Alcohol, cannabis studies one-sided

JANE CLIFTON
Last updated 08:56 13/12/2012
A Drunken State

Pam Corkery’s personal battle with alcohol addiction was the best part of documentary A Drunken State.

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TV3 has form for ''fancy that'', coincidentally timed programming, so its decision to repeat an anti-alcohol documentary, A Drunken State, on Tuesday, was unmistakably apposite.

That was the day Parliament passed its controversially mild new liquor legislation. 

Good timing; never miss a chance to smack politicians. But taken with the previous week's Inside New Zealand documentary High Time,  the scheduling risked leaving the viewer feeling well and truly lobbied. 

High Time was a pro-cannabis documentary, featuring prominent pro-legalisation campaigner Dakta Green.

It laboured the well-known inconsistencies between the law's cannabis and alcohol sanctions, and amounted to an argument - admittedly via some knowledgeable and experienced interviewees - for legalising cannabis.  Then came this week's Pam Corkery essay about the evils of the liquor trade, and the conclusion here stopped inches short of ''criminalise alcohol and its evil purveyors!''

Nothing wrong with either of these programmes - provided you approached them as polemics rather than well-rounded examinations of the issues.  

High Time, for instance, acknowledged that human brain development might be adversely affected by cannabis use, but failed to address how the supposed greater good of legalised cannabis might be prevented from impacting on the young - even after interviewing people who had suffered from serious youthful abuse of the drug.

At its best, the show gave us a fascinating portrait of Green, the one-time business high-flier who has dedicated his later life to imbibing and promoting cannabis.

Similarly, A Drunken State was strongest when exploring Corkery's personal addiction battle.  Two years ''clean'' when the programme first aired last year, she is always refreshingly and informatively frank about her experiences, and there's enormous documentary value in that.

But the programme was also wholesale roundup of the anti-liquor campaigners' mission statements: to convince people that they're powerless against advertising, that even moderate drinking is dangerous, and that none of us is reliably in control of our drinking.  The only person not echoing these sorts of philosophies - aside from several drink-addled people - was a consultant to Lion Nathan, so her views came at an automatic discount.

At another level, it operated as a powerful deterrent. But in a TV industry where so few documentaries are made these days, it would have been a pleasant change to have seen more facts and less advocacy.

However, maybe given the internet's gift of allowing us all to filter views we don't like, this sort of doco could be the way of the future. You don't like it - find a set of facts with advocacy that bullies you the other way.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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