Tagged: pseudohealth

Still don’t get plain packaging

This is totally a minor point in a very torrid debate, but I’m going to bring it up anyway.  In a post on the government announcement to move forward on plain packaging, Idiot/Savant says:

Cigarette packaging has been used as a marketing mechanism to circumvent advertising bans.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume I/S isn’t a smoker.  May not live with a smoker.  May not hang out with many smokers (I can definitely say there aren’t many of them in geek circles, for a start.)

Now, if you don’t smoke, don’t know or live with smokers, haven’t ever been asked by a partner or coworker to pick up a pack for them, if you really don’t spend much of your time thinking about what cigarette packages look like … what does that sentence say to you?

How would you assume cigarette packaging “has been used as a marketing mechanism”?

Personally, I think I’d assume there are slogans on the packs.  Sexy ladies, maybe.  The pack might be like a little box-shaped billboard hawking the product’s advantages and inexpensiveness.

The reason I might not know what cigarette packs really look like might have something to do with the fact that shops cannot display them, so the usual prohibitionist argument that the packaging is SECRETLY AN ADVERTISEMENT!!!! SUBVERTING THE LAW!!!! already falls at the first hurdle.

Anyway.  Here’s a pretty standard cigarette package:

marlboro-lights-cigarettes

The text includes:  the type of product; the brand name in the brand font; the sub-brand name, and a note about duty tax.

I defy anyone to explain to me how this is any more an “advertisement” than, say, this box of Just Juice:

justjuice

Yes, cigarettes are evil and nasty and going to kill us all, and yes, the tobacco industry is so evil that it fights any move to make its business more expensive and potentially less profitable (unlike every other industry in the word, of course).  But when we’re down to exclaiming in horror that a pack containing a brand name and a fancy logo is deliberate immoral subversion of the rule of parliamentary law?  I think we’re a little bit in la-la land.

Of course, it ties in with this kind of rhetoric (and general lack-of-reality) from the Smokefree Coalition:

“[Plain packaging] will remove the tobacco industry’s last methods of making smoking appear glamorous and sophisticated to our children.”

Because like I’ve said before, apparently cigarette packaging has magical properties which entrances the minds of innocent children – even when they can’t see it on display.  Oh wait, maybe they see the magical packaging when their parents or relatives smoke.  In which case it’s definitely the packaging which convinces them that smoking is a relaxing social activity.

Honestly, when it comes to anti-smoking and anti-binge-drinking campaigns?  I’d be so much more on board if I didn’t feel they treated me, and everyone else in society, like fucking guppies.

If only people felt like they could TALK about the obesity epidemic!

Seriously, that’s the take-home message from this article on the Herald about how terrible it is that children are fat.  You don’t need to click through to find the balanced, definitive science on this, because what more could you possibly need to know than the identity of the first person quoted:

The director of SureSlim New Zealand, Phil Pullin

A scientist and a gentleman if ever there were one.

A major issue I have when I get into arguments about THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC with otherwise critical, analytical people is this:  how do you not see the ridiculous, head-desking contradictions which abound in all “reporting” on this “problem”?

The article starts off talking about putting children as young as 6 on commercial diet programmes – and even Weight Watchers thinks that’s a silly idea, for context.  But then of course there’s the handwringing:

[Phil Pullin, man who runs a programme which puts 6-year-olds on diets] said weight problems among children was an increasing trend.

… [Spokeswoman for Fight the Obesity Epidemic, Dr Robyn Toomath, said “It’s much more that we don’t appreciate the extent of obesity.”

Yet a mere 9 newspaper paragraphs later:

Good Talks speaker on body image Rachel Hansen said children were bombarded with unattainable messages from the media, peers and even their parents that girls should be thin and beautiful and boys strong and muscular to be accepted by society.

“I’ve seen children as young as 3 and 4 saying, ‘I’m too fat, I can’t eat that’.”

Ah, yes, three-year-olds rejecting delicious food.  A clear sign that “we” don’t “appreciate” how terrible a lifetime of fatness is.

And yet so many otherwise-analytical people will immediately jump up to say “oh yes that’s a problem, that’s terrible reporting, that’s a contradiction, but obesity is still a problem.”

It’s like someone’s adapted the script of a terrible sexist two-dimensional sitcom mother:  “Oh sure you like living alone and you love your apartment and your last relationship ended horribly and you’re trying to get comfortable with your own identity, but don’t you think it’s time you found a man?”

Iain Lees-Galloway believes in bad science and blaming poor people

Iain Lees-Galloway, MP for Palmerston North, opened a Burger King store there.

He’s also Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson.

