A reaction to RTE’s unbalanced “Head Shops” program

Nirvana Head Shop, South William Street, Dublin

Nirvana, big in the nineties, are making a comeback...

So as the head shop debate rages on, RTE decided to throw in their two cents on the issue with their imaginatively titled “Head Shops”. A balanced discussion of the highs and lows (or Saturdays and Mondays, depending on your perspective) was just the tonic the country needed for a such a hotly discussed subject. A brilliant expose of the roots of legal highs, the people for them, the people against them, the statistics on the dangers caused to people, the numbers for the levels of crime caused and reduced by them. Unless somebody slipped some highs into my tea I’m pretty sure it was the equivalent of Bray Wanderers playing Brazil, a one-sided look that was sure to please the masses of Duffyites.

The stage was set for a rundown of the lows of Head Shops. Some type of scummer fella with his face fuzzed out, the type of thing normally reserved for witnesses and pedophiles, was telling the country that snorting a line made you “mad ourrav it”. A clear portrayal of the type of people using it. Two seconds was given to a man saying “its a witch hunt”, not making it clear whether he was for or against (he was against, having been on the news a few weeks previous). Next was on to the Dáil, for the concerned citizens were marching to save the children. Here we saw lots of people waving placards, and one unfortunate who had stabbed himself in the wrist when high. 14 seconds was given to a foreign chap who was calling the banning of the head shops something close to fascism. The rest of the time was given to the protesters.

Jacqui Synpe and friends protest a local head shop

"Ban Head Shops, now, lets go to the pub next door"

Off to Roscommon so to speak with Jaqui Snype, who was leading a team of volunteers, working on a rota, to picket the local head shop all the time. “Are you proud of what you started?”, presenter Philip Boucher Hayes asked. Off course she was she said, she was protecting the children. Outside the shop he asked, “does anyone believe that if this place closed down tomorrow would anyone stop taking drugs?”. One man used his powers of logic, clearly backed up by concrete proof, said that because of the recession people wouldn’t be able to afford the diesel to drive to Athlone and buy drugs. Makes perfect sense. Another said, “80% of the younger ones won’t go looking for drugs but when they’re in a place like that, its like a sweet shop”. I’ve trawled for those figures, but can’t find them. Could they be made up? No, why would he do that? No, it can’t be a figure off the top of his head. 97% of people never make up figures off the top of their heads. Could he be in the 3% that I made up that do?

On next to Newbridge, which has two head shops. 2 minutes and 58 seconds was granted to Lorna, the manager of The Hemporium, in which time she stated that people were free to do what they wanted with the product. Described as “brightly lit with sparkly cabinets filled with curious and wonderous items, all the best tricks of the retail trade employed”, he may as well have used a split screen, one side with the shop, the other with Willy Wonka’s face. Adding the Oompa Loompa music would have been genius. Finally it was described as a “high-class retail experience”. Funny that, a shopkeeper making his shop a nice experience for customers. It’s like a trick Satan would use. Luckily it’s not used in regular shops, I’m glad they’re stinking shitholes that place no value in a nice premises. The owners of the shop refused to comment, leaving Lorna to field the hard questions. Maybe this was because they have horns and can only come out at night, or maybe because 8 shops have been attacked in recent months, and showing who you are to regular drug dealers could be really bad for your health. 55 seconds was also given to how the drug world, and how they are reacting to legal highs, all leading back to stabby arm man from the protest outside the Dail telling us how his friends wanted to kill him for protesting against head shops.

17 year old Chloe McDonagh, sitting beside her mother, was next up to give us all an education. She had an attack after taking “Wildcat”, which had her featured on the front page of a local newspaper. Her mother stated, “I thought she had a few drinks on her”, but soon she realised it was legal highs she had taken. Still, forget about the underage drinking she was taking part in, that doesn’t matter. Off to a pub to get some reactions from people, where a man and his child were enjoying an afternoon session. A lot of close-ups of pints and we were once again wiser to the effects of head shops.

