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Category Archives: The Scary Real World

Ecstasy, or hysteria? Part 3: Of course, the tabloids

It was today, when searching the Internet for any reports of what actually killed two men in Ayrshire earlier this year, that I instead discovered some new reports of ecstasy deaths. (Incidentally, those toxicology reports remain elusive, which – pure speculation, of course – would suggest to me that there was no evidence that ecstasy killed them at all.)

This time the stories – which I somehow hadn’t picked up on over the past few days – relate to two deaths at London’s Alexandra Palace, which has recently played host to a series of dance events. As well as the two fatalities, 20 further people were alleged to have been admitted to hospital, one of whom was critically ill.

It is ecstasy that takes the blame. And yet there is no evidence, it seems, that ecstasy was taken.

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A poignant thing

‘The Alot is Better Than You at Everything’ is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on the internet. In fact, Allie Brosh’s entire blog, Hyperbole and a Half, is exceptional. She makes astute observations about life, often extremely amusing ones, and narrates them with the help of crudely drawn images. And her latest post… well, it is just remarkable.

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Independently stupid: The ‘Mano 10’ nonsense continues

I may have jumped the gun yesterday when I accused The Metro of making up a drug. It would seem, having browsed the ‘net a little more, that it was in fact Humberside Police’s PR department that drew up this alarmist story. The papers should get better at verifying their sources, obviously, but various rags from the local news to The Independent seem to be in on the act.

In fact, it’s The Independent that wins the award for the most ludicrous coverage of “Mano 10”, supposedly a dangerous new drug that’s hit the streets, but in fact simply a brand of diazepam that’s been imported from India. Diazepam is, of course, more widely known as Valium, and is an anti-anxiety medication commonly prescribed to patients who suffer from panic attacks or insomnia.

In low doses, it calms your nerves and relaxes your muscles (which is why it’s also prescribed to people whose muscular problems are causing them a lot of pain). In higher doses, it’s a sedative. To The Independent, it’s actually heroin, which came as a surprise to me when I read their take on the matter earlier today.

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The Metro invents new killer drug

Perhaps The Metro would like to explain this article, which purports to expose a “new danger drug” that’s brutally murdering our kids as we speak.

The article reports that “teenagers are risking death by taking a new drug that is sold for as little as 50p a pill.” It’s called Mano 10, says the piece, and it has effects that are – quite bizarrely and contradictorily – similar to both heroin and amphetamines.

However, the drug is in fact not new. The pills marked ‘Mano 10’ are a brand of diazepam – more commonly known by its most prominent brand name, Valium.

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BeefJack’s after a couple of writers

There are two new positions going at BeefJack.

  • Senior writer, North America
  • Senior writer, weekends

Both positions are voluntary, we’re afraid – there simply isn’t the money to pay for contributions at the moment, but we’re trying to get to that point as quickly as we can. For now, we can offer you extensive training, exposure, experience and a whole heap of fun.

Applicants for these positions should have experience writing news for a website, preferably in a videogame-related context. Either way, you obviously must know your stuff about games and be able to demonstrate this.

The North America-based senior writer will be asked to produce several short news articles per day throughout the week. The weekend-focused position will involve preparing for weekend coverage during the week, then posting a few articles per day to the site at weekends.

Both positions require someone who can be trusted to post strong, well-written and informative content, as well as promoting this content through various social channels.

Interested? Email jobs[at]beefjack.com explaining why you’d be awesome for the role. Tell us what you’ve done before, and show us how good you are. Remember to specify which role you’re applying for.

The way we like to work at BeefJack is this:

We understand we’re asking people to give up a fair amount of their time. But we want people who share our vision. We want people to grow with the site. So we’re prepared to put the work in too. We’ll train you; you’ll have access to new industry contacts; you’ll learn skills; and you’ll have the opportunity to get bigger with the site as the site gets bigger. Your work will be read by our 150,000 monthly unique readers – a readership that’s constantly growing. Be a part of something, y’know? We believe in it.

