August 04, 2005

Pundits on drugs

Breaks my heart that the suffering of my meth clients and their families can get written off as so much hype by the chattering classes, right and left, all to score some debating points. I must be hallucinating: I've seen the scabs and the rotten teeth, the kids taken away, the meth lab next door. Legions of victims of forgery and theft, wasted lives behind bars, early deaths? Yeah, I think "epidemic" is just about the right word.

Yet who am I, a mere public defender peon, next to the brilliance of Slate editor Jack Shafer? Eager to take down a rival news magazine, Shafer mocks the message that there's a huge national methamphetamine problem, because he disapproves of the crudity of the messenger.

Pictures of people scarred by meth? "Gross-out." "Exploitative." "Freak-show pandering." These are my neighbors and clients you're talking about, pendejo. They're not freaks. They're real, they exist, they suffer and die for no good reason. Just maybe someone leafing through a Newsweek in a waiting room will remember the images next time the devil offers them a snort. For that, offending Jack Shafer's sensibilities is a good trade.

Claims of a meth epidemic? "Scaremongering." "Hysteria." "Bugged-eyed claims." Bully for Professor Shafer, he can't bothered to learn the difference between the whites and cross-tops of his youth and today's d-methamphetamine. But who needs curiosity about addiction, or public health, or property crime, or the life and quality of life of poor people? Shafer has a calculator and conceit to spare. Newsweek didn't use the variables he prefers - presto, no epidemic!

(Daily Pundit makes the same mistake and displays the same conceit, but at least he has personal experience with illegal stimulants.)

Breaks my heart too that this kind of high-handed dismissal of other people's misery gets picked up and validated by the echo chamber. "Another Fine Meth" - ha, ha, ha, wicked clever, Biff! Who gives a sh*t about the suffering millions anyway? They're trailer trash, and we are influential media critics; stand back, we've got something pithy to say! Who needs the voices of the folks in the trenches?

They could start by reading their own comments:

"Both Newsweek... and Slate don't deal with the real story - which is NOT the number of deaths. The crisis comes from the crime committed by freaked-up meth heads in search of money for their addiction. That's why the the Sheriffs (and state governments) are aroused.

"Still, being from the Midwest, we've been wondering how long it would take for meth to become chic in the east. The politicians and law enforcement types have been screaming about meth for a couple years. Living in Fargo, ND and Iowa City the last 6 years, I've come in contact with my share of meth users. I don't have any numbers, but my perception is closer to the Newsweek article more than the Slate article (in regard to number of users, not the scare tactics)."

"I look at this story and think, "you f*cking idiots, you're only about 7 years late." I lived in Joplin, MO (in the buckle of the bible belt) and the cops there were at wits end. In 1999, in Twin Falls, Idaho (a bastion of very socially conservative Mormons) this peaceful small town was dealing with its meth epidemic."

Please, pundits, listen and learn before you spout off about meth next time, else we were better off toiling in obscurity.

Bonus links:

- Rob Thurman
on Newsweek:"...makes me wonder why it took white ladies from rural Iowa and tony Chicago suburbs getting all strung out on Miss Tina for mainstream media to pay attention?"

- Chris Clarke on tooth decay and outrage, liberals and poor people, elitism and solidarity. Read the thought-provoking comments, too.