The reaction in our media was completely predictable:  OMG, how dare he promote ~bad foods~, that’s not ~healthy~, he’s ~promoting obesity~.  Iain himself had some cute prepared lines about Burger King being a sometimes food and the company having a ~responsibility~ to ~help people make bad choices~.

After all, obesity is rising!!!!!

Initially, I had a big ol’ post typed out about why this is stupid.  But I really can’t be bothered rehashing the same shit, so here’s the bullet points:

  • obesity figures compiled by the Ministry of Health are based on BMI.  So they’re simply bullshit, even if they did show anything resembling a OBESITY EPIDEMIC!!!!!!!!11
  • the “poor choices” narrative to explain obesity is sanctimonious assholery
  • poverty
  • ethnicity
  • just a minor aside, just when are the Labour Party going to get the “stop fulfilling the right’s nanny state propaganda by trying to dictate how people live their lives” memo?

Plain packaging: the apparent arguments in favour

This one’s an Ideologically Impure exclusive, because I have better things to do on my weekend than run around inside other people’s circular logic as they insist on making and re-making arguments I’ve already addressed.

But here, after a possibly exhaustive run of the pro-plain-packaging side of things in the comments of this post of mine at The Standard, are what I have seen as the key arguments in favour of plain packaging for cigarettes:

Studies show lack of branding makes products less appealing

Fuck me, it’s almost like branding and marketing are gigantic universal things which have been working on our brains since birth to incite specific responses.

“Aha!” I hear the pro-plain-packagers say.  “So you ADMIT branding has an effect on people!”

Yeah, sure.  When I’m buying cola, I will buy the cola I usually buy because I know the product well.  But I’ll also avoid certain products based on their branding (Snickers’ Paul Henry ads, I’m looking at you) and branding has never been enough to make me buy something I didn’t actively want to buy.

And yes, there’s a lot of complex factors around “wanting to buy things”.  But none of that actually links clearly to the idea, which plain packaging is based on, that shiny packet => makes you want to buy a product in a context-vacuum.

Once you’ve decided to buy a pack of cigarettes, sure.  Branding, naming, all those evil mind-altering factors will almost certainly influence the choice you have already decided to make.

But the brand is a comforting familiar enabler of my addiction!

Yes, I understand that when you’re in a habit, be it physical addiction or just where you go for coffee every day, humans seek out the familiar.

But, as every smoker I know has said, you think people won’t buy fancy cigarette tins with branding on those?  Switch to wanky cigarette holders for that totally evil cigarettes-are-glamorous vibe?  Let’s ban all cigarette merchandise!  You think people won’t decorate their boring plain packs?  Especially, oh I don’t know, teenagers who are already expressing their developing identities by modifying every damn thing they own?  Let’s ban pens!

Plain packaging doesn’t fix addiction.

But kids will be less likely to START smoking!

No.  All the “evidence” produced says roughly the above: taking away the shiny branding makes a thing less appealing.  The shiny branding might be a contributing factor to addiction continuing.

But I’m pretty sure no evidence, in the history of ever, has linked the specific colour and logo and image and wording on a cigarette pack to a person beginning smoking.

It’s another point I’ve raised which has conveniently passed people by:  people smoke because their social groups smoke.  Because their family members smoke.  Because smoking gives them a five-minute break which the non-smokers at their work don’t get (yeah, lifelong nonsmoker still actually a bit bitter about that, me).  Because smoking gets them out of the building.  Because they’re a teenager and they’re going to do something they know is disapproved of because it’s disapproved of.

And yeah, once they’ve started smoking they’ll figure out what type of cigarette they prefer – menthol, low tar etc – and they’ll associate with a particular brand because that’s what they’re used to smoking, because that’s what their friends smoke.

The packaging is not making them start to smoke.  Especially since you hardly ever see the goddamn packaging these days, ANOTHER POINT I KIND OF ALREADY COVERED, JESUS CHRIST.

But sometimes the greater good trumps individual rights!

Who the fuck is talking about individual rights?  Not me.  Unless we count the right to have our government treat us like we’re adults.

This isn’t me on some warpath about the right of smokers to walk around in tuxedo jackets made of Pall Mall packs.  This is about just expecting that we make public policy on the basis of evidence, for actual health reasons, and not because we want to feel superior to smokers.

It’s also about treating teenagers like they too have dignity and autonomy.  Yes, I know, teenage brain not completely developed blah blah – but let’s please look at our wonderful history of treating teenagers like they need to be baby-talked to, aka “we can’t talk openly about our teen suicide rates, it’ll just encourage them to commit suicide more.”  Yeah, that’s done fucking wonders for our teen suicide rates.  And our moves to stop evil teen drinking have been a roaring success, haven’t they?

