03 Dec The Decline Of The Independent

Reefer Madness Rehashed

Alexander Lebedev, Owner Of The Independent

The Russian billionaire and oligarch, Alexander Lebedev, also owner of the Evening Standard, definitely wasted his money on the Independent. He is a man with a passion for newspapers, journalism and the bold principle of a free press. He must have been beside himself with delight at the prospect of owning a quality British newspaper, no longer a broadsheet and only 26 years old, still with a whiff of genuine Fleet Street about it.

Mary Brett

This past week’s spurious, inaccurate, misleading and distorted “Schizophrenia – the cannabis link” series has finally exposed that the Independent is anything but. Its editorial last Wednesday brazenly asserted “…the role of cannabis as a cause of schizophrenia” – an absolute falsehood, something that no scientist would support and that is worthy only of an hysterical, prudish schoolmistress like Mary Brett or the sort of rag that publishes Kathy Gyngell and Melanie Phillips.

How A Quality Newspaper Became A Daily Mail Clone

Yes, the regression back to the neanderthal, reactionary, sensationalism of the Mail looks to be almost complete. The dog’s dinner that has been the development of the Independent’s design hasn’t helped. The website is even worse. Mail Online is much better and the only difference in content is that the Independent has fewer semi-naked women. The quality of writing is variable between extremes. The dunderhead misunderstanding of science, the distortion and manipulation of evidence solely to provoke the lowest common denominator of attention is shameful.

A Liberal Intelligent Woman Replaced By A Dullard Blair Sycophant

Rosie Boycott

In 1997, Rosie Boycott, editor of the Independent on Sunday wrote:

The irony, of course, is that one of the world’s most dangerous drugs, the one responsible for more crime, more lost hours at work, more broken families, more violence, more ghastly heartbreak, is freely available in every supermarket and corner store in the land. If alcohol is a tiger, then cannabis is merely a mouse. Alcohol is fine for those who can handle it. As a recovered alcoholic, I have experienced the terrible consequence of booze. Everyone has probably known someone whose life – or family – has been blighted by alcohol, heroin or cocaine. But they’ll know more people damaged by drink. Where alcohol is aggressive, cannabis is passive.

Certainly, no one has ever been disfigured by a joint. The truth is that most people I know have smoked at some time or other in their lives. They hold down jobs, bring up their families, run major companies, govern our country, and yet, 30 years after my day out in Hyde Park, cannabis is still officially regarded as a dangerous drug.

Of course, nothing has changed today. Even the myth of the new ‘super strong demon skunk’ won’t wash because by 1997 it was already the predominant product on the streets.

10 years later though the Independent reversed its position in dramatic fashion. “Cannabis. An Apology” its huge headline screamed at the behest of the newly appointed golden boy, John Rentoul, a Tony Blair acolyte, disciple and sycophant and a man with possibly the poorest understanding of science ever displayed in a British newspaper.

“25 times stronger” it shrieked. Even Rosie got caught up in it. It was “30 times stronger” as far she was concerned. Utter nonsense of course. Cannabis available today is on average two to three times stronger than that available in the 1970s. Rosie did go a bit silly with “Unlike the old-fashioned cannabis of my youth, skunk makes people aggressive: they steal, break into cars and snatch phones.”, she wailed. The following year the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs concluded “…evidence available to the Council does not suggest that cannabis use is a cause of acquisitive crime”.

At least Rosie retained her fundamental common sense: “I do not believe that we can ever contain the drug trade by making outlaws of the users and by allowing criminal gangs to control the supply” but the editorial stance was now way up the reefer madness richter scale with five or six pages of hysteria, completely detached from and unrelated to science, evidence or rationale.

John Rentoul

Then last year, in response to the launch of Global Commission on Drugs Policy, Rentoul excelled himself with a display of crass stupidity, illiberal moralising and distortion of fact that Paul Dacre would have been proud of. Once again the newspaper indulged in many pages of scaremongering and distortion of evidence.

Rentoul leapt at Professor Sir Robin Murray’s entirely discredited COMT gene theory suggesting that up to 25% of the population has genetic susceptibility to cannabis triggered psychosis. He concluded with the falsehood that “nowhere in the world has conducted such an experiment (decriminalisation) successfully, while the medical evidence against cannabis has mounted.” So ridiculous is this statement that is is unnecessary to repeat the published, peer-reviewed evidence that has been cited on the CLEAR website many times over. Rentoul has real difficulty in understanding science and the difference between proof and possibility. Evidently, he also has no idea what is still going on in the USA, Eastern Europe, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Israel and many other places where decriminalisation or regulation is very successful.

Rentoul’s ultimate humiliation and the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen written by a supposedly serious ‘political commentator’ was:

“It is a bad thing that the drugs business is in the hands of criminals. My view is that it would be a worse thing if it were legalised, and regulated or administered by the government.”

Cheap Tricks. Brazen Falsehood. Roubles Gone To Waste

Last week the six month cycle came around again for the imaginative and creative Indy editorial team. ‘It’s cannabis this week. What can we make up?’

Henry And Patrick Cockburn

Another re-hash. The formerly respected foreign correspondent, Patrick Cockburn, was wheeled out for the Christmas book campaign to promote his ‘Henry’s Demon’s‘, the tragic story of his son’s battle with schizophrenia. Of course, it is possible that Henry’s schizophrenia was triggered by cannabis. It’s more possible than that you might win the lottery jackpot this week but far less possible than that you might die from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. In fact you’re between twice to twenty times as likely to suffer that fate as to develop schizophrenia associated with cannabis use.

None of these facts though can be allowed to stand in the way of a sensationalist story about the ‘demon skunk‘.

I had high hopes for Chris Blackhurst, the editor of the Independent appointed last year, but they have evaporated.

The Independent is a sham. It is not a quality newspaper. It is a scandal sheet, a low, dishonest, corruption of truth. The ignominious Independent.

Of course I make this judgement on the single issue of the Independent’s coverage of the cannabis issue. On this I am an expert and the Indy’s position is indefensible. If this is indicative of the accuracy and care that it brings to other issues then it can only be described as untrustworthy. I cannot speak to every issue but any editorial team that is prepared to do such a shabby, sensationalist, cheap and inaccurate job as the Indy does on cannabis deserves no trust at all.

An outline complaint has already been submitted to the Press Complaints Commission concerning last week’s coverage. A full complaint will be submitted shortly and published on this website.