at the first clinic set up in Switzerland. The general overdose rate did increase in line with the increase in usage but has since declined since the introduction of prescription heroin for addicts. How Andy tied in a rising overdose mortality rate with the SIS program is just awe inspiring. I have never read, even once, a suggestion that a SIS has increased the overdose mortality rates. It is always the opposite findings so Andy’s conclusion is just added to the huge collection of twisted, manipulated misinformation dished out by Zero Tolerance nutters.

Our big lesson should be that Andy Bolt is a woeful journalist. Not only is his research wrong but he boasts that his bogus claims refute other correct facts. But no one with an ounce of intelligence really takes him seriously and he is really just fodder for a good laugh. He sort of reminds me of Mike Moore from Frontline. An ex ABC “journalist” who finds fame through being in the public spotlight and his audience are the nightly current affairs viewers who still think refugees threw their children overboard.

You must give Andy some credit though for persistence. He really hates teachers!

Even our whinges about their drug laws must seem bizarre. Guess who truly has the worst laws -- Indonesia, which gave Corby 20 years' jail for having 4.1kg of marijuana; or Victoria, which meanwhile gave a mere 12-month community service order to a teacher found with 29kg -- and let her keep her teaching licence?

-Andrew Bolt. HeraldSun

20 years for any amount of cannabis is outrageous. Condoning a 20 year jail sentence for grass puts Bolt in a different class of human and like most of the ZT nuts, they see no wrong that a young woman can have 20 years removed from her life and have to spend it in conditions that would not be tolerated here. Bolt & co. might be clowns but all jokes aside, The Bali Nine, Schapelle Corby  and Van Tuong Nguyen have had their lives ruined or snuffed out, yet they cheer on. In my eyes, that makes them unworthy of any respect and they deserve the contempt that anyone dishes up to them.

It seems that Bolt’s influence might have rubbed off somewhat with a frankenstein creation called Sally Morrell.

The Royal Adelaide Hospital doctors behind the push said we had to accept that one in four young people tried ecstasy.

Had to? Really?

Like I `have to' accept that some people steal or rape?

-Sally Morrell, Herald Sun

There’s that connection again. It’s a common theme, dumbing down their argument to the simplest factor ... something like rape or theft. Gone are the scientific and medical findings. Now they can argue moral standards because the segue has been made, however implausible it is.

And there’s that “wrong message” too. Another common theme that seems more important that actually helping anyone.

It is likely to save lives,' said ADF youth drug studies director Cameron Duff.

That may be true! about ravers at that particular event on that particular night. They'll get to find out whether the main ingredient of their pill is MDMA (pure ecstasy) or more dangerous replacements such as PMA or ketamine.

But the big downside of the plan is the message it's sending out. 


Ecstasy is illegal. It's as simple as that.

-Sally Morrell, Herald Sun

Well, being a homosexual was once illegal and so was a female showing her belly button in public so those arrested deserved what they got? Honestly Sally, you’re a fuckwit.

At least she admits that prohibition is a loss. The problem is, will these people who keep getting the same results, remain defiant and apply the same strategy again and again and again.

And that's why I think we shouldn't have to accept that young people will take drugs at all.


I think we should be fighting it every step of the way. Even if it does sometimes seem a losing battle.

-Sally Morrell, Herald Sun

Enough of Sally.

I know you are all asking about the bearded burbler, Neil Mitchell - the Derryn Hinch Mini-Me. Apart from blinking too much and looking shifty, he too has a hard stance on drugs.

To its credit, the AFL has introduced a drug-testing system that in many ways is tougher than those in other sports.

But it also falters because anybody who tests positive is not publicly punished or declared as a drug user until the third time they are caught.

-Neil Mitchell. 3AW

Yes Neil, punish those evil drug users. Especially those sporting “role models” who have been given that role by you.

Neil has followed the popular trend and confessed his drug use when he was younger and irresponsible. And like those who do confess (Swann, Bligh etc.), they hypocritically condone anyone who does what they have done. My question is, what if they got caught? Should their criminal drug record have stopped them getting to where they are today? What would their reputation be like if they were exposed as a criminal?

