The current state of our journalism makes it difficult for me to deal with this story. There are other factors as well.
The headline I read two days ago was from the Washington Free Beacon, a fairly reliable conservative news source. I still didn’t believe it:
“Biden Admin To Fund Crack Pipe Distribution To Advance ‘Racial Equity’“
Yet the same day, this headline, which I verified, also appeared: “Heroin withdrawal made woman hallucinate SpongeBob telling her to stab her 3-year-old daughter to death, police say.” We are in the eras of Poe’s Law and The Great Stupid. There was a time not so long ago when the idea of Donald Trump becoming President of the United States was as plausible as us putting Dennis Rodman. in the White House A politician who suggested de-funding the police would be laughed out of public service. Encouraging illegal aliens to cross our borders would be seen as a symptom of a psychotic episode. Advocating teraing down statues of Thomas Jefferson would guarantee pariah status. Allowing non-citizens to vote, as New York City will do now, was incomprehensible. Imagine the reaction just ten years ago if a male college swimmer tried to compete as a woman because he decided that he “identified” as one.
Heck, maybe the Biden administration is distributing crack pipes.
But when the report first surfaced two days ago, I couldn’t find any mainstream media source that mentioned it. Of course, that’s the problem, isn’t it? We don’t have any trustworthy sources of information. The mainstream media often doesn’t report news it thinks will harm its cause (journalism isn’t supposed to have a cause other than informing the public, but that quaint concept has been largely abandoned, though not by me), and the conservative media, which plays a crucial role by reporting stories the MSM tries to hide, deny, or bury, seemingly can’t help itself from spinning what the left won’t reveal.
Gradually other sources came out with versions of the Free Beacon headline, but they were “the usual suspects”:The Washington Examiner, The Daily Mail, Breitbart, and other British tabloids. Eventually Fox News announced, “Crack pipe distribution funded by HHS, prioritizing ‘underserved’ communities: report.”
Still there was nary a peep about anything vaguely related to this claim by ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, MSNBC or CNN. (Newsweek, which has recently made the same calculations Bill Maher has and is migrating right having “read the room,” was the lone exception.) Either this was the traditional news outlets being responsible, or they were once again playing out this disgustingly familiar scene…
There was, however, a link in the Free Beacon story to a hitherto unnoticed $30 million Federal grant program, which closed applications this week and will begin handing out millions in May. As we all know, the government has no deficit or debt and has money to spend on pretty much any woke scheme it can dream up. The thing is called the 2022 Harm Reduction Program Grant, and will, it claims,
…support community–based overdose prevention programs, syringe
services programs, and other harm reduction services. Funding will be used to enhance overdose and other types of prevention activities to help control the spread of infectious diseases and the consequences of such diseases for individuals with, or at risk of developing substance use disorders (SUD), support distribution of FDA–approved overdose reversal medication to individuals at risk of overdose, build connections for individuals at risk for, or with, a SUD to overdose education, counseling, and health education, refer individuals to treatment for infectious diseases, such as HIV, sexually
transmitted infections (STIs), and viral hepatitis, and encourage such individuals to take steps to reduce the negative personal and public health impacts of substance use or misuse. This will include supporting capacity development to strengthen harm reduction programs as part of the continuum of care. Recipients will also establish processes, protocols, and mechanisms for referral to appropriate treatment and recovery support
services. Grantees will also provide overdose prevention education to their target populations regarding the consumption of substances including but not limited to opioids and their synthetic analogs. Funds may also be used to help address the stigma often associated with risky behaviors and participation in harm reduction activities.
There is no mention of “crack pipes” anywhere in the document. The description does describe “safe smoking kits” as among the “equipment and supplies to enhance harm reduction efforts” the grants can be used to purchase, but nobody seems to know what a safe smoking kit contains. The “crack pipe” references are entirely speculative, and, of course, designed to make conservative heads explode. Similarly, the leap to connecting “crack pipes” with “racial equity” is an intentional stretch. What the document actually says about “racial equity” is…
Behavioral health equity refers to the right to access quality health care for all populations regardless of the individual’s race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or geographical location. This includes access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services for mental and substance use disorders. Advancing health equity involves ensuring that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. In conjunction with quality services, this involves addressing social
determinants of health (SDOH), such as employment and housing stability, insurance status, proximity to services, culturally responsive care – all of which have an impact on behavioral health outcomes.
