A close look at the rejection of evidence and application of religious belief as guiding principles for members of the Negative team, in debating if drugs should be legalised. Jade Lewis, Greg Pike and Paul Sheehan.
Last post we looked at the debate All drugs should be legalised held by Intelligence Squared. One of the greatest moral, social and human rights based questions today is: Should illicit drugs be legalised?
We ask this question because the harm caused at the community and personal level by prohibition is irrefutable. To this we can add the devastating effects of The War On Drugs – crafted initially by Nixon on the back of the Vietnam war. Few realise the first head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration had his office in Saigon. Returning veterans had to produce clean urine to show they were not using heroin.
Once begun, this foreign policy bonanza worked much like Dr. Whoʼs “psychic paper” pass. Flash it at a sentry and they read whatever convinces them of ones legitimacy. But more so was the USAʼs powerful control over the UNODCP and hence, UN drug policy. Most in the Western world have knowledge of Harm Reduction. The acceptance that punitive measures for drug users ultimately inflicts personal, monetary and social cost on the wider community, and accepting use whilst minimising harm reaps benefits for all.
For this reason nations who focus on evidence and the international right to health provide clean needles through NSPʼs – needle and syringe programmeʼs. Safe injecting facilities are provided increasingly in Europe and elsewhere. Australia has over 1,000 NSPʼs and one Medically Supervised Injecting Facility – MSIC – in Kings Cross, Sydney.
These programmeʼs and facilities serve to manage high risk behaviour, control the spread of blood borne viruses, motivate/provide for users to seek treatment, and they meet community discontent arising from obvious illicit drug use. Most users can return to work, pay taxes, raise a family and remain healthy. But what of intractable addiction? More recently several heroin on prescription schemes in Europe have shown dramatic results in reducing crime, death/illness, uptake of heroin use and length of heroin addiction. Portugal has full decriminalisation and demonstrates a resounding success to date.
Once world leaders in harm reduction, Australia was ready to be the first nation since the War On Drugs began to introduce a heroin on prescription trial in 1997. Despite State government sanction of 6-3, John Howard personally intervened to stop this, and weʼve been backsliding ever since. The rise of Christian Evangelical lobbyists has caused bemusement, angst and disgust.
Australiaʼs full policy is Harm Minimisation – HM. Supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction. Zero Tolerance has only ever been rhetoric. Harm reduction is the least funded, with the struggle to repel supply and the education and (usually failed) advertisements thrust at young Australianʼs taking the two highest shares respectively.
Those who resist drug legalisation seek to distort the argument by misrepresenting the success of harm minimisation. Indeed despite overall reduction in drug use they fraudulently and falsely argue that HM encourages, condones, increases or has no positive effect on use. Attacks on successful initiatives with peacock terminology and weasel worded opinion pieces are common. Published as “research” these are brought up time and again.
In the case of Drug Free Australiaʼs Case For Closure [PDF] against the MSIC, written during itʼs trial status, it is simply rehashed, republished and recirculated. One speaker, Greg Pike is co-author and “statistical analyst”. Greg is best known from his role as Director of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, which presently promotes his part in the upcoming debate. Another co-author is the infamous “naltrexone fatality” doctor, Stuart Reece. Embattled DFA secretary Gary Christian is another.
You may wonder why, if supply and demand reduction are funded more than harm reduction, that such groups attack harm reduction – HR. My psychological profiling days may be behind me, but this is clear. HR already attracts right wing condemnation and is easy to misrepresent. The evil druggie and his/her filthy lifestyle is a false pop culture phenomenon. However, conservative Christians cast HR in pop culture format usually in the context of blaming HM. Enter the suggestion of why we need demand reduction. Young Aussies take drugs. Kids from all walks of life. From all faith backgrounds.
For the religiously conservative mind this is an affront. An insult to parenting skills, the instillation of Christian values and indeed, Godʼs work. God “cures” addiction. He does not leave vacuums of vulnerability, in the mind of the fundamentalist. Thus HM in totality is an affront to conservative Christians. Overlaying this is the fear of the success of HR education. An analogue of sex education and condom availability, no proper child would fail to just say no to sex and drugs – or rock n roll for that matter. With two down, supply reduction must be increased along with punitive measures for users. And DFA are adamant they speak for “all Australians”, promoting behaviour control: Harm Prevention.