What’s worked?  Well, we’ve managed, over 20+ years, to change general public attitudes to drink driving.  By putting out campaigns saying “hey, if you drink and drive, you could die.  Or you could kill your mates.  Or you could kill kids standing at the side of the road waiting for a school bus.  Have a fucking think about that, OK?”

Oh, I’m sure ALAC would love to claim that its own “if you drink you’ll get raped” ads played a part, but I don’t think so.  Best anti-drink driving ad of the decade?  Ghost chips.  Because it was clever, it was compact, and it basically served as a giant public “you are going to feel really shit if you let your mate drive home drunk” message.  It challenged current attitudes by saying “it’s not dumb to stop a mate driving drunk, it won’t make you look like a party pooper, it’s the right thing to do so don’t shame people for it.”

It didn’t, you may note, say YOU ARE TOO STUPID TO DRINK, YOUNG BROWN MEN, WE WILL TAKE YOUR BEER AWAY FROM YOU FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.

Apparently I am practically alone in my understanding of why one works and one doesn’t.

I’m certainly not in favour of young adults doing shit to their underdeveloped brains.  I just know, because I didn’t take the “turn 25 and forget was it was like to be 16” pill, that prohibition and scorn are far less effective at stopping behaviour than information and respect.

But if it won’t affect rates of smoking, why does the industry oppose it?

For fuck’s sake, people, in the past week we have seen Business NZ oppose a paid parental leave bill which does not affect businesses at all.  Doesn’t change the total amount of leave an employee can take, doesn’t cost them any extra money.  Still opposing it.  Because … reasons.

So yeah, why would the tobacco industry oppose plain packaging?

Well, it helps if you remember that the Big Scary Tobacco Industry is actually comprised of individual companies who are in this thing called competition with each other.  So yeah.  Plain packaging is going to cost them money in terms of printing a different set of packs for the Australia/NZ market.  Plain packaging could cost them money because if their brand identity is weakened, and they have no other avenues to advertise to people, no other way to grab the first-time smoker who will be starting to smoke anyway, see above, people are probably going to go for the cheapest brand.  It doesn’t mean they’re not going to smoke, it just means the market share will shift to cheaper brands, so prices, ergo profits, could in all likelihood come down.

(And yeah, that’ll help people stop smoking.)

The packaging and branding of cigarettes is “integral” to the harm caused

This one came up when I proposed we paint all cars white and pull the insignia off them.  Once people managed to address the point and not try patting me on the head to say “silly QoT, cars aren’t cigarettes!” the argument was thus:  the colour of cars isn’t the same as the branding on a cigarette package.

No, I have no idea why this is, and would be quite happy to argue that there’s a lot of social memes and marketing-based entrenched ideas about car colour (red cars go faster) brand (Ferrari and Mercedes = Formula 1 teams ergo speedy, Holden = rally car ergo grunty and masculine) which could very well influence people’s decisions to buy cars which are far more powerful than they need to be, far less fuel-efficient than they could be, more likely to pollute our air and hearing, more likely to drive stupidly and be involved in accidents, perhaps.

I mean, that whole paragraph is based on just about as much evidence as anything I’ve heard about plain packaging.

This is just about your feelings!

Shit, I’m a blogger with an opinion on something.  Lock me the fuck up.  Yes.  This is my opinion.  I happen to think it’s pretty internally consistent, and all the people over at The Standard trying to baby-talk me about how I Don’t Understand Branding have not actually managed to demonstrate otherwise.

Here’s some more feelings:  I’m worried about plain packaging.  Despite BAT’s ludicrous advertising, I think the slippery slope argument works really well – it very well could be alcohol next, but I’m betting money on “junk food”.

Of course, the reason a lot of people don’t see that as a slippery slope is because they have no problem with telling people – especially people who they perceive as making choices they don’t like, who coincidentally are poorer, browner, femaler – that they’re not allowed to choose bad choices.

I guess we’ll just have to wait until it’s something they actually care about, then suddenly the shittiness of making regulations based on no evidence because someone wants to punish them might become clear.

Note on comments:  while I certainly don’t get anywhere near the volume here that I do at The Standard, I am forewarning anyone who wants to try that I’m pretty much over every argument above and will delete attempts to relitigate shit I’ve already covered.

Plain packaging insults my intelligence, and yours, too

This is something of a response to Zetetic’s post, which in some part I agree with – BAT’s ads are just stupid.  And too long, especially since half your audience already know if they agree or disagree with it five seconds in.

