The above is from the website of a new campaign by the District Department of Health’s Addiction Prevention & Recovery Administration to tell young people if you do K2, you’ll turn into a zombie.
One says, “No one wants to take a zombie to prom,” which evokes nothing if not the 2006 short film starring RuPaul. In general, though, they seem intended to recall the spate of “bath salt zombie” stories from last summer in which legal synthetic drugs were fingered for causing bizarre behavior, such as eating your dog. The most prominent one, the Miami face-chewing zombie, turned out not to be on bath salts at all, and initial reports of synthetic use in other cases have turned out to be mostly false.
Don’t expect to hear from the Department of Health that the National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the creation of these allegedly zombifying chemicals, but that’s another story.
One could fill volumes with the hyperbolic claims employed in service of public morality campaigns, but I came across a few especially amusing ones this week when at a friend’s suggestion I watched “Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll,” a 1989 Christian film. Despite what you might think, the movie is great. It tells the story of rock music’s relationship with sex, drugs, and the occult, all in clips of the musicians themselves. It’s impressive for the quality of its exegesis as well as the breadth of musicians treated, from Prince to the Beatles, from lesser-known metal acts to Joni Mitchell.
The overall message is the same as it’s been since Elvis—rock music is satanic (in response to which I’ve always thought, “of course it is! Isn’t that the point?”).
But prior to applying a scriptural rubric to popular music the filmmakers survey social science on the subject, as per modern convention, or to convince skeptical audiences. Two studies in particular (starting at 5:15 in the clip), one about how sticking an egg next to a stage speaker can cook it—therefore, of course, at a concert your brain was cooking in a similar way—and another about how playing rock music for plants will kill them, whereas classical music will help them flourish.
The origin of the egg claim is this paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry from 1936. Cecil Adams tested it and it doesn’t really hold up. The rock-music-kills-plants idea is an extrapolation of Dr. John Diamond’s work on music and healing; the odd ideological marriage of holistic medicine and the John Birch Society.
For just about every issue purportedly eroding public virtue one can find unsupportable claims being made by the side who would halt the process; the debate over homosexuality comes to mind as having some of the more outrageous. It’s not often, however, that public officials exhibit such flagrant dishonesty in an effort to appeal to young people’s affinity for the undead.