[Update at end of post]
The principle of cab-rank hackery at the Daily Mail is something that Zelo Street regulars will know already: when an opinion piece is required by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, whoever is at the front of the rank will be ordered on to the attack. Hence the now infamous hatchet job on Stephen Gately, when Jan Moir happened to find herself next in line.
This should be borne in mind when reading today’s attack piece by Ross Clark aimed at broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, who has had the temerity to advocate legalising drugs. No public figure can be allowed to get away with such an utterance by the Dacre press, and Clark has clearly been instructed to subject his target to a weapons grade rubbishing.
So readers are given all kinds of horror stories, none of which has any reference to back it up, mainly because Clark is at best exaggerating, and otherwise just making it up to fulfil his orders. There are “studies” from Greater Manchester (latest mass arrests actually related to alcohol fuelled disorder – that would be a legal drug), the spectre of mental illness, and children of addicts dying.
And those children are dying in their thousands, because this article is aimed at those people that the Daily Mail needs to frighten so much that reality is not then allowed to get in. The mental illness angle is dealt with in such a cursory way that Clark gets away with not explaining that some people’s mental state makes them more likely to become drug users, and then addicts.
Anyone telling that the “war on drugs” has failed is also demonised: such people are “self appointed” (that’s as in Daily Mail hacks), and their statistics are “questionable” (that’s also as in Daily Mail hacks). And that war hasn’t failed, because Clark says it isn’t being fought properly: just like his fellow ranter “Mad” Mel Phillips, he’s all for a properly authoritarian approach.
Just how many tens of thousands of extra law enforcement officers Clark wants to see deployed in this “proper” war against drugs is not told, and of course nor is the cost of those tens of thousands of extra prison places that would be needed to lock up everyone dealing currently illegal substances. And it goes without saying that the lack of quality control is not addressed.
No, all we get is the usual why-oh-why call for more authoritarian punishments, abuse of any politician who dares to raise their head above the parapet (that’s all the Lib Dems, then), and enough dubious statistics to frighten the readers into believing that drugs are very bad and they shouldn’t talk about it.
And so the debate goes nowhere. That’s not good enough.
[UPDATE: Clark's assertions in his Daily Mail rant that drug use around the world has plateaued or is falling does not stack up, as a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report has shown that global drug use has increased significantly. It really will not do for Paul Dacre to keep ordering his hacks to produce evidence-free knocking copy in the face of reality]