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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Stupid Fucking Credulous Hack of the Day: It's Bryan Denson Again!

Posted by Dan Savage on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 9:24 PM

Here's Bryan Denson's stupid fucking credulous hackery, courtesy of the Oregonian. Here's my Stupid Fucking Credulous Hack post about Denson. Here's the stupid fucking long email exchange between me and Bryan about his stupid fucking credulous hackery. In his first of many emails Bryan stated that my original post included "a fantastic number of inaccuracies." I asked Bryan to point out the inaccuracies but he claimed he was too "busy here" at the Oregonian—taking dictation from "the authorities" is time consuming!—to list them for me. (But not too busy to send multiple emails.) Well yesterday, after I posted our email exchange, Bryan managed to find the time...

I really do have to end this conversation, but I looked over the piece really quickly just now and found that you committed one fantastic error—[you stated that] the story was about the drug war—and then misled your readers about my intentions throughout. It was really quite clever—every sentence after your premise compounds the central inaccuracy. A couple of specific inaccuracies:

1) "Yeah, this war on pot might seem wasteful—particularly when you consider that we've been waging this war for forty-odd years and pot is cheaper, stronger, and more widely available than it has ever been, all points Denson goes out of his way to avoid considering."

The only way that could be accurate is if your premise was accurate, which it was not. I had no reason to rehash 40 years of the war on drugs to tell a simple story about the failure to trace the Mexican drug gangs' money back to Mexico. And how would you know what I considered or didn't?

2) "The authorities are out there tearing up pot plants and chasing down illegal immigrants at great expense to the public and, hey, that's pretty much all the public needs to know."

Way inaccurate. That's not what I told readers. I did not tell them how much it cost to go chase down the growers and harvesters. (By the way, it ain't much in Oregon, so it wasn't, as you say, "great expense to the public.")


Bryan's piece is headlined "Oregon battles Mexican drug gangs' marijuana fields," and is illustrated by a photo of what looks like a platoon of heavily-armed troops on maneuvers.
marijuanajpg-5ec835edb8896c8f.jpg

The caption identifies these men—men wearing full camouflage and carrying machine guns (!) slung over their shoulders—as police officers, but they're fully militarized cops fighting the war on drugs. Bryan makes himself (more) ridiculous when he claims that his piece has nothing to do with the war on drugs and that I'm somehow misleading my readers when I describe it as one. Um, if these guys aren't fighting the war on drugs with their machine guns and their helicopters, what the fuck are they doing? And how is an attempt to "trace the Mexican drug gangs' money back to Mexico"—an attempt that involves soldiers and helicopters and machine guns—not a war on drugs story?

As for points 1 and 2, my response continues after the jump...

1. Since Bryan's piece is a dispatch from the front lines of the war on pot, the history of the war on pot is highly relevant. And Bryan himself alludes to that sorry history when he suggests that the efforts of the officers he profiles/fellates might "seem wasteful." Why might their efforts seem wasteful? First because we've been at this for forty years and pot is cheaper, stronger, and more easily obtained today than it was all those decades and billions of dollars ago. And the efforts of these heavily-armed officers seem doubly wasteful when you consider that, as the officers themselves admit, eradicating pot grows from public lands is impossible:

Drug investigators know they can't possibly prevent Mexican gangs from putting down roots on their turf. But they hope the pressure of their helicopter flyovers, eradications and mounting federal indictments of growers discourage them from returning every spring.

"What we're gonna do is make it hard for them to make a profit in Douglas County," says Strickland. "It's all about money. So if it's not profitable for them, they'll go somewhere else."

Make it difficult for them in Douglas County and maybe—maybe—they'll go grow pot someplace else. No one expects that they'll stop growing pot in remote areas, or on public lands, or in suburban basements. We just hope they'll move on to some other place, some other remote area, some other county, some other public lands. Problem not solved, problem just shoved into someone else's national forest or cul-de-sac. There is one way to solve the problem, of course, one way to finally put an end to illegal pot grows on public lands: legalize the cultivation of marijuana. You know, on farms, by farmers, and let those farmers sell their pot legally. Bryan may not have been able to include the whole sordid history of our failed war on pot in his piece, but by omitting this fact—by leaving out the one thing that would actually stop pot grows on public lands—Bryan is guilty of journalistic malpractice. Bryan and the Oregonian failed to live up to their own professed standards, not the Stranger's (cough, cough) standards.

2. Oh please, Bryan.

No, Bryan, you did not put an exact price tag on sending scores of cops into remote wooded areas with helicopters and submachine guns every summer to yank pot plants out of the ground, which goes on every summer, year after year, without ever seeming to put a dent in the availability or quality of the pot for sale in urban areas, rural areas, high schools, college dorms, prisons, newsrooms at dying daily papers, etc., etc. But again, Bryan, you wrote this: "It might seem wasteful to spend scarce public resources seizing pot plants..." You were the first to bring up the expense and scarce public resources, Bryan, not me.

And the point I was making in that comments wasn't even really about expense—which, while not itemized, is easily inferred (and why isn't it in there? wouldn't that info help your readers better assess the value of these efforts to fight pot?)—but that "the authorities," the only people quoted in the piece, are out there tearing up pot plants and chasing down illegal immigrants. Your piece uncritically glorifies "the authorities" as they attempt to do the impossible without providing any context or balance, without a single quote from someone on the other side of this issue, without talking to a single grower, or pot user, or marijuana reform advocate. (One short paragraph—25 words tops—quoting a critic of the drug war and you never would've heard of the Stranger, Bryan.) It wasn't journalism. It was a breathless piece of drug-war cheerleading. It was propaganda. You should be embarrassed for yourself and your newspaper.

Okay, I'm done with Bryan. But a note to our readers....

Yes, I'm being hard on Bryan here. But I'm sick to fucking death of reading pieces like Bryan's, pieces that glorify the war on pot and other drugs. Bryan is part of the problem, he's not just reporting a "law-enforcement story," as the SFCHs always claim, but helping to perpetuate a huge and ongoing injustice through their one-sided, biased reporting on this particular "law-enforcement" story. They're perpetuating an injustice that destroys lives and careers and communities and burns up public monies and packs our prisons with non-violent offenders. I'm sick of "objective" daily journalists carrying water for "the authorities" on the drug war—and I'm especially sick of reading one-sided, unbalanced reporting about the drug war in papers that never shut up about their standards, their adherence to objectivity and balance, their responsibility to their communities, the crucial role they play in our democracy, how they speak truth to power, how they keep the citizenry informed and blah blah fuckin' blah. They don't do any of that where the war on pot and other drugs is concerned because they're cowards or fools or, in Bryan's case, both. And I don't think, given the stakes and the damage folks like Bryan are doing, that I need to be polite about it.

And to the handful of readers who thought me unspeakably rude for including Bryan's email in my piece: Bryan's email is public. It ran at the bottom of his piece in the Oregonian, where it was included to solicit and facilitate feedback. I was just helping to make sure Bryan got some of the feedback he was looking for. Bryan welcomes your feedback—let him have it.

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