Miranda Devine opens her latest column, on the evils of harm minimisation, with the story of Angela and Tony Wood, celebrating their daughter Anna's 28th birthday, thirteen years after she died from taking ecstasy - the human face of the anti-drugs movement.
Who else could it be, really? Everytime there's drug-related story in the media, one or both of the Woods pop up, resident "experts" - and as the Jack Marx points out in this excellent column, they really are experts in nothing more than losing a child. According to reports, they've never gotten over their daughter's death, and no wonder. In the years since, they've endlessly parrotted the zero tolerance line, never stopping to slow down and think about what they're doing - or how they're being used.
The point has already been made that harm minimisation could well have saved Anna Wood's life, if her friends had felt able to get help for her earlier. But the Woods have done more damage than just peddling their draconian zero-tolerance philosophy; the drug education programs they champion actually introduce young people to the idea of taking drugs in the first place. Many children who have little knowledge of drugs become intrigued about ecstasy after hearing "Anna's Story". They're not worried that she died, any more than losing friends in car crashes makes them wary of driving - when you're fifteen you don't think that way, which was much the point of the excerable book written about Anna Wood in the wake of her death. It's wrong for the Woods to recklessly use the young people of NSW in an attempt to deal with their grief.
There's also the worrying fact that kids like to rebel. Making drugs seem as evil as possible is only going to increase their appeal to a certain number of them - the ones who were more likely to end up in trouble anyway; the sad, the angry, the troubled. Aren't these children as worthy of saving as the bright young shiny things? But they are overlooked in the rush to conform and condemn of the current policy.
The zero-tolerance brigade bludgeon through the truth with righteousness on their side. Thanks to their influence, earlier in the week they managed to have scrapped a drug information booklet for high school students which advised against taking drugs and advised about the risks of mental illness that can result from drug use...but it did give tips on how to use drugs safely if students decided to. The outcry was loud (or large, if you mean the typeface used in the Daily Terrorgraph) - the pamphlet was teaching kids to use drugs! Well, if it's so easy to get kids interested in things using pamphlets, why don't they hand out pamphlets on skilled trades and having large families (once married!)?
Miranda Devine claims that "Anna Wood [has been] co-opted without [her parents] permission as a poster girl of the drug harm-minimisation lobby". Not true, but she has sure been used as the face of zero tolerance, moral panic and hysteria.