Oh No! Run And Hide! Kids Getting High With MP3s! Moral Panic! Moral Panic!

from the not-this-again dept

Two years ago we mocked a silly USA Today report “warning” parents about “digital drugs.” It was really about binaural beats, which are nothing new, and aren’t digital drugs at all. But it has all the typical elements of a moral panic. And what’s the best way to fan the flames of a moral panic? Concerned local news broadcasters. Enter Kansas Oklahoma News 9, reporting on the new fear: “i-dosing.” I bet many of you can predict much of the script of this news report before watching it:

We found out about this report via coverage in Wired, which somehow fails to mention that this isn’t new and that the whole concept is ridiculous. It does take a mocking tone, thankfully, with this bit:

Will future presidential candidates defend their i-dosing past by saying, “But I had it on mute”? Are we supposed to declare a war on cyberdrugs or a cyberwar on cyberdrugs? How will police know if a teen is with headphones on is i-dosing or just listening to Justin Bieber? Is the iPod the bong of the future? What would happen if some ne’er-do-well took over the console of the Super Bowl and dosed the entire country? What if kids smoked dried banana peels and listened to these trippy tunes at the same time — could they OD? What happens if someone sells a tainted MP3?

Perhaps most importantly, what will happen if the kids move onto harder stuff like Steve Reich, Philip Glass or even Janet Cardiff’s installation, “The Killing Machine”?

Of course, it appears that the TV news report first came out of a local newspaper report, where it quotes concerned anti-drug folks who say that it’s a bad, bad thing even if the bogus “digital drugs” don’t work. You see, if they don’t work, that only gives more reasons for kids to try real drugs. Or something.

Kids disappointed in their digital experience might try huffing paint or another chemical, or smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol, Forrest-Perkins said.

But, of course, all it takes is one moral panic to set off other moral panics in other places. A blogger for another newspaper points out that the lack of evidence that binaural beats do anything should make you worried. Seriously.

I’d say what’s more worrying is having reporters claim that a lack of evidence on something is reason to fear it.

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Comments on “Oh No! Run And Hide! Kids Getting High With MP3s! Moral Panic! Moral Panic!”

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Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: Binaural beats

(A moral panic about smoking beetroot actually makes more sense than “i-dosing”.)

See this is why I read the comments here. Now I know I can feel good and reduce the risk of heart disease at the same time. A long lived moral panic is the very best kind.

Now just how do I prep this smoked beetroot, chorizo and liver salad…

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:


Hey, starting a moral panic over music gives you an excuse the look thru everybody’s computer and mp3 player–at ALL their music.

Seriously, this is transparent. It’s an aside to ACTA. It’ll be “we didn’t find any ‘drug’ mp3s but you don’t have a license for 75 of these songs, here’s a fine for $1,125,000; and you’ll need to pay it to the Recording Industry not the courts. Have a nice day.

Nina Paley (profile) says:

degenerate jungle beats

“Jazz music was offensive to Nazi ideology because it was often performed by Blacks and a number of Jewish musicians. They called it “Negro music” or “degenerate music”—coined in parallel to “entartete Kunst” (degenerate art).[1] Moreover, song texts defied Nazi ideology, going as far as to promote sexual permissiveness or free love.[1] Despite this, not all jazz was forbidden in Germany at the time.[3]” link

Joe (profile) says:


Reposting this from Slashdot because its too good:

Up until high school, I spent my entire life locked into an ideal Norman Rockwell painting. No cares, no worries and just high on life. Things took a turn for the worse one day when I picked up an 288 tuning fork and a 320 tuning fork. I struck them both against my leg and held one up near either ear.

It was pure bliss. Like Jesus was just 32 hertz away from me. I wish I could describe the feeling. Like half of all the blades of grass in the universe were hummingbirds and the other half were bumble bees.

Let’s see–I was a freshman at that time. Yeah, things just went downhill from there. I had earrings made with a tuning fork hanging from each one. The left side was A440 and the right side was a custom 444. I could raise my fingers to either lobe and flick it for instant gratification. The other kids called it ear basing. I called it god. And he was just nineteen dollars and eighty cents on Amazon [amazon.com]. By my sophomore year I was already pretty hard into Fourier transforms. Everyone’s tympanic membrane had a bifurcation sweet spot that could be exploited with the right theoretical frequencies. Yeah, we would rent middle of nowhere motel rooms to smelt hematite down into custom tuning forks and poor them into clay molds in the bathtub. We paid in cash and by the time the cleaning made hit the room it was slag burns in the carpet and clay all over the place. You probably remember the 20/20 investigations following all the reports.

