Jewel In The Mud Award
Squall 15, Summer 1997, pg. 49.
This issue’s Jewel in the Mud Award goes to an unusual editorial from the Independent newspaper (5/1/97). Headlined: ‘Less hysteria, more truth', the piece is unusual because it criticises the hysterical nature of media coverage on Ecstasy; the kind of coverage that on any other day the Independent, along with every other national newspaper, might itself have been pedalling. Anyway not to denigrate the achievement of the person who wrested control of the editorial line that day, here it is:
Three young people died over the Christmas and New Year period, suspected of having taken Ecstasy, and that is a tragedy. Each year, on average, 500 people die in drink-driving accidents and that, too, is a tragedy. Yet while the annual toll of deaths from Ecstasy - around nine - is the subject of lurid articles in right-wing tabloid newspapers, we are strangely unconcerned about alcohol. A survey by the Royal College of General Practitioners estimates annual booze-related deaths at 40,000. The Government estimates a total drinking population of 8.4 million. Based on the College's estimate, the death rate amongst drinkers is 0.5 per cent.
"By contrast, the Ecstasy fatality rate is a mere 0.0002 per cent. Around one million Ecstasy tablets are consumed in Britain each weekend, mainly in clubs up and down the country, yet, declares the Daily Mail: 'There's only one truth about Ecstasy; it kills.'
"Research in the US and here, at Sheffield University, suggests that Ecstasy may have long-term side-effects - just like alcohol. And, unlike alcohol, the sale of Ecstasy is an illegal trade, aimed at young people and exploited by organised crime. From a standing start of less than a decade ago, Ecstasy has grown into a £600m black-market industry. Ecstasy will not go away; dealers and the club operators who accommodate them will see to that. Instead, it will plunge further underground, a subject of hysteria rather than informed debate. Young people deserve better than tabloid prejudices. They deserve properly funded research. Then the real dangers of Ecstasy can be assessed and properly understood - just like alcohol."
Jewel in the Mud Award - This issue's gems from the media mire. Squall 14 - Autumn 1996.