LA Times hoaxed into reporting UN declaring end of war on drugs
Jessica Glenza, Graun, Apr 22 2016
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As the UN held its first General Assembly in 18 years to discuss narcotics policy, many activists for reform, and no doubt many recreational users, hoped that the international body would liberalize current treaties that outlaw drugs. They may have found hope in a LA Times story that reported the UN’s office on drugs and crime (UNODC) recommended decriminalizing drug use, the end of drug crime executions and the mandatory minimum drug sentences. The story, published at the start of the UNGA special session, UNGASS, included comments from several UN boxtops, press releases and links to what appeared to be the UNODC website. All appear to have been part of an elaborate hoax, first unearthed by Marijuana.com. Tom Angell, a marijuana activist and journalist for Marijuana.com, who first investigated the hoax, said:
I was catching up on coverage coming out of UNGASS because it’s been a busy week, with UNGASS itself and 4/20 and various other marijuana-related things. I came across the quote(s) from Yuri Fedotov and the spox and just immediately knew they couldn’t be real, based on UNODC’s real position.
In the LA Times story, Fedotov, who really is the executive director of UNODC, was quoted in a statement that appeared to mark a dramatic U-turn on the past five decades of international drug policy. Purportedly, according to the story, Fedotov said in a statement Tuesday:
The science increasingly supports decriminalization and harm reduction over proscriptive, fear-based approaches. It’s time to reverse the cycles of violence that occur wherever ‘drug wars’ are undertaken, and to abandon policies that exacerbate suffering.
Other quotes were attributed to UNODC spox Kevin Campo, a fictitious name that appears to have been cobbled together from the names of two real UNODC spoxes, Kevin Town and Carlos Gomez del Campo. The hoax was so elaborate, that a fake press release condemned the first fake statements, by explaining the UNODC’s policy on celebration of 4/20. A fake release attributed to a real UNODC spox David Dadge said:
The UN does not recognize ‘4/20’, and although we wish we had good news for the folks who do, some large and powerful states still insist on blocking the majority’s desire to decriminalize, which means that this senseless war on people will continue.
Asked by the Graun, Town said the UNODC is “looking into resolving this.” The LA Times issued a prominent correction on the story, noting that some of the Fedotov quotes in the piece came from an email conversation with him. But, they said:
Though the UN was examining policy changes, that statement was based on a news release that was a hoax … The article also quotes Kevin Campo, who is identified in the fake news release as a spox for UNODC. He is not a spox for the agency.
The newspaper declined to comment further on the incident. The hoax is at least similar to work created by the infamous Yes Men, who have gone so far as to create fake editions of the NYT and dupe the Pindosi Chamber of Commerce. Although some
activists pothead pixies had hoped that this week’s meeting would lead to progressive reforms of drug policy, the UN instead backed a continuation of repressive tactics and did not offer an opinion on capital punishment. Speaking at the event, the president of the International Narcotics Control Board called legal marijuana a “clear contravention of the conventions.”