Another speaker and DFA identity – whose intentions I kind of understand – Jade Lewis wants a drug free Australia, [surprise!] through application of biblical values and the never ending sale of her “story” on DVD. Not your story, or the story of drug policy, or evidence based material – her amazing religious conversion. Jade is ruthlessly exploited by DFA. The excessively priced, only-seen-if-you-buy-it DVD, “Golden Haze” earned Jade the title “The goose that laid the golden haze” – (more on Jade later).
Greg is co-author of the Case for Closure and a crusader against humane or progressive policy and free choice. His “bioethics institute” gig is a misleading peacock in some of today’s most pressing health issues. Abortion to him is of course, murder and at one time he claimed – as a research outcome – most women do not want choice. His argument against euthanasia once included the appalling claim that a patient travelled to Switzerland – with others – to die with dignity, as “… a case of someone wanting to pursue death under activist like circumstances.” [ABC 7:30 Report Feb. 2007].
The right to die for the terminally ill is supported by as many as 85% of Aussies according to some polls. The reluctance of politicians shows the grip of the Australian Christian Lobby on vote wary parties. Prior to the above debacle, Pike wrote “Once the killing starts, there’s no stopping it” in January 2007. It included;
At the heart of this issue is the belief that everyone should have the right to die on their own terms: when, where, and how they want, with social, legal, and medical support from the state. While in the first instance this would take the form of legislation for difficult cases, it would not stop there.
As we have learnt from the Netherlands, legislating for hard euthanasia cases cannot be contained.
Once the state legislates for the killing of any of its innocent members, even upon their request, it has breached a principle that protects us all. When the state legalises euthanasia, all are at risk.
How terrifying. A loss of a principle that protects us all, placing us all at risk like we see in the Netherlands. Oh, wait! That’s right – there is no risk in the Netherlands. Arguments from personal incredulity, false dichotomies and straw men that blow away before they can be torn down. Or as one commenter on Dying With Dignity Victoria said, Greg Pike’s argument is the old ‘Slippery Slope’.
As far back as April 2002 Pike was waving the “science” of stem cells to make a moral argument that embryo’s have rights. Then mounting an argument that flies in the face of his “euthanasia” moral panic. He said on radio;
The reason being that everybody is concerned about people who are suffering. No one is saying that we ought to allow people to continue suffering.
In September 2001 Pike wrote the opinion piece “Substance abuse, ethics and public policy”. It includes;
Hence, the Prime Minister is right to be concerned that heroin trials for example, will “send the wrong message‟, for the principal part of the message that the requisite legal change would signify, particularly when interpreted by youth, would be that the state considers maintaining addiction to be a valid way of treating addiction. And young people are smart enough to read between the lines and see that this really means that the powers that be would consider addiction per se not to be a problem. A corollary might be that addicts are not worth the hard work of really helping them with what they truly want, that is, to no longer be enslaved to heroin. – p. 2
Some have described the age in which we live as being at a particularly low moral ebb, and perhaps this can be interpreted as meaning that ethics is currently viewed by many in a very individual and subjective way. Hand in hand with such a perspective is the view that nothing is considered right or wrong in itself. – p. 4.
Harm minimisation or harm reduction is an expression of a utilitarian philosophy. It seeks to weigh up the pleasures and pains associated with drug abuse, and then proposes policies designed to reduce specific harms with minimal if any regard to the specific moral question about the validity or otherwise of personal drug use. Having said this, when pressed, some proponents of harm minimisation endorse recreational use, appealing to the right of individuals to act freely in this area. – p, 6.
It is disturbing to find on a fairly consistent basis that since harm minimisation mainly addresses secondary harms to the individual, the primary or direct harms of illicit drugs are downplayed. This is deeply problematic because it means that objective scientific studies showing real damage can be ignored. Such denial is not healthy for anyone, least of all those addicted. Furthermore, whether certain harm minimisation policies have a detrimental broader impact on the community, and in particular on the uptake of illicit drug use by the young and impressionable, is seldom given serious consideration.
Second, one of the mantras of harm minimisation is that the “war on drugs‟ is futile and should be abandoned. This is a very potent phrase because wars generally have an endpoint, and since this one does not, because society will probably always have to deal with the problem (just as it does with theft, murder, rape etc.), then futility is reinforced. Working hard to protect young people in particular from the damage of illicit drugs is as much about promoting the good as it is about keeping them from the bad.
Furthermore, many of those who do not endorse a harm minimisation approach are not speaking in terms of a war, particularly because it is all too easy for such a metaphor to be misdirected against the victims of addiction. They are really trying to keep the big picture in mind and consider all aspects of this complex dilemma.
