They’re coming to get you Barbara: Zombies, Bath Salts, and Fear Mongering Disguised as News
Forgive me in advance if this post is a little more serious than usual but I have a few points to make that, hopefully, you’ll all agree with. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, or maybe you just had one hell of a Memorial Day weekend, you’ve probably heard about the so-called “zombie attack” that happened in Florida recently. While the horror of this crime is extreme to say the least, the reaction to this attack in the media (both traditional and social) is almost as appalling.
This past weekend, Miami police were forced to shoot and kill a naked man eating the face of another man under an overpass. According to reports, when ordered to stop and back way, the attacker growled at the officer and continued ravaging his victim. Even after being shot, the attacker continued mauling the victim. According to witnesses, it took several shots to finally kill the attacker and end the carnage.
While it’s not at all surprising that the everyone from the mainstream media to bloggers, tweeters, and even your old roommate on Facebook decided to declare that the zombie apocalypse is upon us. In the rush to secure shotguns and machetes and whip up the next meme of the day, it seems that everyone is quick to ignore the fact that an obviously unstable man ATE THE FACE off of another man. While the obvious jokes have undoubtedly been intended to be completely unmalicious, maybe we all need to stop for a second and consider the victim in all of this.
Ronald Poppo had it bad enough before the attack. He was homeless and had been so for decades, a situation no one wants to be in. Then, for reasons unknown, a man named Rudy Eugene attacked him and ate most of his face. While I’m sure even the “comedians” making light of this tragedy feel horrible about what happened to Mr. Poppo, their jokes are the epitome of tastelessness. Still, I understand how joking about horrible things helps to keep from being overwhelmed by them. This is the only reason I’m willing to cut the jokesters some slack.
What I find equally appalling in this case is how the media have been parroting unfounded speculation by the Miami police in order to drum up further hysteria over “bath salts” and other synthetic drugs. While it was originally speculated that Eugene was suffering from “cocaine psychosis” when he attacked Poppo, the narrative soon changed and suddenly the villain in this story was no longer Eugene but instead the media’s newest go to topic to drive up hysteria – bath salts.
Despite the fact that toxicology reports won’t be available for at least another week, media reports ranging from major news outlets to incredibly amateurish blogs have declared the Eugene was high on bath salts when he committed his ghastly act. The half-assed journalism in these pieces is frankly appalling. Many of the articles compare bath salts to LSD while the majority of them continue to suggest that these powders contain MDPV despite the year-old ban.
But why? Why present conjecture as fact? Could it be that this is just another manifestation of the failing war on drugs? Can whipping the sheeple who believe everything they read or hear into a paranoid frenzy actually serve a purpose? In short, yes it can.
Governments have used fear as a tool for taking away our rights for as long as there have been governments. This technique has been employed throughout the history of drug prohibition. From Reefer Madness in the 30’s and the fictionalized LSD horror stories of the 60’s up through the current demonization of synthetic legal highs, getting a vocal populace afraid of a drug and the people who use it is the easiest way to get a large portion of the public behind the stripping away of their own rights.
When the easily spooked majority are drawing the shades and hiding from imagined mobs of bath salt zombies wandering through their gated communities, it’s easy to convince them that they should submit to a restriction of their liberties.
Truth be told, there is a zombie epidemic on the horizon. When the public is more than willing to believe whatever they’re told by an increasingly sensationalized media and blogosphere, it’s obvious that the zombies are already here.