Back to the big smoke for the finale of the show, and we were informed that 300 people had gone up to a window on South William Street to buy highs. Using Boucher Hayes’s powers of mathematical statistics, he informed us that this hatch was opened 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Work out the maths and you find that that’s an awful lot of people buying highs. But factor in that this was a Saturday night, the busiest time on the Dublin nightlife scene, and you realise that it’s as balanced as Meat Loaf and Kate Moss sharing a see-saw. He finished by saying “will demand dwindle when the ban comes in? Almost certainly”, a fact he almost certainly made up himself, adding as his last words that it will “make criminals of the people buying it”. A true statement, ne’er explored.

Presenter, RTE Head Shops

I'm going to be a famous investigative journalist. Like Sherlock Holmes.

What is most disturbing about programs like this is the lack of clarity over the issue. Yes, testing and regulation need to come into action, but none of that was really explored. In fact only 4 minutes and 10 seconds was given to any argument for the cases of keeping the head shops open. In the 30 minute program this equates only to around 16% of the entire output of the show. Hardly fair and balanced, it never interviewed the Gardai in relation to crime statistics, or the Revenue Department regarding the amount of taxes paid by these businesses. It had no facts on the decline of organised crime regarding drugs. Instead it dwelled on the rants of protesters, and human interest stories of users designed to tug on the ole heartstrings, a tactic so lazy that it is not actually asleep, its dead.

So for some statistics omitted from the show. There is approximately one mephedrone death in Ireland per year. Thats compared with 7.1 per 100,000 alcohol deaths and around 69 deaths from poisoning by use of prescription and over the counter medicines. In 2008 controlled drug offenses were 23,405, compared with 21,984 in 2009, down by 1,421. Importation of drug offenses were down from 67 to 46. Possession of drugs for sale or supply were down from 4,302 to 4,039 and possession for personal use was down from 18,093 to 16,811. In fact there was a reduction of controlled drug offenses of 17.2% in the first quarter of this year.

All these figures tell a story, a story that it seems RTE did not want to be told. All the figures are freely available from government websites like cso.ie and http://www.coroner.ie. In a fair and balanced society we need a fair and balanced media. Without it we can only repeat the past mistakes of governments. As mentioned in my last blog on this subject, the criminals are the only ones who will win. Then we’ll have a program on the effects of illegal highs. And maybe guns.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Peter on May 4, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Nice work dave, even better than the first one, must watch that programme on rte.ie

    Reply

  2. Good Work Dave little did I know when we were giving our money away to Cambodian street thugs together that you such a word smyth

    Reply

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ldave barnaville, ldave barnaville. ldave barnaville said: https://barnaville.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/a-reaction-to-rtes-unbalanced-head-shops-program/ New post on RTE's program… […]

    Reply

  4. Posted by The Bould Ellis on May 5, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I think I’m gonna have to disagree with you on this one Davy. First of all, Brazil traditionally play with a 4-4-2 formation with attacking wing backs who get forward at every opportunity. If Bray Wanderers were to play 4 across the back with a sweeper and defensive midfielder to stifle the creativity of the Brazilian midfield, then get the ball out wide when the Brazilain defenders are caught out of position and high up the pitch it is feasible that Bray Wanderers could catch them on the break. Get a big man up front for Bray to contest a cross or two and Bray wanderers could nick a goal or two. It would not be pretty and could well be backs to the wall stuff but coupled with home advantage and the fact that the Irish league has only just started and the players are fresh, with the Brazilians just after finishing a long season and with one eye on the World cup, I think a major shock could be on the cards. SO DO YOUR RESEARCH MATE,BEFORE YOU START SPOUTING OFF SUCH LUDICROUS STATEMENTS WITHOUT ANY FACTS TO BACK THEM UP.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Pseurfpeerers on May 23, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, iwspo.net

    Reply

  6. Posted by Pseurfpeerers on June 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian,Earn Free Vouchers / Cash

    Reply

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