(And I think the “slippery slope” warning is too little too late, because if we don’t see the same arguments being put forward for junk food in the next few years I’ll eat fat-free cheese.)

But I’m clearly on the “wrong” side when it comes to plain packaging – based on the people I see defending it, with whom I normally agree, and the people I see attacking it, at whom I normally want to throw half-bricks.

I just want to share two quotes from that modern-day source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, and its article on plain packaging:

 Direct, concrete evidence of plain packaging’s effectiveness is unavailable as it has not yet been rolled out in any country.

and

However evidence from quantitative studies, qualitative research and the internal documents of the tobacco industry consistently identify packaging as an important part of tobacco promotion.

To give Wiki its due, this does seem to sum up the basic arguments for plain packaging.  But am I seriously the only person who can see how those two statements are not actually logically connected?

Am I the only person who sits here saying, “ZOMG!  Packaging is an important part of tobacco promotion?  Truly, this is a stunning revelation!”?

Is there something magical about cigarette packaging and branding which sets it apart from all other packaging and branding?  I’ve had long-term relationships with smokers, people.  I can assure you, the glint of light off a pack of Marlboro Lights is not significantly more enticing than a screechy Harvey Norman TV spot.

Check out this study, which contained earth-shattering conclusions like:

 tobacco packaging communicated powerful brand identities to young adult smokers and non-smokers, and respondents could identify clear brand personalities for both familiar and unfamiliar cigarette brands

This clearly doesn’t apply to any other products.  I, myself, simply could not make any kind of guess as to the intended audiences nor brand identities of these gaming devices or this laptop or this global brand.

Let’s remember, we’re already at a stage where supermarkets and dairies no longer have gigantic displays of cigarettes at every counter.  The argument then was, “the magical packaging magically entice people to smoke against their will, so we will deprive the magical packaging of its power!”

Strangely, people kept smoking.  It’s almost like cigarettes contain an addictive stimulant which also forms a significant part of a lot of some people’s social interactions.

So now … we’re seriously acting like “oh, well the brief moment when someone takes out their pack of cigarettes is enough to brainwash you into smoking!  That’s how powerful the psychic paper they make the packs out of is!”

Smoking’s bad for you.  We’ve known this for decades.  Let’s please give our fellow human beings the credit to assume they’re not just going “cancer?  But it comes in a pretty box!  YAY!”

(And please, don’t “but think of the children” at me.  Kids smoke because their parents smoke, their older siblings smoke, because they’re rebellious teens doing rebellious teen things.  Putting Mummy and Daddy’s fun-sticks in boring white boxes ain’t going to change their learned experiences of/associations with smoking.)

TV’s magical powers magically screw up your kids

I can’t believe it’s not actual science!  From Stuff:

It came after New Zealand research carried out by Otago University researchers, which found links between watching too much TV in childhood and developing problems later in life, including poor concentration, shorter attention span, smoking, high cholesterol and obesity.

Links!  My god!  Television sets must contain magical FuckUpYourLife rays which invade children’s minds and set them on paths to utter dysfunction!

Or … there could be something about the socioeconomic status of families where kids watch more TV.  Certainly the ability of those families to have a stay-at-home parent so you don’t have two fulltime workers trying to juggle jobs and chores and children.  Probably something about the education levels of the parents involved, their interest in reading, their high-falutin’ awareness of cognitive development, all that kind of stuff.

None of which, apparently, was controlled for in this very scary headline-making research. Nope, just one conclusion designed pretty much entirely to make poor uneducated families feel like automatic failures and terrify the comfortable middle classes that once again They Are Ruining Their Children’s Lives (next week: studies show reading too much to your child makes them illiterate!!!!)

In fact, the only vaguely-logical sounding “explanation” for the “links” between TV and BADSTUFF! is this:

But he said that after about two hours of sitting still, negative effects on health kicked in, which included increased long-term risks of obesity and heart problems.

What it’s important to note here is that, of course, two hours sitting still in front of those modern horrors, THE TELEVISION or THE COMPUTER, is completely physiologically distinct from the good old-fashioned sitting around we all used to do when reading, attending school, attending sports matches, listening to the wireless, etc. etc.  It’s magical brain-destroying sitting.

This “obese” needs help to stop gut-laughing

I mean, seriously, people.  The Dominion Post SCREAMED today, “Obese need help to kick addiction”.

Even if you buy into the idea that “food is an addiction” (yeah, just like oxygen and having a pulse) how is that even news?

Oh, right, because someone decided that Doug Sellman needed another 15 minutes of fame, this time to rark us all up about THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC WHICH WILL KILL US ALL.

