Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Herald-Sun and It’s Readers Hit a New Low

News Ltd. Newspapers like The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail and the Adelaide Advertiser are notorious for producing some of the worst journalism in Australia but this week, the Herald-Sun hit a new low. 

What does a Herald-Sun journalist do when he stumbles across a young overdose victim being cared for by his friends? Chip in and help? Enquire about an ambulance? Pester the friends for a story? 

The victim’s friends were in obvious distress but that didn’t stop Herald-Sun journalist, Aaron Langmaid from getting his story. Like some deranged parrot, he repeatedly quizzed the frantic carers if the victim had taken GHB. Five times in five seconds in fact. Eventually, one person snapped back, “I don’t know!”

What’s he actually had? Was it G? What else? What else has he had? Has he had G? How much G did he have?

How long ago did he have it?

When did you last speak to him … Like in the club? How long ago? Like 20 minutes? 

How old is he?

And on it went. 

Langmaid is a disgrace and sadly, typical of the News Ltd ‘ambulance chaser’ mentality. Langmaid, himself described the situation as ‘frantic’ and that ‘a young life hangs in the balance’ but that didn’t stop him from his selfish pursuit of a story. Were his demanding questions appropriate while a man lie dying in front of his friends? Did he really have to push those attending the victim so hard for an immediate answer? And why didn’t he wait until the ambulance arrived before interfering with a potentially fatal overdose? This was appalling behaviour for a journalist with a major newspaper.

Trash media like the Herald-Sun are experts at this style of dog whistle journalism. Stories about street crime, celebrity meltdowns and welfare cheats attracts a certain type of audience and the Murdoch press really know their market. And like a Mecca for rednecks; racists, bogans and right-wing nutters coming running when there’s a chance to spill some vile on those often deemed as “low-lifes” or “oxygen thieves”.

“Dole bludgers” and “boat people” might be a popular target for most of the Herald-Sun hate squad but the real prize for attracting loonies are drug users and dealers. And nothing highlights this more than the article in question. The reader’s comments section was full of derogative, vile put-downs aimed at the overdose victim and anyone related to drugs. Druggies, as most readers liked to call them were also referred to as ‘idiots’ 27 times. ‘stupid’ 13 times and fools 11 times. Other endearing names include junkies, scum of the earth, the scourge of society, overdosed dogs, drug-addled useless parasites, lowest of the low, indulgent idiots, drop-kicks, excreta, self-inflicted drones, cashed-up tools, brain dead morons, slime balls, ferals[sic] and even buggers.

Drug addicts are the lowest of the low. They don't deserve any more help than they are already getting. If they can't handle their own situation properly then don't expect assistance from anyone else. I can understand that its ruined people's families but this is getting ridiculous. I'm sick of hearing about these kinds of incidents...its their own faults no one elses.

It’s not just the name calling that makes these readers so disgusting but something more sinister. There were literally dozens of comments that proudly called for people overdosing to be left on the street to die. 

Just let them OD and die I reckon, less buyers means less demand means less drugs. Simple but effective.
-The Warden of Williamstown

What sort of person thinks like this? What drives someone to make such malicious comments in a public forum about strangers? Have we, as a society really sunken this low? 

Here's a thought. Leave the overdosed dogs in the gutters where they fall and concentrate on helping good, honest humans.
-Serge of Melb

The Herald-Sun holds a family day picnic for it’s readers
A big part of it seems to be modern conservative ideology. There were plenty of readers blaming a lack of personal responsibility and a diminishing standard of morals. Fine, they are welcome to their views but spewing out hateful demands for people overdosing to be left to die is bordering on derangement. 

One quick way to fix this problem is for Ambo's to fail to respond to overdoses. At what point will the wider community accept that these drug users MAKE A CONSCIOUS DECISION to use drugs. Why should it be up to US (again) to be responsible for the actions of others. Police will NEVER stop the drug problem - it's been around for centuries. On top of that USERS don't get charged by Police anymore - Christine Nixon pitted the little darlings, stating a drug OD was a 'medical' problem & Police were instructed not to charge them with 'using' drugs... Let all that OD die from the OD. Then these idiots might thing twice about using - bonus will be the Ambo's can then have time to attend REAL medical emergencies.
-Fed Up of Berwick

What is it with modern conservatives and their lack of compassion? A recent study from the London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience found that those with strong conservative views have less grey matter in a part of the brain related to understanding complexity than liberal minded people. The study also concluded that a conservative’s brain is bigger in the section linked to fear.