Anyway, enough nonsense. Hopefully you fancy one of these. Be in touch.

So you want to be a games journalist…

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Mr. Savy Gamer himself, LewieP, suggested we “new wave” of games journos do some posts about how we reckon the next wave should be looking to get into the game. So here’s my advice, in seven chronological steps. Enjoy! And as Lewie says, this is the internet, it’s interactive, so feel free to kickstart a Q&A in the comments.

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Ecstasy, or hysteria? – part 2: some clarifications

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Yesterday I ranted for quite a while about the BBC’s coverage of two men’s deaths in Scotland – deaths that occurred after they took what police say was ecstasy “six time stronger” than “normal”.

It was piss-poor coverage of what could well be a non-story, or could well be about something far more troubling than ecstasy – but it wasn’t the only example of such reporting, nor was it even the worst (the tabloids, predictably, were more full-on in blaming MDMA for the evils of the world).

Since I wrote that post my blog’s traffic spectacularly soared into the thousands (thank you very much to those who linked it in article comments threads and the like), so I thought it sensible to do a quick follow-up post to address a few points that have been raised by people since I published the original post yesterday.

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Ecstasy, or hysteria? – On the BBC’s drugs reporting

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I’ve added a lengthy clarification to this post. Click here to read it.

It’s become a bit of a cliché to say the BBC’s reporting is going downhill, but that’s because – well – it is. And one of the trends seems to be an over-reliance on bad science, when the faintest drop of research, consultation or common bloody sense would reveal to a particular journalist or section editor that the words they’re writing down are bound to be inaccurate.

Increasingly, the media – and not just the tabloids – are enjoying fighting a bit of a war against drugs. There are several key commentators who are keen to stress how much the situation is exacerbated by the press, but on the whole reporters seem unprepared to rest on science and sensibility, instead opting for reactionary statements with no balance whatsoever.

It happened with the mephedrone scare, the government eventually backed into a corner where it could choose to accept scientific statements from medical and pharmacological professionals, or go with the Daily Mail, which it ultimately decided to — banning not just mephedrone, but all related substances, even rushing through legislation which allowed them to bypass the usual regulations with regards to drug classification. Want to know the grand total of published, peer-reviewed pieces of research into the effects of mephedrone at the time the classification ruling was passed? Pretty sure it was zero. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Certainly the other drugs outlawed in April 2010 were banned based on no evidence whatsoever.

Anyway, today, the BBC has run this extraordinarily alarmist headline:

Super-strength ecstasy warning after Ayrshire deaths

Basically, two men die after two separate nights out in Ayrshire, after taking what police suspect was ecstasy that’s “six times stronger than normal.” The article is careful not to misreport anything as such – the quotes seem genuine, and there’s certainly nothing that’s outright fabricated by the journalist himself. However, ask any specialist on the subject and they would explain to you why the article is hysterically misleading — even though police probably did issue a warning that “ecstasy tablets six times stronger than normal have been sold in the west of Scotland.”

Here’s why it’s bullshit.

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Would you like to write about some stuff in an online magazine?

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Right, so, here’s a thing.

For a while now, my girlfriend, her housemate and I have been playing with the idea of starting a thing. We all write, in some capacity. But we all write about very different things. And to an extent, we all wish we had the chance to write about other different things. And so we started thinking about the idea of setting up a blog to write about lots of different things, the theme being that we write about different things. But then we thought committing to regularly updating a blog would be a lot of effort, so I suggested that we do an online mag instead.

And then we realised we’re pretty lazy, or busy, or whatever our excuse is at the time, and that there’s no way in hell we’d be able to fill a magazine a month between the three of us while worrying about real jobs and that. And so this is where all of you lot come in, by pitching us some ideas and then writing them up when we tell you that’s okay.

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These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things 2010

A week of 2011 has gone by and I haven’t finished my listings yet! Oh gosh! As we all know, a new year means we all have to list things in order of preference. So here, fellow humans, are my favourite things of 2010, listed in order of preference, in a few different categories of interest. If you fancy comparing, here’s last year’s.

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