Yes, it looks like tabloid meth

So did Four Corners go all tabloid over methamphetamine last night? I don’t know yet, I’m catching the repeat on Wednesday. But a friend certainly found it “really disappointing”.

“The Ice Age was ‘the usual deal’,” he says, showing the extreme cases and linking it with heroin. It left his questions unanswered.

I was really hoping for an investigation of the weekend recreational culture, which so many people seem to be able to sustain…

I don’t know many that can afford 3 grams a day…

Well, no, given that 3 grams would cost about $2000. [OK, that’s retail, but even as a low-end dealer buying wholesale that’s still a very expensive habit.]

If there are 73,000 addicts as claimed, a lot caused by no heroin, how many recreational users are there? What is the damage? How do people juggle it and what [do you] do if you’re falling?

Predictable Response

The ABC program guestbook is mostly predictable.

There’s the usual bleating from the talkback radio herd who can’t stand their hard-earned tax dollars supporting these blah blah blah kill them like Singapore why when I was a lad my dad used to whack sense into me by golly jingo. Yeah, them.

There’s the usual stream of “shocked” and “horrified” townsfolk, for whom the freak show achieved its shock-horror aim.

But occasionally, though, there is clarity.

Linthi: There is an underbelly of society that exists to which we only pay cursory attention. If these advanced addicts were offered a choice of immediately going clean or a lifetime supply of Ice, I know which they would choose. As mad as it sounds, some people like this life, it’s a culture in which they are comfortable.

This “underbelly” has always been with us, of course, and always will be. There will never be a Utopia. Some will never fit in — because they’ve slipped and fallen, or were pushed, or were defective or were damaged.

Drug Porn Exploitation

Barbara Farrelly was “disturbed” by the program’s approach.

Barbara Farrelly: struck me that you offered no hope to addicts. The rooms of Narcotics Anonymous are full of people who have overcome addictions.

I feel you also exploited people who could hardly give informed consent to being exposed in their degradation. They seemed happy enough to clown for the cameras on their highway to hell. Touting this as “rare footage” is ingenuous. Taking pictures of these guys was like taking candy from a baby…

I felt like I’d been subject to drug porn…

And while you are talking up ice as a major problem, it is estimated that every year 70,000 Australians die as a result of alcohol abuse and a further 20,000 from the effect of smoking.

You failed to present both sides of the story: Addiction isn’t pretty but recovery is beautiful.

Billing the program as showing us how the drug is affecting Australian society, but only showing those enduring the worst addictions, is like promising us a documentary on the wine industry and only talking to sherry-soaked derelicts. For shame.

That said, the special broadband edition of the program has an excellent timeline documenting the drug’s heritage and what apppear to be longer versions of the interviews. Why wait until the repeat?

PM shuts down satirical website

In another triumph of tolerance and freedom of expression, the Prime Minister’s office ordered the shutdown of a spoof John Howard website which featured an “apology” speech for the Iraq war.

Australian futurist and social commentator Richard Neville created on Monday and received 10,500 visits within 24 hours. It was closed down by domain registrar Melbourne IT on Tuesday, but Neville was only told yesterday that this was “on the advice from the Australian Government”.

Mr Neville says the parody was an act of satire, and now has a PDF copy of the speech on his website.

4 Corners’ Tabloid Line of Meth

The Ice Age

Flagship current affairs program Four Corners covers “The Ice Age” next week:

A shocking close-up study of the new drug of choice — “ice” — and its trail of human wreckage.

Crystal methamphetamine is indeed more common that a decade ago. I’m glad someone with the respect and authority of Four Corners is taking a look. But I hope this lurid tabloid screeching is only the marketing department.

There’s more…

Continue reading “4 Corners’ Tabloid Line of Meth”

Comm Games Commentary Revelations

Enough will be written about the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony itself — about how the flying W Class tram symbolised Melbourne, and how the drag queen and the underage boy with a duck symbolised something else about Melbourne entirely — possibly something connected with the Chippendale with a koala’s head.

No, what interests me is the TV commentary on Channel 9 and what that reveals about the people involved… About their love of money in particular.

Bucket Time (Briefly)

Thankfully the most Purple of Prose was limited to the introductory voice-over, before the ceremony proper started. Carpe diem was the theme:

“The moment must be seized now or it will be lost forever,” we were told. The Commonwealth Games are “a sporting birthright, a reminder of who we are… We love winning, and even more than that we love winning at home. Starting tonight in Melbourne, this is the chance of a lifetime.”

The Australian women’s swimming team is “a generation to be savoured and revered”. And then we were introduced to “the faces we’ve seen but don’t really know”, before seeing token pictures of entrants in other sports.

After that, the script descended into Commentary By Numbers — a recitation of data that’s meant to inspire us: 71 countries, 4000 athletes, 13 days, 52,546 hamburgers, 8,302 shoelaces.

Memo to Channel 9: Numbers do not inspire people, emotions do.

Thankfully we heard the phrase “quintessential Australian icon” only once.

Ray Martin’s Dollar Fetish

Channel 9 wheeled out veterans Ray Martin and Liz Hayes as their commentary team.

Now male-female pairs are common enough. They represent Everyman and Everywoman, and perform different roles. One will take care of the left-brain stuff like facts, figures, announcements of what’s coming up next, the other will be right-brain and talk about colour and emotion.

But last night Ray and Liz took it to extremes — and in doing so, revealed Ray Martin’s true motivator: money.

The first thing Ray had to say about the Games was that “they’ve spent half a billion dollars” tarting up Melbourne. Then immediately after Liz startled us with her emotional revelation (“All my bumps are goosed up!”) Ray was straight back to the filthy lucre, telling us that up next “we’ll be able to see where they spent the money.”

But Ray did reveal his caring and connected side. While describing the chain of symbolic fish running up the Yarra River, he told us that Australia was represented by an eel, “and that’s pretty much what the indigenous people used to eat of out the river at this time of the year”.

Another blow struck for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

Walking on Water

The power of Her Majesty’s Disco Stick inspired Australian Football League (AFL) legend Ron Barrassi to walk on water — looking for all the world like Charlton Heston.

But if Ron then Ascended the Blue Neon Disco Stairs like an American TV evangelist, only to be met by retired long-distance runner Herb Elliott — does that mean Herb Elliott is St Peter?

We couldn’t see for sure, because Ray’s hair had started to interfere with our digital TV reception.

We Are At War!

“We are again locked in war,” says Roger Bell. “Locked in an ideological battle, locked in the language — very exaggerated language — of ideological conflict.”

Roger Bell, Professor of International Studies at the University of New South Wales, isn’t surprised that the debates and contexts of McCarthyism have resurfaced.

[These debates are] particularly about free speech, and in a broader sense also about — in the American case — about Americanism, and un-American activities, about traitors within, about evil enemies etc.

So when Bush speaks in my view in very exaggerated terms, about the evil of Islam, or the evil of terrorism, he, as it were, takes the political rhetoric to another level. And when acts such as the Patriot Act are invoked domestically to repress or to limit freedom of expression at home, then it’s to be expected that many of those traditional debates in a democratic society will re-surface.

Part of a much longer conversation in ABC Radio National program The Media Report last week. Worth a listen. (transcript) (podcast)