Bored Rich Kids Do Drugs, News At 10

(Guest post by Joseph Nunweek.)

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“Dad sez I’m allowed to stay up all night.”

Competing Voices:
#1 – Journalism bears its middle class, would-be social climber teeth on this baby. P is formerly a working-class, or worse, poor scourge. It’s the preserve of ugly, misshapen men with a mess of tattoo on their faces and arms, and for pitiful wenches with a mouthful of rotting teeth. You tut-tut and imagine how bad it is for the children, who you can feel just AWFUL for right now. Methamphetamine is a glorious social tripwire. It’s where that oaf who can seemingly afford to live on your street suddenly, whose shirts are more expensive and cars more numerous than yours, made his ill-gotten gains. You just wait for his commupance.

Latterly, P is also the downfall of the spoilt rich. Millie Holmes is fantastic because she’s a walking, slurring, hollow-cheeked exemplar of how those with too much wealth can and will fuck up monumentally. Suddenly, middle New Zealand can extend its patronising social sanction below and above itself – both ways lie fundamentally indolent and idle children, parents who care more about their own material wellbeing (be it their dole bludging or their million dollar salaries! Not like my small, humble business) and a superb cautionary tale, the subject of women’s suburban running groups and water cooler conversation. P is a social divider, suddenly, that excludes the middle class and implicates those who don’t read the paper, and that well-off nouveau aristocracy simultaneously. It’s a newspaper staff of comfortable 40 something upper-middle income bracketeers’ news story come true.

2. Cynical would be hack: the papers were fucking five years behind on this shit. I could’ve have written a 3000 word expose on what Millie Holmes was getting up to in 2003 via hearsay and private girls’ school acquaintances, and I never met the poor girl. Lift your gossip game.

3. First post lalz.

“The mainstream media? I trust the Internet more.”

“Ron Paul emerged from last week’s GOP debate as completely victorious according to every available benchmark and yet there is still a deliberate ploy to push the Texas Congressman to the sidelines on behalf of a terrified corporate media.”

So says Paul Watson of Prison Planet, in a recent Jones Report. Ever heard of Ron Paul? Here’s me guessing you haven’t. Ever heard of Rudolph Giuliani? Of course you have. Well, let’s hear about Ron Paul.

He’s in Congress for his 10th term. Wikipedia has this to say:

Paul advocates the limited role of government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to monetary policies based on commodity-backed currency. He has earned the nickname “Dr. No” for voting against any bill he believes violates the Constitution. In the words of former Treasury Secretary William Simon, Paul is the “one exception to the Gang of 535” on Capitol Hill. He has never voted to raise taxes or congressional pay. He has always voted against the USA PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and the Iraq War.

I’m not generally a fan of libertarians. They like to take functions of society out democratic control by privatising them, and plus “libertarian” was totally our word first. But it sure is interesting listening to him in the debate.

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.