In reality, there is no “war on drugs‟ in Australia anyway. Australia is far further along the permissive path than most countries. For at least 15 years, under harm minimisation, we have seen rapidly expanding needle distribution programmes, widespread methadone maintenance “treatment‟, cannabis decriminalisation, diminished policing, educational programmes directed towards “safe responsible use‟, and calls for injecting rooms, heroin trials, and further decriminalisation of use. Clearly, if there is any war, it has been against restraint. – p. 7
We see the clear muddling of harm reduction – an apparent ticket to use drugs – with the over-arching policy of Harm Minimisation. No doubt we’ll hear it as part of the debate. His biography reads in part.
He is a member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee, the Chairman of the Board of the Australian Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Programme, a member of The Institute on Global Drug Policy, and a Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology.
Jade Lewis’ story is spread across the pages of Drug Free Australia publications. Fortunately (for me), Jade’s Story, Journey and Saying “No” to drugs, tells it’s own story. Indeed Jade’s only story. This isn’t an attempt to make fun of Jade. Merely point out what gigantic error based in Argument from authority, Personal incredulity and Special pleading looks like. Jade’s other logical fallacies include:
False dichotomy, false continuum, begging the question (what we teach people to walk today, they will run tomorrow) Jade debates in utter seriousness. That’s also a false analogy. Jade argues from final consequences and confuses correlation with causation, non Sequiters, tautologies, straw men and others. Her most offensive is Tu Quoque: translating as “you too”. If Jade fell to addiction then so will everyone.
What follows is a look at DFA exploiting Jade in newsletters. All their newsletters. They don’t produce them anymore. But, you may see a trend.
From DFA Newsletter – Autumn 2007
The same…. DFA Newsletter – Autumn 2007
DFA Newsletter – Spring 2007. Youth For A Drug Free Australia
The same…. DFA Newsletter – Spring 2007
DFA Newsletter – Autumn 2008
The same…. DFA Newsletter – Autumn 2008
DFA Newsletter – Spring 2008
But surely there must be more than repeating Jade’s “story” or “journey” or saying “no to drugs” or that darn “Teen Challenge” plug or just flogging that DVD over and over and over again?
I know! Jade has a website.
And websites can be updated with the latest, cutting edge material.
New stories, experiences and products. No more “Goose That Laid The Golden Haze”.
From the website "Jade Lewis and Friends"
Oh my! Jade wouldn’t have taken her own story – the logical fallacy of Special Pleading (ad-hoc reasoning) – onward and upward from the soft bosom of Drug Free Australia? Would she?
Okay. So, we know where Jade’s story is coming from and it’s no surprise her contribution to the “debate” was to repeat what she’s been repeating for a decade and a half. Nothing more, nothing less. Like a painting Jade is a static entity, gathering dust in a back storeroom. She had a mid range drug abuse problem. Copped some piddling charges. She was a promising athlete, which – speaking as an old creaky once elite level athlete myself – is done to death. I’d much rather hear of the genetic similarities of elite personalities, risk taking and substance abuse.
That’s what’s unique to Jade’s story. Her genetic predisposition – single-mindedness. She mentioned her peers. Are they all destroyed by drugs? Certainly no. This is not to belittle Jades experience. Addiction’s pretty ugly up close. What disturbs me so much about this talented womans ongoing saga is the monochrome entrapment. She is still living her life of drug abuse, erroneously convinced all people she comes into contact with are helped. Not so.
Worse, Jade had her “spiritual awakening” which renders her obsession and conviction almost dangerous. Evangelising against the dominant tide of evidence and now fighting against progress, just as she must fight against the voice inside her that says it’s time to move on.
Nothing could scream delusion any more clearer or louder. So, Jade. Why does God hate other drug users?
Paul Sheehan is famous for winning The Wankley Award on the back of calling refugees, “parasites”. Nailing himself to the far right thusly, Paul was bound to have come – and to come – into contact with some weird, if not fringe, ideas.
Blaming Aboriginal lineage for the murder of a white male, and a host of inbred evils, Sheehan wrote in 2007;
The NSW Police Media Unit is a paradigm of drip-feed information, a policy that comes down from the top. It is part of a much broader and more serious problem, the whitewashing of the official depiction of the realities of criminal life in Australia.
This begins with the piccaninny complex that dominates the welfare bureaucracy, education system, court system, university system and the ABC.
Shudder! Education, justice and our own ABC are in on a conspiracy to… to… what exactly?