People living in fear will understandably see more threats everywhere because they are looking for them, and will lash out violently at any provocation while those analyzing the big picture are busy sorting complex details. While slower to retaliate, Liberals are compelled to explore options that might be difficult but necessary.

So, conservatives have a unique brain that can’t process complex matters as well as the general population? And they are fearful of what most people deem fixable. I must say that I’m not really surprised at this information considering the reader’s comments from the Herald-Sun article. Conservative ideology is a destructive force and it unnecessarily divides many communities on important social issues. Throw in some self absorbed religious types and you have a dangerous combination.

I cannot have a lot of sympathy, as a person who has had to deal with the squalor and desperation of drug abuse in people I know. Self respect, my faith and my upbringing helped me to never go down that path (or even contemplate it) but the sorts of morals (yes, social engineers, I know it is a dirty word) approved of today are selfish, Left-wing and all about seeming and self-gratification. mental illness is not treated seriously enough, drug pushers are not dealt with harshly enough, and police are wasted on traffic duties and gay-pride marches. The bulk of the citizenry are being conned by a few do-gooders who want to further aid this deadly trade and the people who choose to use the drugs.

Apart from the standard anti-drug rhetoric, there is a glaring contradiction in the mentioned article. The underlying message from the Herald-Sun is the need for tougher drug laws and and more public messages like, “mmm … drugs are bad … OK”. There is even a loaded poll under the scary heading, Drug Crisis. It asks readers the leading question, Should there be greater policing and tougher penalties to eliminate drugs on our streets? Of course, over 75% of readers voted yes. But the article included several opinions that contradict the newspaper’s position.

You can't win this war. Part of the reason drugs are so popular is because they are illegal. If illicit substances are regulated you create a space where users know what they are getting. Let’s have a discussion about a national drugs policy.'

Even champions of Zero Tolerance like the Catholic Church chipped in.

Catholic Care chief executive Fr Joe Caddy said drug use had to be treated as a health issue rather than through the criminal justice system. "In some cases we would still need the authority of the courts but part of the solution is teaching users - and their friends and family - how to manage the situation,'' he said.

And of course, Les Twentyman.

He told that law and order was not going to stop the city's soaring drug problems.
"At the end of the day we can't stop it. Even when the police announce that they are going to be at rock concerts they still take the drug. The law and order part is certainly not a deterrent," he said.
Mr Twentyman said European schemes where drugs are tested for revellers before they take them should be considered.

"What they do in Europe is when people come in to buy drugs they test the drugs for them so they know exactly what they're getting."

"Maybe that needs to be looked at here, it's been a success."

If you had accidentally stumbled onto the Herald-Sun article from another country, you may be forgiven for thinking that Australians are nasty, hysterical twats. Just the initial video showing a ruthless, disrespectful reporter should be enough to trigger some serious questions. And then there’s the loaded poll with such a leading question. But it’s the reader’s comments that would leave you with no doubt. For example:

Let these fools die. Death penalty for sellers no matter how big or small. Jail for users.

And this.

People who take so called "recreational drugs" should not be given any treatment. Let them die. Maybe then the message will get through. Why should they be clogging up our health resources and a bonus would be a drop in crime.
-cazy of everywhere

But there’s always a lighter side to everything.

Apparently, drugs is what it's all about these days. This is what I was told by an inside source. You go to clubs, you do drugs. Just close the clubs down. The fewer places for these dogs to pack in, the better.
-Anthony B of Melbourne

Anthony, thanks to you and your ‘inside source’, for sharing that very important piece of information. Have you informed the Australian Federal Police?

Maybe some readers just have too much time on their hands. Especially in this instance:

Punish all three involved! User first offence, minimum $1k fine, and public humiliation. Publicly name them, and put them in public stocks for 12 hrs a day very wknd for 3 mths, and ban them from drugs & alcohol for 1 yr. Subsequent offences lock them up for min of 3 yrs. in special community service goals, that required manual labour, no concurrent sentencing. Drug dealers, no matter age, should face a minimum 15 years, before eligible for parole, with a maximum of never to be released for third, or subsequent offence. Finally, clubs, organised dance parties, other commercial activities, what ever, a $10k fine for each, and every addict who is, or was found to be on their premises. I say 'was', because the bouncers, rather than move this sick individual to a safe location, put him in a car. The fine should be $250k for each dealer caught, other than those they hand over with suitable proof to Police, and $500k fine if the Police raid, and only find drugs on the floor. Companies running these venues should have to put up a $mill Bond to cover potential fines, and replenish it if used, before being able to do business.

