The Odd Blog

And when our cubs grow / We'll show you what war is good for

Let Them Eat Cake

Posted by That Other Mike on 06/03/2008

In the mid 1990s, Chris Morris was at the height of his fame. A noted and often controversial satirist, Morris was the mind behind The Day Today and Brass Eye, television programmes which to this day are as famous for their shock value as their skilful satirical skewerings, alliterative flourishes on my part notwithstanding.

One of Morris’s most famous pieces of satire was about a new drug hitting the streets, called Cake; the episode is widely regarded as classic satire, a sharp and biting lampoon on hysteria and public policy regarding illegal drugs. Morris fooled an MP into filming an elaborate video warning of the dangers of Cake, even to the point of asking questions about it in Parliament. Bernard Manning, a famous “comedian” known for his bigoted and unpleasant sense of humour, was filmed saying that “[o]ne kiddy on Cake cried all the water out of his body. Just imagine how his mother felt. It’s a fucking disgrace” and that “… you can puke yourself to death on this stuff – one girl threw up her own pelvis-bone… What a fucking disgrace”. Manning, along with other participants, told the public that Cake was known on the street as loonytoad quack, Joss Ackland‘s spunky backpack, ponce on the heath, rustledust or Hattie Jacques pretentious cheese wog, and then informed anyone offered it to “chuck it back in their face and tell them to fuck off”.

This resulted in a certain amount of embarrassment for the individuals involved*, and highlighted the moral panic and hypocrisy which accompany any discussion about drugs and drugs policy in the media.

Morris’s sature is both cruel and accurate, but it’s doubtful that even he would have thought it might be prescient:

Strawberry MethPolice have sent out a hoax drugs warning to schools over a fake drug called “strawberry meth”.

The warning said that the drug was being given to children outside their school gates.

At least 80 schools in west Oxfordshire received an e-mail warning, leading to some holding special assemblies.

Thames Valley Police said the error was down to an officer new in his post who had received an e-mail internally and had acted in good faith.

The force sent out a retraction after discovering it had been the victim of a hoax, and said no such incidents had taken place.

Ch Insp Dennis Evernden, of Thames Valley Police, said: “We would like to apologise for any unnecessary concern that we may have caused to schools or parents by sending this warning out about a drug that proved to be a hoax.

“One of our officers, who is new to his post, received the e-mail internally in good faith and forwarded it on to the schools in West Oxfordshire to warn them.

“But after checking its veracity, it was found to be a hoax and a retraction was issued the next day.

“The officer should have double checked before taking this action, which he did take with the best intentions, and we will be making sure this sort of thing does not happen again.”

Last year, the charity DrugScope said it believed the hoax e-mail originated in the United States.

It said there was no evidence to suggest that crystal meth – an illegal drug – flavoured with strawberries was circulating in the UK.

A Thames Valley Police spokeswoman said the force would not be holding an internal inquiry over the incident but, instead, it would be reminding its staff of necessary procedures.

I can understand most people being taken in by hoaxes such as this: they go around teh netz every day. We’ve all had something similar in our inboxes. However, most of us aren’t in the police; most of us won’t cause a mass panic if we forward an email telling how schools are being targetted by wicked drug dealers out to corrupt the chilluns.

This is why we have Snopes, Inspector Evernden. Might I suggest that your necessary procedures start to include checking it at every opportunity?

* At least, we can assume so; being celebrities, a sense of shame is not a given, after all.


3 Responses to “Let Them Eat Cake”

  1. Lottie said

    Last year, the charity DrugScope said it believed the hoax e-mail originated in the United States.

    Probably. It seems like it was this time last year when I received a letter from my son’s school about this. I also received an email from a friend. If the image wasn’t exactly the same as the one in your post, it was very similar. The school’s warning stated that it was being passed off to kids as Pop Rocks (UK: Space dust) candy, but was really crystal-meth.

  2. Mike said

    Exactly… This is why people need to check stuff out before they start creating a panic about a problem which doesn’t exist.

  3. Lottie said

    I agree.

    I had my doubts from the beginning, but that’s just me, and… well… you know me.

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