Pity the facts aren’t on his side, like, at all, but apparently if you’re Doug Sellman just saying “a whole bunch of people might have shoes on right now!” gets you the front page of the [I assume] second-biggest newspaper in the country.  After the Armstrong toy-throwing of last week, I ask again, what does a ranty bitch have to DO to get published?

Anyway, here’s some far more eloquent people taking down the usual myths about OOOOOOBEEEEEEEESITYYYYYYY (and unlike Doug Sellman and John Armstrong, they include LINKS to actual EVIDENCE):

Fat Fiction – Fat people eat less than thin people

Junkfood Science – How we’ve come to believe that overeating causes obesity

Via Fat Head, a documentary – Why thin people aren’t fat

But I have only this to ask you, dear readers.

Are you seriously going to be swayed by a LIST OF THE MOST ADDICTIVE FOODS which seriously includes “alcohol” and “takeaways” in its top 10?

Not specific “takeaways”.  Just all food which may be purchased in a handy carry-bag, apparently.  Yes, that means you too, Subway, and you, Pita Pit, and Kapai salads, and Tank smoothies.  You thought you were safe just because you followed the low-fat five-servings-of-fruit-and-veg party line!  TOO BAD, up against the wall with you, right next to McD’s and KFC.

And … “alcohol”.  That well-known food group.

Doug Sellman is going to say alcohol is an addictive food, make completely baseless claims about addiction (how very responsible of him), and publish a list clearly created by walking around the office saying “Hey, what’s the one food you are totally, lol, addicted to?” and you’re going to put him on the front page of the Dominion Post?

WHAT

DOES

A

BLOGGER

HAVE

TO

DO,

PEOPLE?

Evil yoof drinking again

(Ironically, this post was written after a few glasses of high-price bubbly)

If I’m going to keep getting into arguments about this on The Standard, I figured I might as well lay out my thinking here on the drinking age question.  An earlier post on the topic is here.

Here’s the martyred cries I keep hearing:

“But we have a terrible drinking culture and we have to protect kids from it!”

These are “kids” who can vote, drive, fuck, get married, and join our military to die overseas.  And yet even when we’re acknowledging that the drinking culture in this country is a problem created by an older generation who also like to binge drink and drive drunk, somehow we feel justified in punishing young, yet grown, adults for our own cock-ups.

It’s patronising and shitty, and anyone who genuinely remembers being a teenager will figure out pretty quickly that it’s also counterproductive.

“But drinking causes harm in ways marriage and voting doesn’t!”

Right, because voting in a reactionary rightwing government which will strip our assets and throw beneficiaries on the streets is much better than a couple of people vomiting into the otherwise-pristine gutters of Courtenay Place.

“But alcopops are terrible!”

If you’re calling them “alcopops”, I immediately assume you’re over 30 and have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.  It’s like drugs:  when the media starts panicking about “Liquid Fantasy” you can bet any amount of money you like that no teen worth their salt is calling it that stupid name.

I literally had to sit relatives of mine down to convince them that “alcopops” are not, in fact, available in your local dairy.  You can buy them at liquor stores or bars, places where you should already be showing ID to purchase alcohol.

“But older people buy the alcohol for younger people!”

Yes.  Usually their parents.  But clearly the problem here is booze-hungry youngsters.

“But you shouldn’t be able to buy alcohol when you’re still at school!”

Sucks to be a 21-year-old who’s still at school then.  And really, really sucks that you might be 18, still at school, and able to FUCK, GET MARRIED, DRIVE AND JOIN THE MILITARY but not have a beer to celebrate any of these things.

“But kids don’t realise how alcoholic those alcopops are!”

Still with the “alcopops”.  Seriously, it’s a stupid name.  Stop it.

You know what happens if you drink a 6-pack of Vodka Cruisers?  (Probably not, you’re still calling them “alcopops”.)  You really need to pee after about an hour.  And then you get a wacky sugar high which you may mistake for drunkenness, and then an hour after that you crash out and need to find a warm sofa.

And that’s assuming you had them all to yourself and weren’t splitting it three ways with Charlene and Rhonda.

You know how most teens drink themselves to death?  Sculling straight vodka.  Trying to drink a 40-oz of tequila in one night.  Because, oh wait, no one has taught them how to drink responsibly.  Probably because Mummy and Daddy were too busy going off and getting pissed themselves to actually deal with mind-altering drugs and their children’s impending adulthood.

Alternatively, they can’t access alcohol and it’s a total Forbidden Fruit so instead – because they’re teenagers and teenagers are not particularly clever when they’re looking to have fun and get blotto – they huff paint thinner and die.

“But it’s the kids waiting outside bottle stores getting strangers to buy their alcopops that are the problem!”