Some suggest that more education about the consequences of drug use is a possible solution. I agree, we need more education … like basic writing skills.

and while he lies in the gutter with self inflicted wounds,honest people who need an ambulance are waiting,dieing because of his choices,illegal choices.Let a few die,it is their choice to ignor the law and education on drugs.they are just a scourge on decent society
-Eric of Melbourne

Herald-Sun reader Robynne says ...
"Why woulod a government condone drug taking?"
Yes, education might just be the key.  

The Gillard goes all out to spend millions on anti smoking advertising,tells us what to drink ,what to eat ,BUT GIVES THE GREEN LIGHT TO ILLICIT DRUGS,SUPPLIES SHOOTING GALLERIES SO ADDICTS DON'T OVER DOSE,gives them free methodone,LIQUID HEROIN,WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE ??WHY WOULOD A GOVERNMENT CONDONE DRUG TAKING ??
-ROBYNNE morton of merrimac

See what happens when you leave school before your 12th birthday. BTW, what is a ‘Gillard’? And I might be wrong but did the reader misspell their own name?

But amongst the riff-raff there was a beacon of hope. This from Molly of Melbourne:

For those who don't know, GHB was originally designed as an anaesthetic, thus, falling unconcious from it isn't an "overdose", it's doing what the drug was designed for. Secondly, it's a naturally occurring substance in the body, it's much healthier to have GHB than most other drugs. There is a big problem in Melbourne with people taking too much and clubs calling ambulances, but there is a much bigger Australia wide drinking problem. Where are the stats about how many people die from GHB? The number is minuscule, and it's usually because the user has combined a bunch of drugs, not because of GHB toxicity. The chance of death from it is about the same as it is for someone who's passed out from alcohol, the main reason for death? Choking on vomit, but they don't like to add that factor in. I'm not saying we should ignore the problem, but don't dramatist it, look after your mates, make sure they're in the recovery position if they do "blow out" and try to educate them when they're awake on safe use. You can't stop people taking drugs, but you can help make it safer.
-Molly of Melbourne

The display of ignorance, aggression and malevolence from some readers was almost bordering on schadenfreude. There were so many comments that were just downright nasty and totally unnecessary as well as many opinions based on nothing but limited, misguided views. I can’t help but ask myself if this is the consensus in Australia or is it just the result of dog whistle journalism. Maybe it’s just pack mentality from a small group of uneducated, arrogant rednecks? I like to think of Australia as a fairly accepting society especially considering we like to portray ourselves as a “fair go” nation. Sadly, I think the self imposed image of barracking for the underdog or being the “fair go” nation is championed mostly by the very readers who made many of the horrible comments. I picture many of them being draped in the Australian flag reminiscent of the Cronulla riots in NSW. Hopefully, this is not the real Australia but a country made up of multiple cultures, strong beliefs in equality and a willingness to listen to reason.

And on a final note, you can’t go past this apt comment with it’s compelling advice.

Just for once, people of Melbourne & Australia, can I implore you, just for once in your lives, to refrain from making comment on issues that you know next-to-nothing about. Plus, just because your cousin, ten of your Facebook friends or your co-worker's former nanny had problems with drugs, it doesn't make you an 'expert' - FACT. So now that we have that established, pls click on the link below and begin the process of developing insight:

Overdose Footage Sparks New Drugs Debate
Aaron Langmaid & Anne Wright
April 2011

HARROWING footage of an overdose victim sprawled on a city footpath in the middle of the day has sparked nationwide debate.

Closing Melbourne's seedy daytime dance clubs and legalising illicit drugs were among suggestions.

Despite campaigning on a plan to clean up Melbourne's streets, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle would not comment on the issue yesterday.

The owner of the nightclub involved said the victim's friends had demanded to be let out of the venue as he lapsed into unconsciousness.

Tramp owner Matt Giles said staff urged the group to wait for an ambulance but they were told to carry him on to the street.

"We didn't want to let him go,'' he said.

"We told them 'you're not taking him home'.

"But they demanded to be let out.''

The 20-year-old had been conscious while inside. It was the first GHB-related case he had seen at the venue in five years.

"We judge it case by case but it's tough for us,'' he said.

Australian Lawyers Alliance director Greg Barnes said it was time to discuss a federal policy of decriminalisation.

"You can't win this war,'' Mr Barnes said. 

"Part of the reason drugs are so popular is because they are illegal. If illicit substances are regulated you create a space where users know what they are getting,'' he said.

"Let's have a discussion about a national drugs policy.''

Catholic Care chief executive Fr Joe Caddy said drug use had to be treated as a health issue rather than through the criminal justice system.

