Wente’s disgraceful piece on Insite and harm reduction

Last Saturday Margaret Wente wrote this disgraceful piece on harm reduction in Vancouver.

In short, what is written is a compilation of anecdotal statements that ignore the actual research and science that has measured Insite’s positive impact. A quote from a sergeant who may or may not have an axe to grind is apparently worth more than the numerous peer reviewed articles in publications like the New England Journal of Medicine or The Lancet. This is of course Wente’s MO – she doesn’t need science or research, like Colbert her gut is her guide – something we learned long ago from her coverage of global warming.

This sadly, is not the worst of it. Wente goes on to misrepresent both the goals of Insite and the position of its advocates.

insiteNo one – least of all Insite’s advocates – believes Insite is the entirety of the solution. The goal is, and always has been to have a complete response (hence the four pillars). Insite seeks to reduce harm but it can’t ‘solve’ the drug problem alone, no one claimed it would and judging it by such a bar is misleading.

Is rehabilitation and treatment essential? Absolutely – something Insite supporters also believe. This is why OnSite (a temporary treatment facility pointedly not included in Wente’s article) was placed atop Insite so that users would have somewhere to stay while a permanent facility was found for them. Insite was never designed to replace treatment, but to reduce harm for those who refused or could not get it as well as provide a vehicle to help users seek help and get on treatment.

There are plenty of commentators I disagree with but enjoy reading because they challenge my assumptions and provoke interesting or thoughtful insights. Sadly, most of the time I read Wente I’m reminded why she’s not one of them.

Two additional points. The first is how the injection site has become an East vs. West phenomenon. Here in Vancouver the debate is over. Insite has public support, on the street, in the newspapers and in the halls of power. Even the comments in the Globe reflect a bias in favour from those commenting from Vancouver especially but BC in general.

Second, I initially wrote this in the comment section on the globe website (where one is exposed to some truly horrifying thinking) and thought nothing more of it until Andrew F. emailed me a supportive note. And I thought comments on newspaper articles were simply a cathartic exercise!

16 thoughts on “Wente’s disgraceful piece on Insite and harm reduction

  1. shlaw

    Today she writes again, this time attacking the science behind it. She specifically targets Tyndall and Wood, claiming that they are more advocates than scientists. This isn’t worth paying much attention to, but the reported unwillingness of the researchers to share their raw data is troubling.

    Looking at the science that InSite provides, there is hardly an article without Tyndall and/or Wood as an author. While this isn’t necessarily a problem for the science, it is a problem for the political support. If folks want to show the Conservatives and the right-wing commentators that the science is in and decisively supports InSite, there needs to be a broader base of research.

    Reply
  2. shlaw

    Today she writes again, this time attacking the science behind it. She specifically targets Tyndall and Wood, claiming that they are more advocates than scientists. This isn’t worth paying much attention to, but the reported unwillingness of the researchers to share their raw data is troubling.Looking at the science that InSite provides, there is hardly an article without Tyndall and/or Wood as an author. While this isn’t necessarily a problem for the science, it is a problem for the political support. If folks want to show the Conservatives and the right-wing commentators that the science is in and decisively supports InSite, there needs to be a broader base of research.

    Reply
  3. Kim Feraday

    I couldn’t agree more. Wente is one of the few Canadian columnists who drives me to post nasty comments, after which I feel like Meg Ryan’s character in you’ve got mail. The G&M states that her controversial positions broaden the debate but more often than not they simply confirm prejudices (based largely on ignorance) of some of her readers (at least that’s what the comments would suggest). We can only hope that she’s close to retirement.

    Reply
  4. Kim Feraday

    I couldn’t agree more. Wente is one of the few Canadian columnists who drives me to post nasty comments, after which I feel like Meg Ryan’s character in you’ve got mail. The G&M states that her controversial positions broaden the debate but more often than not they simply confirm prejudices (based largely on ignorance) of some of her readers (at least that’s what the comments would suggest). We can only hope that she’s close to retirement.

    Reply
  5. shlaw

    My feeling is that her inflammatory articles are simply a tactic to drum up readership and more generally indicate a decline in the quality of the paper.

    Reply
  6. shlaw

    My feeling is that her inflammatory articles are simply a tactic to drum up readership and more generally indicate a decline in the quality of the paper.

    Reply
  7. Michael Molson

    Note here that there is a trend to hiring right leaning conservatives in various media to bring in viewers by virtue of their sensationalistic and emotional appeal that they have for a certain audience. I presume this is a trend based in part on the FOX news revolution of a few years ago. Witness Glenn Beck on CNN (not that CNN was a bastion of small ‘l’ liberalism in the first place but in America it is what passes) and many others.
    I don’t know if I am against this trend per se, (its just entertainment folks, not journalism – at best its another opinion) however I am reminded of many times as a mediator when I have asked for fairness to be brought to bear on all parties only to have the one who benefited most from the exercise in fairness, turn the negotiation into something that was unfair and immoral.

    I often think liberalism by its very nature is inclusive and conservatism is exclusive. The fundamental divide.

    Reply
  8. brian Conway

    She is so appalling! She also doesn’t know her head from her ass. Just wait until the International AIDS Conference 2008 in Mexico City begins next month.

    I know one person who has logged two press council complaints on her and have gotten two retractions.

    Yet, she goes on with her “truthiness.”

    Reply
  9. Michael Molson

    Note here that there is a trend to hiring right leaning conservatives in various media to bring in viewers by virtue of their sensationalistic and emotional appeal that they have for a certain audience. I presume this is a trend based in part on the FOX news revolution of a few years ago. Witness Glenn Beck on CNN (not that CNN was a bastion of small ‘l’ liberalism in the first place but in America it is what passes) and many others. I don’t know if I am against this trend per se, (its just entertainment folks, not journalism – at best its another opinion) however I am reminded of many times as a mediator when I have asked for fairness to be brought to bear on all parties only to have the one who benefited most from the exercise in fairness, turn the negotiation into something that was unfair and immoral.I often think liberalism by its very nature is inclusive and conservatism is exclusive. The fundamental divide.

    Reply
  10. brian Conway

    She is so appalling! She also doesn’t know her head from her ass. Just wait until the International AIDS Conference 2008 in Mexico City begins next month. I know one person who has logged two press council complaints on her and have gotten two retractions. Yet, she goes on with her “truthiness.”

    Reply
  11. Dr.Dawg

    Well said, and thank you for this.

    Wente’s “research” was tendentious and selective. I think you’ve pretty well accomplished a smackdown here. Maybe an op-ed for the Globe?

    Reply
  12. Dr.Dawg

    Well said, and thank you for this.Wente’s “research” was tendentious and selective. I think you’ve pretty well accomplished a smackdown here. Maybe an op-ed for the Globe?

    Reply
  13. Jeremy Vernon

    Margaret Wente (and those like her that work at other desks) are the primary reason I don’t subscribe to the G&M and the primary reason my parents cancelled their subscription.

    Something tells me Bell Globe hasn’t done their homework when G&M has national distribution yet a readership 74% the size of sister rag TorStar.

    It’s sad that we have no national newspaper of record – but it’s a reality I’ve come to accept.

    Reply
  14. Jeremy Vernon

    Margaret Wente (and those like her that work at other desks) are the primary reason I don’t subscribe to the G&M and the primary reason my parents cancelled their subscription.Something tells me Bell Globe hasn’t done their homework when G&M has national distribution yet a readership 74% the size of sister rag TorStar.It’s sad that we have no national newspaper of record – but it’s a reality I’ve come to accept.

    Reply

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