The problem still seems to be that some adults don’t take our laws seriously.  Explain how this is the fault of a 14-year-old whose life is so shit they’ll do anything to forget it, including drink shitty red wine.

“But alcopops are so much stronger than other drinks!”

Another line frankly trotted out by those who have forgotten teenagehood.  Protip:  teenagers aren’t fucking bartenders.  If they’re not drinking shitty red wine in big anxious gulps, they’re pooling their resources on a shitty bottle of gin and mixing it half-and-half with orange juice because they heard about that in a song once.

Or, you know, they’re sculling straight vodka.  Much safer.  It’s sterile, you know.

“But I saw a story where A&E doctors totally said the problem was worse!”

Yes, such stories are always completely reliable.

“But [insert media channel here] showed young people getting really drunk!”

If everyone who ever uttered this would like to provide proof of their ability to magically tell a drunk 21-year-old from a drunk 20-years-and-10-months-old, I’m sure the bouncing industry has jobs just waiting for them.

~

We have a problematic drinking culture in this country.  It is shown whenever someone suggests lowering the drink driving limit and the rural sector suddenly explode because how dare we transgress against a man’s right to shear a hundred sheep, get off-his-face on Speights, and then drive home with a 50/50 risk of killing another human being.

It is shown when the main objection I recall to raising alcohol taxes is that the poor superannuitants Who Gave Their Lives For Our Country won’t be able to buy as much sherry.

It is shown when major cities have utter shitfights over who gets to host the Sevens, or the V8s.  Which are both of course all about the sport.

Yet who gets to hold the can for this?  The young people who haven’t even figured out their relationships with alcohol yet.  The young people who are trusted to fuck, trusted to sign documents tying them to another person in eternity, trusted to hold a gun and fight for our country or alternatively the US’ imperialist interests of the day, trusted to drive a vehicle and yet are not trusted to have a glass of wine with friends after work.

We protect young people by displaying a better fucking attitude to alcohol ourselves.  We show young people that drunkenness can be fun if you keep a handle on things and know how you’re getting home, but that it’s not a holy grail of funtimes and the only way to enjoy yourself ever.

Maybe we could even take a serious fucking look at our youth suicide rates and wonder if maybe we’ve made life so empty and shit for our young adults that it’s no fucking wonder some of them see getting plastered as the only way to feel happy and free.

But nah, you’re right.  Far too much work.  Let’s just throw young adults under the bus and act all surprised when the rates of hospitalisation and binge-drinking shift upwards with each well-intentioned effort to Save The Youngsters From Themselves.

Let’s play “find the evidence” – foetal alcohol syndrome edition

So the next theatre of the war against pregnant people is going to be our terrible binge-drinking ways, apparently.

You can always spot these Issue Of The Day Which Is Actually Not An Issue stories by the way they go on and on and on about “evidence” yet produce none (see also:  rainbow parties, gay marriage destroying society, obesity epidemic).

This story from Radio NZ is a wonderful illustration of this point:

The National Addiction Centre says there may be as many as 3000 children born in New Zealand each year with the syndrome.

Actual numbers of children identified with said syndrome?  Sadly not provided.

Director Doug Sellman says evidence shows the situation is far worse in New Zealand than in other countries, due to the binge drinking culture here.

Actual statistics comparing us to other nations, especially other nations known for getting pissed up large?  Sadly not provided.

Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills says there has been an explosion in the number of children with foetal alcohol syndrome.

Children’s Commissioner’s actual facts and figures about the number of children with FAS?  Sadly not provided.

A Northland school principal says he sees about three children a year with foetal alcohol syndrome and their lives are ruined by it. …

Actual statistics for the Northland region?  Sadly not provided.  Roll size of the school in question and comparison to nationwide rates of FAS?  Sadly not provided.  Principal’s medical degree which qualifies him to diagnose FAS?  Sadly not provided.

Identification of Northland as a poorer region more likely to have higher rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, and lower rates of preventative healthcare, to name just a few possible contributing factors?  Sadly not provided.

Disclaimer that the “journalist” in question didn’t just shop around schools until a convenient horror story came along?  Sadly not provided.

The actual point of the entire article?

Mr Newman says the mothers of foetal alcohol syndrome children are often very young, and it is heart-breaking to see the damage they have inflicted on their children by drinking while pregnant.

He says drinking in pregnancy is a form of child abuse and should be a criminal offence.

There we go.  Let’s pass laws to control the irresponsible wimminz who are ruining precious babies’ lives.

Other things sadly not provided in this 478-word story?