"In some cases we would still need the authority of the courts but part of the solution is teaching users - and their friends and family - how to manage the situation,'' he said.

The footage captured by the Herald Sun also attracted a huge response from readers.

"The fact the (victim) was at a 'night' club at 11 in the morning says it all,'' said Lance, of Melbourne.

"Having these places open until this time promotes the use of drugs. How else can someone last the distance without drugs. Open them earlier and close them at 3am.''
In graphic scenes, a 20-year-old man is hauled from a nightclub at 11am on Sunday as families stroll past seemingly unaware a young life hangs in the balance.

The video showing paramedics battling to revive him highlights the drugs epidemic, with 9000 overdoses a year putting enormous strain on emergency services.

Premier Ted Baillieu, who viewed the Herald Sun video, said the anti-drugs message was not getting through to young people.

"This is a parent's worst nightmare," Mr Baillieu said. "It is shocking footage, it's real, it's evil."

Friends of the victim are clearly frantic after bouncers carry him unconscious from Tramp bar on King St.

The Herald Sun witnessed staff waiting with the man inside the venue door for more than 10 minutes before he was carried across the footpath and into a waiting car.

He remained unconscious until paramedics arrived but his friends confirmed he had taken the liquid drug gammahydroxybutrate, or GHB.

"I don't know how much he's taken or when he took it," one cried.

An Ambulance Victoria spokesman later confirmed an advance life support team - and even a fire brigade unit - had been called to treat the suspected overdose victim.

Youth worker Les Twentyman said Melbourne's drug problem has been on the rise for some time, and needed to be addressed.

He told that law and order was not going to stop the city's soaring drug problems.

"The ambos told me recently that they had noticed they were attending more of these types of incidents," he said.

"The scene is just awash with drugs."

Mr Twentyman said the party drug scene appeared to affect middle class youngsters the most because they could afford to be in the clubs and buying drugs.

"At the end of the day we can't stop it. Even when the police announce that they are going to be at rock concerts they still take the drug. The law and order part is certainly not a deterrent," he said.

"They'll just shop around and one day it's heroin, another day it's amphetamines or whatever pills they can get their hands on.

"The issue is that they have a whole cocktail of different drugs."

Mr Twentyman said European schemes where drugs are tested for revellers before they take them should be considered.

"What they do in Europe is when people come in to buy drugs they test the drugs for them so they know exactly what they're getting."

"Maybe that needs to be looked at here, it's been a success."

Intensive care paramedic Alan Eade said it was a scene with which officers were all too familiar.

"We have the highest rate of use of GHB of any city in Australia," Mr Eade said.

"In other states and territories usage has dropped, but not here. Melburnians are overwhelmingly stupid.

"The greatest education point is this: it's a dangerous drug and people die using it.

"If it goes wrong, it goes wrong to the tune of not breathing," Mr Eade said.

But he said the youths involved in Sunday's incident had done the right thing: "They got help. Some others probably wouldn't have."

Mr Baillieu said the message wasn't getting through.

"It's turning young people's lives upside down. It's wasting lives, turning kids into vegetables in hospitals - it's madness."

Nightclub Owners' Association spokesman David Button said the use of GHB in clubs was prevalent.

The victim was taken to the Royal Melbourne hospital and later discharged.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the Force was committed to reducing the supply of illicit drugs in the community.

"(This includes) the use of so called 'party drugs' in nightclubs," she said in a statement. 

"If information is received regarding trafficking at licensed premises or within the community, Victoria Police responds accordingly.

"The Drug Task Force and Regional police members continue to conduct a number of successful operations aimed at reducing the manufacture and supply of illicit drugs."

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Anonymous said...

Hey Terry,

Great Analysis. My husband and I usually have ABC on at night, aside from the rare occasion that the programming is unbearable. One such night after this article, we had 3AW on instead and the overnight presenter suggested that overdose patients should not be responded to 'at the expense of' those 'in genuine need' of emergency services. It's sad to see that our society still believes it's appropriate to take out social anxieties on those most in need of our support and compassion. Suddenly, it's as though our ambulance problems are the fault of OD victims. I work in a public ED in Melbourne and only last week we had a patient come in via ambulance with an ear wax problem. Just a bit of perspective...

Anonymous said...

Terry, spot on. this newspaper loves to feed its readers feel good storys, and nothing makes the readers feel better about their existance more then a good ole druggie bashing. Obviously its not their fault, if you were to beleive everything u read, and only read these tabloids, then u would turn out mindly retarded with a nonsensical view of the world too.