Yes, this is mostly standard progressive blather, long on idealism and short on reality, but still, it is unfair to interpret that aspirational language as supporting crack pipes as a means of reaching “racial equity,” especially since anyone with a cerebrum can figure out that access to addictive drugs will accomplish just the opposite.
And yet—these are the same people who think racism can be extinguished by discriminating against whites, and that freedom to choose means freedom to kill another human life. Who knows what they think is reasonable any more?
Is it ethical to state as fact in a headline what has not been confirmed, and to resort to the most inflammatory extrapolation of what is known in order to attract clicks and eyeballs? No. It is extremely unethical.
But wait! The mainstream media, or at least some of it, stuck its toe into this matter before the conservative media had its boots on. In October, the Washington Post told its readers—among which I am not if I can avoid it, that Biden’s HHS had pledged to employ a…
four-part strategy also includes measures to prevent drug addiction, in part by continuing to reduce the inappropriate prescribing of opioids; expanding medication-based treatment, which research has shown to be the most effective approach; and improving support for people recovering from substance use disorder.
That story, in contrast to the conservative stories coming out now, is an across the board cheerleading effort for the plan, and doesn’t mention such details as “smoking kits.” Mustn’t confuse or worry the hoi polloi, poor dears! You know, it’s like Dr. Fauci says: jsut give them the facts they can handle. What the littel people don’t know won’t hurt them.
By the way, did you know that democracy dies in darkness?
Is it ethical to write news reports to stack the facts in such a way to encourage public support for the government, while equal transparency regarding more troubling aspects of a program might encourage questions and criticism?
Complicating my ability to figure out what the hell is going on is the fact that I have an unshakable bias against recreational drug use, and believe fervently that the way to stop a destructive force in society is to unequivocally condemn it, make it illegal, and never, ever enable it. Drug use is wrong, just as alcohol abuse is wrong. It harms society, the economy, families, marriages, children and businesses. That means that the government has an ethical obligation to say, loudly and clearly, “NO!”, not “have some clean syringes and a “smoking kit.”
A few weeks ago, a new study reminded us that it is well-established science that getting high can harm cognitive function. A new review of research, published last month in the journal “Addiction” concluded that the brain chemistry impact of getting stoned may last well beyond the initial high, especially for adolescents. “Our study enabled us to highlight several areas of cognition impaired by cannabis use, including problems concentrating and difficulties remembering and learning, which may have considerable impact on users’ daily lives,” said coauthor Dr. Alexandre Dumais, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal. “Cannabis use in youth may consequently lead to reduced educational attainment, and, in adults, to poor work performance and dangerous driving. These consequences may be worse in regular and heavy users.”
Funny, I figured that out when I was still in college. As with the studies that finally proved that smoking tobacco caused cancer, this just confirms what was obvious decades earlier. Never mind: states are rushing to legalize pot anyway, guaranteeing the predictable consequences.
Can you guess the part of the new HHS program description that bothers me the most? It is the program’s stated goal of “stigma reduction.”
There should be a stigma attached to drug addiction; also to illegal drug use and the abuse of prescription drugs. Stigmas sensitize ethics alarms. The disastrous Sixties kneecapped U.S. society and its ethical values by eliminating the stigmas attached to a whole list of toxic societal misconduct, including unmarried pregnancy, abortion, promiscuous sex, law-breaking, and disrespect for all levels of authority. How many deaths have resulted, and lives been destroyed (or just reduced in richness and productivity) because we allowed popular culture and arrogant elites to eliminate the crucial societal taboos on these behaviors that had been effective for so long? The total is incalculable, but surely horrifying.
Nothing about recreational drug use is sufficiently positive to balance or justify the massive negative consequences. Pot, the CNN piece says, has gained “acceptance of the drug as an acceptable way to socialize, relax and get better sleep.” Wow, that sure makes up for all the money wasted, the potentially productive time occupied by giggling and mumbling, the automobile accidents, the poor job performances and the receptiveness to using harder and more dangerous drugs. I have a college room mate who has the short term memory of a clam. The smartest friend I ever had, and I have a had a lot of smart friends, has only been able to work as a part-time librarian since his 20s after blowing out his mind on every drug he could get his hands on in college. Paul was a great, passionate, articulate, convincing advocate for legalizing drugs, back when he could speak in complete sentences.
So no, I have no idea how to deal with this story. I can’t trust the Left, the Right, or the news media for an open, unbiased discussion.
And I can’t trust myself.