  • Any kind of analysis of the level of support young pregnant people get
  • Any kind of addressing the fact that “yoof binge drinking” doesn’t just spring up out of nowhere and maybe when young people’s parents stop having shitfights over which city gets to host an excuse for drinking The Sevens or another excuse for drinking The Sacred V8s, or when our Parliament doesn’t clutch its collective pearls at the notion of Denying The Elderly Their Sherry, They Fought For Our Freedoms, then we can point accusing fingers at those teenagers who just magically decided getting off their face was funny
  • Any discussion of what constitutes “binge” or “excessive” drinking, and what level of drinking is actually connected with FAS.  I mean, it’s not like this shit isn’t on Wikipedia, for a start.

Before anyone wants to jump in and say “YOU JUST HATE BABIES AND THINK WOMEN SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO ANYTHING THEY WANT”, here’s the thing: when people have dependency problems, prohibition has historically achieved fuck all. When people are, say, poor, pregnant, unemployed and living in fucking Northland, they may have a hell of a lot more crap on their plate to worry about than being perfect incubators. When the prospect of being pregnant (and probably unable to access abortion services because it makes influential old dudes cry) is actually a really fucking terrible one, some people may well hit the bottle hard.

Hating on pregnant people, banning The Demon Drink, sure, all that is going to make smug wankers feel totally awesome.  It isn’t going to fix the problem, it isn’t going to improve the lives of the people affected by this problem, but that’s never really the point, is it?

ETA:  But wait, there’s more!  What’s wrong with this statement?

He told Radio New Zealand on Friday that the source of the problem was that women were drinking during pregnancy.

He said 40 percent of pregnancies were unplanned.

Gee, maybe some comprehensive sex education, better access and information about contraception, and generally giving people the ability and autonomy to plan their own reproduction could help with that!  Wait, no, BAN DRINKING.  Next up: seafood, oranges, good cheese.

Sexuality education: the inevitable reveal of the real goal, and did someone say CLITORIS?

On the back of Dr Miriam Grossman‘s appearance at their little conference, Family Fist are – of course – now calling for total defunding of sexuality education courses run by Family Planning and Rainbow Youth, those known sowers of smut and depravity and concepts like “consent”.

Family First also claims that groups like Family Planning “ran for cover” when “challenged” to a “debate” by Grossman.  Yeah, and I probably would too, because you know what?  It’s really difficult to keep a straight face when “debating” someone who just lies in order to score points and whose entire “argument” is based on a complete refusal to treat teenagers like they’re autonomous individuals with dignity and choice.  And who apparently has never met any teenagers.

(I’m sure that Dr Grossman and Bob McCoskrie would argue they know plenty of teens who are angelic and saintly and virginal.  Yeah, because you two totally set yourselves up as people who teens will be open with.  Just like how I don’t mention the word “feminism” in front of some of my work colleagues …)

Anyway, Family Fist’s press release devolves, as they generally do, into another rehashing of The Terrible Sinfulness of NZ Society, including terrible websites which just try to sow confusion about sex.

By “sow confusion” we of course mean “present the notion that there isn’t One Godly Way of doing things”.

Let’s take a tour!

Curious.org.nz

Currently down for maintenance – hence one assumes the dark, conspiratorial “SEE SEE THEY TOOK DOWN ONE OF THEIR WEBSITES!!!!” claim in the release (yet not the one with the R18 how-to on buttsex?) – but it sits under the Rainbow Youth site, which contains confusing statements like:

If you feel pressured or feel that you can’t trust someone, listen to your instincts. Take control and make a choice to wait or not tell them how you feel. If you feel unsafe, get out of that situation, and get help.

NO! DON’T LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS!  Instincts are Satan’s way of telling you to ignore the righteous path, which involves (a) endangering yourself and (b) lying to yourself and everyone else about your inner feelings.  He’s all about love, y’know?

And how’s this for full information?

Being gay or homosexual is being attracted to and loving someone of the same sex as you. It’s not always this black and white: you might like both boys and girls, or not be sure right now about who you’re attracted to.

NO.  FULL INFORMATION = being gay is wrong, and your urges are bad, and if you just do what religious fundamentalists insist then everything will be fine.  See the difference?  It’s fucking disgusting, isn’t it, the way Rainbow Youth presents life as not being a black-and-white moral battle between the forces of Princess Don’t Leia and Darth Sodomy?

Getiton.org.nz

Now here’s a site I had not encountered before, and would agree is probably not for the kiddies.  Hence, you know, the way they clearly label content as R18.