Actually, the worse part is, as someone who comes who grew up in the sutherland shire, in most of the comments you could replace druggie with wog, leb, nip or variety sland term, and the context would not be lost and views would be the same. 'Us' and 'them' is engrained in the australian culture, whether it be political party, football team, or soical standing.

Johnny Mortgage said...

Terry .. have you considered taking your site " to the streets " . I know financial considerations might make this difficult... but i would suggest seeking some funding for this crucial "community announcement"
to be able to present it in print form ...
Really, the only way to fight ignorance is education ( did i just type that??? lol)
Maybe a grant to print a monthly periodical or fortnightly...
Or add a "Donate to AHDiaries" ...
to try and get the cash together for it...
Personally i believe these "druggy stories" are deliberate attempts to stall ,reverse public opinion on the health vs crime problem..
Its all calculated political point winning...gee imagine if the liberal party actually had to come up with a policy ...that's P O L I C Y

Terry Wright said...

Thanks 'Anonymousses'...

Typical 3AW. What is it with these media outlets that attract the loony listeners and staff?

BTW, I love the story about the ear wax patient.

And yes, absorbing the mental mindmash from these trashy media outlets everyday must surely distort your view on the world.

I agree that Australians tend to ‘barrack’ for a side and never bend no matter what the situation is. Politics is the clearest example of this.

Thanks again for your great comments.

You’ll come back now, ya hear.

Gledwood said...

I wish these right wing bastards would put their money where their mouth is and institute mandatory death by firing squad for anyone in possession of any illicit drug. I'd be first in line at the police station, ID in one hand, stash in the other. Kill the fucking addicts it's cheaper than methadone and less torturous. I'd opt for death over methadone, every time

Anonymous said...

Wow. That is really disturbing. If I never felt the stigmatisation of being a drug user I sure as hell feel it now.

Firesnake said...

Now, now. If our dear neighbours wish to wallow in their own flatulence I vote The Pulp and Print Court is more than adequate.

Terry, I may even confess to a slight disappointment. I sooo miss the "Let 'em die in da gutter with a rusty needle in their arm".

"Oh no", the smart arsey rationalist in me would opine. "Hypodermics don't rust - not the ones your taxes buy".

Anyhoo. I'm hoping their faaaar right conservative base is seriously asking over Easter, "What would Jesus do?"

Why my man, he'd f***en die.

Just sayin...

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Johnny Mortgage

Sorry for taking so long to respond.

There is a Blogger add on that turns a blog into a book with chapters, pictures, tags, comments, an index etc. but it is still a bit rough to fork out thousands to have it printed. I have actually typeset several books when I worked in printing/graphic design but my concern is that my publication wouldn't sell many copies or attract enough advertising. Thanks for the support though.

I like your theory that most drug related articles are "deliberate attempts to stall ,reverse public opinion on the health vs crime problem". Is it just a coincidence that most of these trashy stories are all from Murdoch owned media outlets? Just look at their writers: Akerhead, Bolt, Devine, Blair, Albrechtsen, Sheridan etc. What a bunch of rabble! And notice they are all Liberal Party apologists!

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Gleds.
I hope your comment is read by all those nutters who say methadone is just giving in to junkies so they can get high everyday. As you suggest, for some people, methadone is the most depressing and soul destroying experience they will ever encounter. The only thing more devastating is heroin/opiate withdrawals. What a choice!

And yes Anon.
It's really disturbing that some people are capable of such heinous and brutal comments. You can't help but wonder if they would ever actually follow through with their hatred?

Thanks Firesnake.
Pure gold!

Anyhoo. I'm hoping their faaaar right conservative base is seriously asking over Easter:

Q: What would Jesus do?

A: Why my man, he'd f***en die.


Anonymous said...

Well to all of you out there wondering what being on Methadone is like its the worst experiance you can have in your life its such a loverly experiance picking it up at the chemist(and by the way it aint free its $5 per day on average)being looked at like scum by other customers, I wake up every day feeling horrible id rather be dead than like this but the alternative is jail and more hell so please dont ever think any of us so called "low down scum of scoiety" arnt doing it tough as you all say we should, addiction is hell and i regret every day i ever touched any drug alcohol and smokes included but unfortunatly its through the community myself im a prominet australian musician that you all would of heard of and i have freinds in law and medicine and the arts that are all on methadone this is something that affect all walks of people and not just people in the gutter sadly there just the ones that wear the blame and its wrong but as i said dont ever think we enjoy our existince most of us would rather be dead, but what a miserable place the world would be if it were that way or is it already............