Party Time. Excellent. Be Excellent to Each Other. Party On, Dude.

Coverage of party pills is interesting. The police currently talking about illegal drugs, like MDMA, being found in small amounts in BZP pills will be interpreted by the average citizen (by which I mean, the average consumer of The Herald, who is by no means the average Kiwi) in predictable ways. Predictable, vague ways. Party pills have made a progression from being a “herbal high” – which they never were – to being a “legal high” to now being a vaguely illegal high. The vague illegality is not a matter of illegal additives in some pills (which, if it is a concern, is a matter for quality assurance), but rather the association in the minds of the public. It would not be insane to suggest that “party” and “pill” beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet contributes in some way to a sporadically whipped up public imagination. Nor is their association with raves and dance parties – ironic, considering their creator was looking for an alternative to illegal drugs he considered dangerous.

It’s also interesting to note that BZP is often referred to as a cattle-worming agent, in the same way that tasers are referred to as delivering 50,000 volts. It appeals to the public imagination, being able to say, “You know what they put in those things? Cattle-worming agents!” As if alcoholic drinks don’t include a topical antiseptic and cigarettes don’t contain rat poison.

But what’s most interesting of all is the fact that the matter has received any attention at all. To whom is it a matter of concern? A small fragment of generally middle-class kids use party pills – they mostly want to keep them legal. Their parents, I suppose, are the other concerned parties. The public is not put at risk by the drugs, and the number of people who died from alcohol-related causes in the last week is many times more than the number of people who allegedly died from taking party pills… ever.

But those middle-class parents make up a sizeable portion of the “average citizen” mentioned above – the demographic that provides numbers to the news sources of TVOne, TV3, the Herald, the Post, etc.

The vicious cycle of commodified news is frustrating. People are increasingly shown what they want to see, and they increasingly see what they have seen in the past. So it is that Anna Nicole Smith’s death belongs not in the human-interest slot after the weather, but rather as international news – not just a mention, but an actual whole story from CNN or the BBC. So it is that the classification of BZP is headline news.

What is importance in news? If it was measured in the potential for human suffering found in a particular issue, every night of 6pm news would begin with a piece about alcohol, or about working conditions and pay rates. That’s for national news. For international news, Iraq would still feature strongly, but Palestine would drop down the ranks, replaced by African countries we’ve never heard of.

Instead, we are given Anna Nicole Smith and the placement of a stadium. Speaking of the stadium, 6pm news shows happily provide us with 20 minutes of sports “news” each night. This goes unquestioned.

And of course it does. It would be suicidal for either TVOne or TV3 to replace their sports news with real news, because half the viewers would switch to the competition. Because they want to see sports news. If they see one “tonight on 3 News/One News” segment promising a story about killer party pills and the other about No Child Left Behind legislation in the States, they’re going with the party pills.

Where does the responsibility lie? Tricky for me, being an anarchist. People should choose for themselves, I might say, but then, they already have, and here I am complaining about it. So should the government legislate requirements for news sources to provide actual news? Sure, Ryan, no problem there – just the government deciding what is and is not news. So we need more critically thinking viewers to come out of a situation where they’re being systematically (though not intentionally) dumbed down and numbed down by news shows that compete with their rivals in a manner identical to competition between Sticky TV and Studio 2.

And once again, who am I to say that these things are or are not news? Do I profess access to some Platonic standard of importance against which I can measure Anna Nicole Smith’s death or the stadium placement or the All Blacks’ latest training schedule?

No, God is dead and value is relative. The consequence is that the only value is consistency with one’s own values, whatever they are: the only sin is hypocrisy. The only ground for argument is values held in common. So all that’s left to say is: come on, New Zealand, you don’t really care about this bullshit.

8 Comments Party Time. Excellent. Be Excellent to Each Other. Party On, Dude.

  1. Anonymous

    Speaking of the stadium, 6pm news shows happily provide us with 20 minutes of sports “news” each night. This goes unquestioned.

    Rubbish. There are always people talking about the sports news, questioning whether people do actually care about the All Blacks training squad and the cricket and the hockey and the lawn bowls and the Superbowl and the Olympics and the Americas Cup.

  2. Dominic

    I won’t pretend I know a whole lot about drugs. I’m pretty privileged. I’m not in touch with “the underclass”. I don’t know the state of things, and I don’t think watching the 6 o’clock news helps with that. So, I’ve got a fair few questions:

    Is anyone else annoyed by the use of the term ‘P’, especially in relation to this bit of news? TV3 used it tonight, and I’m sure other sources would have too. Doesn’t the P stand for pure? Can it be said that the methamphetamine mixed in with these pills is pure? Or is it a misnomer?

    It seems most (read: all other) countries make do with the term “meth”, and sometimes speed to more generally refer to an amphetamine. Is P a substantially different drug? If not, why do we have this terminology?

    Does the current situation really warrant the term “P epidemic”? Or is the whole thing just the MSM jumping on a new buzz phrase to scare people? And if methamphetamine addiction really is pretty bad, is it the situation that has changed, or the reporting, or the terminology?

  3. Thrash Cardiom

    Television news does not provide any real information whatsoever about any subject and has not done so for years, if ever. It is impossible to condense important issues, political or otherwise, down to 30 second, 1 minute, 1 minute 30 sec. segments in any meaningful way. Any one who watches television news and considers themselves informed is merely deluded.

    It used to be that we would get current affairs programmes that would cover current issues in depth and provide thoughtful analysis of particular situations. Sadly, these programmes no longer appear on NZ television. Instead we have dumbed down versions of them that provide 20 minute segments (with adverts) on topical subjects such as the latest celebrity gossip.

    And I quite fail to see the importance of sport. Why is it allocated 20 minutes of an hour when there are far more important issues in the world that never get mentioned. It’s the dollar of course. Sport rates.

  4. gledwood

    O wow if only I was in New Zealand too I’d ask you if you knew of anything decent going on next weekend… well I used to go out all the time, then I started taking so many drugs I never made it out the door. That’s what I blog about now, my drug addiction… I’m at gledwood2.blogspot if you’d like to drop round. You are most welcome to. Take it EZ now


  5. Ryan Sproull

    Anonymous, I should hang out with who you hang out with. No one I know blinks at sports taking up half the news.

    Yeah, apparently “P” stood for “pure”. My friend Raoul Shabadoo took to calling spirits “S”, for “strong liquor”, for a while.

    And last night, in the international slot of 3 News, I was delighted to learn about Britney Spears shaving her head.

  6. Visionspring

    Its a sad sad world we live in, where Anna Nicole’s baby is headline news, yet there is a FRIGGIN HOLOCAUST going on in Sudan…..but of course who cares about the dark continent?

  7. Robyn

    It seems most (read: all other) countries make do with the term “meth”, and sometimes speed to more generally refer to an amphetamine.

    P is the most well-known slang word in New Zealand for methamphetamine. It’s not an inferior slang word to yaba, tina, ice, shabu, or any of the other stupid slang words used around the world. Do not be ashamed of New Zealand English!

    But what bothers me about it is when the media say “P, or pure methamphetamine”. Well, P may be short for “pure”, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually pure. For the media to call it pure, is like being a victim of drug dealer marketing hype.


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