Also, one of their frontpage images is going straight to the pool room:

horny-bunnies

Anyway, rutting balloon bunnies aside, Get It On is also clearly not about full information.  It’s just about glamorizing sex!  It makes sex sound harmless and awesome (which … it should be, under ideal circumstances)!  Just look at THIS little piece of pro-sex anti-moral propaganda:

Second, it’s not an intelligent question because there is no way you can ever be sure that what some random online hook-up tells you is the truth. Maybe a guy does think he is HIV negative and says “yeah I’m clean”. Maybe he had a test done three months ago, but how much sex has he had since then? And with who? And how often without condoms?

It’s a concern because HIV is often passed on by guys who don’t know they have it yet. So they might say “Yeah I’m clean” but be genuinely mistaken.

NO NO NO.  We can’t just be writing thoughtful articles about practising safe sex and thinking carefully about who/how you fuck!  The only way to never get an STD is to completely abstain from sex for your entire life unless you are hetero and planning to have babies (before that window closes!), in which case you just save yourself for marriage and voila, problem solved.

And look, they have “STI Info” right there in the banner.  How disgusting, giving people clear, informed medical information and still saying sex is OK.  Remember, you can tell what “full information” about sex is:  information which makes you not have sex.  No, it’s not biased, it’s science, shut up.

Theword.org.nz

Now here’s the site which should put the shits up conservative parents, because it is targeted at teens.  And it clearly has no interest in telling them they can talk to “responsible adults”, to quote Dr Grossman.  You can tell by the way their “Helpful contacts” page is entirely made up of the personal cellphones of girls called Madison and Kaytee.  And what about this?

Understanding our bodies and those of our partners helps us to keep healthy.

NO.  NO NO NO.  Keeping healthy is all about having full medical information!  Which is different from “understanding our bodies” because that implies that our bodies are something good and positive, and they’re not, OK?

And also cis girls can never learn about cis boys’ bodies because, as Family Fist’s press release points out, giving kids pamphlets that use the word “cock” is obviously wrong.

And here’s what they’re telling kids about sex!

Remember that having sex will not necessarily:

  • Make you more mature.
  • Give you better status with your friends.
  • Make your relationship stronger or closer.
  • Give you an orgasm or immense pleasure – or be terrible either.
  • Look like it did on TV or at the movies.

How dare they imply that sex … um … isn’t the answer to all life’s problems?  Wait, no, LOOK!  They said right at the end of the 4th bullet point that sex might not be terrible!  Witness how they corrupt and enslave our children!!!

Boy, I’m sure glad Dr Miriam Grossman encouraged parents to check out these sites on Close Up.  I think we can all see how they’re actively hiding negative information from people, telling them “the moral absolute is – use condoms”, and (OK, this one is actually accurate) not treating sex like it’s bubonic plague.

How are our kids meant to know what’s right while these websites are telling them that they have a right to think for themselves?

Finally, a return to an old favourite, and if nothing convinces you that Family Fist and everyone they approve of are really just scary, body-shaming control freaks:

One concerned father took his 12-year-old son out of a sex education class at his all-boy school after he came home upset about what had happened during one of the lessons. It included a question-and-answer session that focused on, “I have learned that my girlfriend has a thing called a clitoris. I really want to play with it. Is that okay?” The answer was: “Yes, if you ask her and she’s okay with it.”

PEOPLE DON’T GET TO CHOOSE IF THEY’RE OKAY WITH HAVING THEIR OWN CLITORIS TOUCHED, OK?  How dare people be teaching 12-year-olds that certain biological bits exist and typically have certain responses and that the person possessing said bits can exercise control over said response?

Oh, and this old canard?

A poll of parents in 2010 found that three out of four parents of young children want the abstinence message taught in sex education – with 69% of kiwis overall supporting the ‘wait’ message

Is bullshit according to their own site (if you can apply Basic Critical Thinking skills) which spells out the actual question as:

Do you think schools, as part of their sex education programme, should be required to encourage pupils, to abstain from sex until they are old enough to handle the possible consequences of pregnancy?

Do you know what “as part of” means?  Because Bob McCoskrie doesn’t, apparently.  When 69% (never fails to make me chuckle, that) of people say “Yes, I would like chocolate cake as part of my wedding menu” they do not actually think that this means “THE ONLY FOOD AT MY WEDDING WILL BE CHOCOLATE CAKE”.

But that’s Bob for you.  Twisting the facts (and getting a certain NACT-shill-owned marketing “research” company to pre-twist the questions) to suit his moral agenda.

Remember, this dude also thinks that 11-year-old pregnant people should be forced to carry their rapists’ babies. You really think he’s got your teen’s best interests at heart here?

(Updated 18/6/13 to re-acquire adorable sexing-balloon-bunny images)