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Sunday, April 29, 2012

My druggy wugs, my freedom-weedom - REVISED

Time for me to eat a little humble pie. I wrote the following before reading the transcript of evidence taken by the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee on 24 April - click here for link.

So my account of Brand's views and comments is inaccurate. We bloggers like to call mainstream journalists to account when they are sloppy, so we should be prepared for the lash ourselves when (as in this case) we cop an attitude before getting all the facts.

To set the record straight, he is now off all legal and illegal drugs and advocates an abstinence-based approach, as least for people with addictive personalities like himself. He is against methadone because it is a lazy (and sometimes lethal, ultimately) way to treat addicts. But he does think more of the money spent on arrests for possession could be more productively used in helping drug-takers off their addiction;  and when (gently) pressed, indicates that he favours decriminalisation - see his answer to Questions 259/260.

But do read the second part of the session also, in which, yes, Peter Hitchens (loathed by so many, especially the right-on) gives his well-known views - but so does Mary Brett, who has a background in education and also favours giving clearer, firmer guidance to youngsters on legality. It is not only Hitchens who sees prohibition as a valuable form of protection.

It is also interesting to see witnesses challenge the perception that drug-taking is so widespread that we may as well give up the fight - see Question 276, part of the answer to which reads:

Kathy Gyngell: ...At the moment, 2% of people sniff coke here. People, like Russell Brand, would like us to believe that this is common. It is still not common. It is common in certain circles.

Unfortunately, those circles include the broadcasting, journalism and entertainment industries, with their power to influence, persuade and mislead.

And, usefully, the Committee is challenged on whether it has a pro-drug use agenda (Question 281):

Lorraine Fullbrook: ...Are you making the assumption that the Committee are in favour of decriminalisation or legalisation?

Kathy Gyngell: I was worried that you took your terms of reference, or apparently appeared to—and I indeed wrote to Mr Vaz about it—from the Global Commission on Drugs policy, which is basically a highly financed legalising lobby. That did disturb me because, equally, they had given out—and they were widely disseminated in the press—incorrect figures about drug use spiralling out of control globally when, indeed, the UNODC shows quite clearly that it has been stable. So, that did concern me that your direction of travel may have been influenced by lobbies who are very much in favour of decriminalisation, and if that is not the case I am very happy to hear it.

I've now started in on Mary Brett's drug report (2006, updated 2012) and already I'm getting some startling information, e.g. how very much stronger skunk is than herbal cannabis of the 60s and early 70s. Having lost a friend to skunk-related depression and suicide, I'm not in favour of making the stuff easier to get hold of. Her report is here.

Finally, my apologies to Elby and others for losing their comments in deleting, revising and re-posting this piece. I'm very grateful for their time in reading and responding and I promise to try harder on the technical side next time.

So, warts and all, here is what I said originally, this morning (and over at Orphans of Liberty also):
I find it's easier to read than hear an argument, so I've transcribed as best I can what Russell Brand said in response to Peter Hitchens' accusation that drug-takers are spoiled rich Western kids who falsely claim that they are not responsible for their actions:

It’s nice to receive your bigotry from another medium other than the hate rag, The Mail on Sunday, from which you normally peddle hatred, insular thought, lack of love between human beings. What I’m saying, whether or not I’m selfish or wearing a hat is redundant and irrelevant. These are the kind of personal attacks, the aggressive styles that you continually adopt to vilify people needlessly. Hey what’s next, criminalise being a bit brown, is that your next policy from the Mail on Sunday? We can’t listen to people like you any more, it’s unevolved as a species.

There is such a thing as society, Peter. In spite of what Margaret Thatcher said there is such a thing as society, we are responsible for one another. If we treat people compassionately and with love, then people will benefit. People of course are responsible for their actions, you’re responsible for writing for a bigoted newspaper [applause].
It would have been better if Hitchens hadn’t prefaced his question with an insult (“the alleged comedian in the hat”) as he then has to be held partly responsible for the damagingly ranting nature of the reply.But what’s clear is that Brand is confused on the issue – at one point we’re not responsible for ourselves, later we are and then we should be responsible for others as well. The Guardian’s report of his evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee is similarly equivocal and self-contradictory.

As to the so-called war on drugs, the Guardian's piece says:

He said he didn't think that drug addicts cared about the legal status of the drugs they were taking, or where they came from or the consequences for those involved in their production.
Not surprising, since there are usually no adverse legal consequences, in this country.
But if any full-on libertarians are reading this, maybe it's time they faced up to the fact that (as Sartre said) we ARE free, inescapably. Libertines and rake-hells just do it, they don't ask Authority to approve.

What semi-detached libertarians want is permission - but to ask that is to give power to another. The radical lover of freedom does what he wills and accepts the consequences - and doesn't whine for some social support safety net.

At 36, Brand is getting a little old for the role of bawling, illogical teenager, demanding autonomy and protection in the same breath. The infantile term "booky-wook" is the tell to his condition, isn't it?

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