The piccaninny complex is one of the reasons we’ve thrown a generation of young Aborigines into the gutter, including a generation of zombies – the living dead in rural and remote Australia of petrol-sniffing children, disproportionately under the primary care of drunks.
As one of Australia’s most prominent anthropologists, Peter Sutton, wrote in Anthropological Forum back in 2001: “The contrast between the progressive public rhetoric about empowerment and self-determination and the raw evidence of a disastrous failure in major aspects of Australian Aboriginal affairs policy since the early 1970s is frightening.”
Nothing has changed. We’ve known for years there is endemic child abuse within many remote and rural Aboriginal communities, yet had the absurdity of the “shock revelation” last year that child abuse is rampant in many Aboriginal communities.
No ambiguity there. I’ll let you read Sheehan’s The Race War of Black Against White and challenge you not to laugh when we consider the exact opposite racial fear has been whipped up in Melbourne to terrify Indian students. “And the problem is getting worse, not better” he ominously warns, seizing on the type of select data that right wing attention seekers are so apt to do. Way out of his depth Sheehan treads that most thunderously immoral tight rope of blaming American blacks based on charge and conviction rates. I shag you not.
It’s a wonder White people dare leave their homes each morning, besieged as they are by African American gangsters, Vietnamese triad members, Lebanese Muslim rapists and terrorists, not to mention an Aboriginal ‘feral underclass’ in Australian rural towns. And all of these sinister characters backed by governments who are at the mercy of ethnic branch-stacking and intent on imposing anti-White discrimination under the guise of multiculturalism. No wonder all the White folk are out there joining militias and voting for One Nation.
Except they aren’t. As Sheehan often and repetitively points out, most Australians are not deeply racist. Perhaps this is because, despite Sheehan’s moral panic, they do in fact feel basically safe when they venture onto the streets. Perhaps they don’t feel put upon and persecuted by uppity wogs and blackfellas. And perhaps they don’t feel that way because, in fact, they aren’t.
But Sheehan’s most relevant plunge from the window sill of journalistic integrity came when he used Drug Free Australia’s Case For Closure in what Terry Wright of The Australian Heroin Diaries queried as the worst article ever written.
Spoon fed by DFA Secretary, Young Earth Creationist and rapture ready biblical fundamentalist, Gary Christian – whom Sheehan respected enough to call Gary “Christiansen” – he simply parroted the Case for Closure errors. No doubt he was unaware Gary Christian having badgered MP’s, demanded closure, demanded MP views on drug policy and run out of lackeys silly enough to out themselves as human rights opponents, had chosen him. The sinner chosen for God’s work as it were.
The unconscionable lies found within Pike and Christian’s ever-ready piece were fed to Sheehan, who a primary school student could see would love them. Forgetting The Cross has been many things – all related to crime, drugs and sex – but never cosmopolitan he writes;
Look at Kings Cross. It used to be one of Australia’s most sophisticated, cosmopolitan and pleasant precincts. Now it is a bogan paradise, a cathedral to bad taste, a product of the power of the alcohol, heroin and poker machine industries that have enjoyed unprecedented power or tolerance for 16 years under the Labor patronage machine and pork factory.
In the Cross, the core of the rot is sponsored by the NSW government itself. It is the blandly named Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, conveniently located on Darlinghurst Road opposite the entrance to Kings Cross railway station. Never have so many lies been fed to the public in support of this policy quagmire.
The argument justifying the centre is that has cleaned up the drug trade and saved ”hundreds” of lives. This is propaganda worthy of North Korea. The reality is the opposite. The centre is directly responsible for hundreds of drug overdoses. It has created an environment where the most reckless and self-indulgent people in society – junkies – know they will be bailed out of their own risks.
The result is stratospheric rates of drug overdoses and interventions, which are then counted as lives saved. This is the basis on which more than $25 million in public funding has been requested and justified by the drug-legalisation lobby. Anyone interested in the non-North Korean view of this social experiment can find a blistering, highly detailed counter-view on the website of Drug Free Australia.
Paul didn’t disappoint. There’s no drug war here, he claims. Arguably there is no “war” here. Yet tough on drugs is tough on people. He also kindly refuted a challenge over this by calling a questioner “a wanker”. Before votes were counted. Clever.
Perhaps his worst fundie right wing bash was at The Greens, trying to link the NSW state election outcome to the Greens acceptance of more liberal policies. he was quite the drummer boy for misguided values.