Once again another life has been tragically cut short by unspecified medical complications, linked by expert tabloid newspaper physicians, to a new strain of the sort of cheap, adulterated rave tablets which are mostly consumed by the children of people on unemployment assistance. Unlike the sophisticated, pure, uncut Colombian powders favoured by politicians, hedge fund managers, and newspaper editors, these pills are poorly regulated, easy to acquire, and completely unsafe. Of the millions consumed in nightclubs across the land every weekend, at least one pill might cause the tragic death of a photogenic teenager; as long as it’s a slow week for news, there are no World Cup matches on, and Michael Barrymore hasn’t drowned another gay. Those are not odds we are prepared to gamble our children’s lives on.
Everyone remembers the scourge of rave tablets in the 1990s, of course. Tragic Leah Betts, whose photograph was reprinted a million times, dug its way into the worried consciousness of every parent in the land, and fueled completely unnecessary and damaging paranoia in a million tentative teenagers, about to experience their first rush of shameful Poor People Disco Pill euphoria. One photo, repeated ad infinitum, forever. Of course, this couldn’t happen today. Now, there is Facebook and Instagram, so we are spoiled for choice when it comes to printing pictures of dead teenagers. Some of them are even nice enough to wear low-cut tops, and do that ‘duckface’ thing. Makes for good copy, especially if you’re the Daily Mail website.
The repercussions and fallout from that 1990s war on Dancing Chemicals were vast, and still affect us today. Helpful scare stories about ‘dehydration’ and ‘losing all the salt in your body from sweating’ caused many deaths all by themselves, with misled children consuming litre after litre of Evian, unaware that the anti-diuretic nature of the product would mean they weren’t able to urinate for several hours, and dying from organ failure caused by water toxification. New Labour stepped in and appointed a series of Drug Czars, one of whom was a very clever man, Professor David Nutt, so that there would be some light shed on the confusing subject of this mood enhancing Serotonin Sherbet. The Professor came back and said that taking these pills, even on a regular basis, was ‘less dangerous than riding a horse’. Tony Blair decided there and then that we didn’t really need a Drug Czar. And that the ‘horse’ David was talking about was probably heroin or something. Being a man who knows how telling untruths can lead to the deaths of millions, Mr Blair quietly sacked the Nutt E Professor, and distracted the nation by doing a funny sketch on the Catherine Tate show.
Today, just like other stuff from the 90s, demonising the children of the poor and working classes for their intoxicated life choices has come right back into fashion. Along with it, Reefer Madness-style trends of printing articles ‘warning’ of new SUPER STRONG strains, ‘bad batches’, or pills which have been ‘laced with rat poison’. Anything to keep the mindless fear levels up, natch. And usually tapped into the laptop by an investigative reporter puffing on a crafty legal cigarette, which contains over 4,000 chemicals, definitely including arsenic (rat poison, to you and me). Papers conduct Vox pops with unnamed clubland sources, leading to statements like ‘You just don’t know what you’re getting with these pills; there could be cocaine, speed, heroin even, in them!”, completely failing to point out how much of a bargain that is, relatively.
The strange tabloid dichotomy of warning of the ills of unregulated, adulterated product on the street, while at the same time screaming for legislation to make them even more illegal, isn’t a new one. And their psychology is as subtle as ever. Their working class readerships need to be consoled, berated, and divided against each other (to keep them weak, and distracted from the opulence of the ruling classes). So, when a pretty teenager from a council estate dies in way loosely related to a tiny tablet (and not at all related to the 16 Bacardi Breezers she washed it down with), the headlines are all about ‘Tragic Waste’, with the story inside telling of a ‘good girl, with her whole life ahead of her’. To make sure these scumbags know their place, whenever one of their celebrity gods is ‘caught’ dabbling in drugs, the headlines are about their ‘Shame’ and ‘Regret’. Unless they die, of course. Then it’s back to being a ‘Tragic Loss’. Even if they were on heroin while supposed to be looking after a toddler. You can only have shame while you’re still alive. That’s science.
Of course, there’s no divide and rule without a healthy rivalry, fueled by ignorance and misinformation, so the newspapers have done a sterling job in portraying everyone who uses street opiates as doing so by their own choice, for selfish fun, and supporting their habit by stealing your actual car stereo. As long as there is the spectre of the Junkie waiting around every corner, the normal, hard-working cannabis user in the street can be happy that any drug-related shame story isn’t actually aimed at him. Just like the way the story of Baby P made awful, child-slapping parents up and down the land think ‘Well I’m not as bad as his mum and dad, the scum!!!!’, the existence of the mythical happy-go-lucky heroin fiend consoles them about the moral in-severity of their own narcotic pursuits. Us, and Them, as the famous drugged up losers Pink Floyd once put it.
Amy Winehouse, the poster child for how much fun recreational Smack use can be, was often pictured falling out of swanky Heroin Bars at 3am, laughing at the rest of us who have to get up in the morning and go work down Tesco. Until she died, obviously. That was a Tragic Loss. Russell Brand wrote a beautiful and touching piece in the Guardian about her death (and life), but we didn’t read it, cos he’s a junkie scumbag hypocrite who forced us all into voting for the Tories, and now lives in an fancy London apartment that he paid for himself by working, blatantly refusing to donate all his wages to people on the internet who don’t like him.