My other question is, why doesn’t anyone who publicly declares their ILLEGAL drug use, admit to actually enjoying it? I would say it would have more do with damage to their reputation if they declared they enjoyed it than whether it’s legal or not.

I enjoyed it, but not massively. I was of a different generation and more interested in a beer and a chat.

Today's marijuana was far more dangerous than the plants I tried. 

In its current form it's one of the most insidious and dangerous things we've got to cope with

There's no way we can go near legalisation now.

-Neil Mitchell. 3AW

Finally, my favourite from David Biles - Canberra Times.

The fact that the battle against addiction can be won is illustrated by the dramatic reduction in the prevalence of smoking throughout Australia over the past two or more decades. I am reliably informed nicotine addiction is much more difficult to break than addiction to heroin, cocaine or other drugs.

-David Biles. July 2008. Canberra Times - Drug taking is not acceptable, even when in prison [Article]

David Biles is a consultant criminologist and professorial associate in corrections at Charles Sturt University.

He is not someone who should be making drug policies!

NEXT: Did They Really Say That?  Part 2 - Politicians


Anonymous said...

It seems that Bolt’s influence might have rubbed off somewhat with a frankenstein creation called Sally Morrell. ... Sally, you’re a fuckwit.

That "fuckwit" is his wife.

And you're a good argument against the taking of illegal drugs. Jeez you're a bitter little druggie.

Grant Steele said...

What, so Sally Morrell can't be a fuckwit and Bolt's wife at the same time? I would've thought being a fuckwit was a prerequisite for marrying a lousy cunt like him.

Take your sermonising elsewhere, cocktowel.

Terry Wright said...

Anonymous: Jeez you're a bitter little druggie

Yes, I am.

My quality of life is directly effected by public opinion and the likes of Sally Morrell try to influence that opinion.

Her attack on HM is disgusting and like her idiot husband deserve all the scorn they receive. They are playing with people's lives with no consideration for the truth or the misery they cause. Their only concern is furthering their career and the size of their pay packet.

Yes, I'm bitter all right.

As Grant said, take your sermonising elsewhere.

Grant, Nicely said.

Ross Sharp said...

So I don't think health issues are the province of the health professionals.

Well, if ever I front up for a prostate examination, I'll make sure Alan's the man to give it to me ... He'd probably like that.

Honestly, so many stupid people with so many stupid things to say about subjects they know fuck all about. Reading those quotes gave me a bloody headache, Terry. You owe me a Panadol.

clarencegirl said...

Really liked your post.
Loved the quoutes.
Missed the one illogical argument that I've always like the best(probably because those profs who like to make this strange distinction are careful never to put it in print), ie., that abuse of narcotics is an addiction whereas abuse of alcohol is an allergy/disease.
You've gotta luv 'em!

Terry Wright said...

Virtual Panadol, Ross?

Thanks ClarenceGirl.
Believe it or not but I have never picked up on that ... what an excellent point.

I was only just on a forum in the US where the hordes were pounding this poor girl on methadone who said she is treating her disease. The ignorant bullies were ruthless and laughing at her, mocking her disease comment. Now I can go and slap this on them ... and it's all the way from the Northern Coast of Oz!. Thanks CG.

Rebekka said...

This one "It (prohibition) was the most lawful period in US history.

-Brian Watters. Chairman of ANCD"

cracked me up the most. Does this idiot not realise that prohibition was the genesis of organised crime in the US?

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Rebekka.

I know, it's incredible. Amazingly, he is 1 of 13 members of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). They basically dictate drug policy for the UN and threaten countries that want to run heroin trials or have supervised injection centres.

In 2000, they threatened to "re-evaluate" Tasmania's poppy industry if we went ahead with the heroin trials. Not very nice people.

BTW, The INCB do not have to answer to anyone including the UN who they work for. This includes no audits or any transparency at all. Everything they do is secret!