Shit got real heavy real quick and one day we found Scrye (nickname for the metallurgist) hemorrhaging blood out of his ears in a coma from strapping two subwoofers to either side of his head with duct tape. I knew I had to get out, but how?

We gathered up all our text books on math, audio & music theory, physics, chemistry, electronics and metalworking and burned them in the parking lot of the hospital we brought Scrye to. I would never read about science again.

Parents, heed the images of those children getting ‘innocent’ highs from sounds and make sure they don’t make the same mistake I did. This is just a gateway to bigger and badder things. If you find literature on Fourier Analysis, Electronics or Calculus in your child’s bedroom, please get your child to Oklahoma and get them help from the nearest minister. I don’t care if you have to lock them up in the basement against their will. Just make sure you save them from the same fate as I … COMPLETE EAR DESTRUCTION!

Again, not my work and I take no credit for eldavojohn’s story.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dead Milkmen

said it best…

Smokin’ banana peels, see how it feels
Living is easy with ice cubes
The world is swimmin’ with electric eels
Talk seriously to me brother
Smokin’ banana peels, savin’ the seals
There are four me’s living all together
Got to keep an even keel
You’ve got to take life serially
Smokin’ banana peels in between meals
I was all pumped up about the iron
Let’s all pray get down and kneel

Smokin’ banana peels sound like this

nasch (profile) says:


Check out this comment from the linked blog (last link):

“There is documentation of just how influencial and potentially dangerous certain musical tones can be. Infact, some ancient cultures used similar types of tones and music to reach similar trance-like altered states of hypnosis inorder to hallucinate… In many of those cases actual drugs were used… Coincidentally, promoters of i-dosing encourage the use of drugs in addition to the music to enhance it’s effect. Since I know that such dangers are possible through certain types of music, I am careful with my choice of music inorder to avoid them.”

In other words, certain kinds of music plus hallucinogens can make you hallucinate, so watch out for that music!

Ashlar (profile) says:

Re: blog (Nasch)

I actually saw a show on the Science or Discovery Channel about Stonehenge that was about this. They hyphothesized that the stones are set where they are so that during ‘ceremonies’, by beating their drums at a certain tempo it could help everyone enter a trance-like state. They also found that the sound actually got louder the farther away from the speakers you went (while still in the circle). They said something about the tempo and the vibrations of the bass would actually help everyone’s heartbeats/other inner-systems sync together. They then compared the effects to bass heavy music often played late night in dance clubs.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is first video in a while that has made me actually laugh out loud, do you think I should turn myself in for I-dosing? I mean, I laughed really hard, it might have been the effect of the short bits of digital drugs played in the video.

On another note, maybe this wasn’t a complete hoax, she may have been under the influence of digital dub-step drugs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Welcome to the 'party' Kansas

While I’m no authority on the subject matter I suspect that if this audio causes anyone any harm it’s not really the audio that caused them harm but it’s some preexisting condition. Being addicted to such audio could be a manifestation of this preexisting condition perhaps but if it weren’t for this audio it could be something else, like being addicted to turning on and off the lights for no good reason. That is no reason for us to have a moral panics against light switches.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Welcome to the 'party' Kansas

and lets say that these songs induce a heart attack or some other health problem. Seriously, chances are that this person had a delicate heart beforehand. But the fact that this sound could potentially trigger problems in people with preexisting conditions is no reason to condemn these sounds. Anything could potentially trigger the onset of a preexisting condition. Television, music, turning on the light switch. So should we condemn all of these potential triggers? No, of course not. Instead we attempt to treat the underlying condition.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can confirm (shamefully) that I-dosing does not work…

I tried out multiple audio files and its just high pitched noise. Of course I didn’t actually pay for anything which kind of invalidates my testing because I could have been listening to low quality stuff.

The real story here is that these kids are getting ripped off. Google I-Dose and go to their shop. Some of their “doses” go for $200 bucks! Yeah… beyond ridiculous

Michael (profile) says:


I would also assume that these kids are using those pirate pirate file-sharing sites to get these mp3s. They have to be stopped! Save the children! Oh – and the copyright on the mp3s should be protected! Sue these pirates! But wait – are the pirates the children we are trying to save?!

Protect out intellectual property! Save the child…DIV/0#ERROR…

OkVol (profile) says:

Genius marketing

1. Make some sound files with a free tone generator, mash them up, store result as MP3.
2. Put up a cheap web site, mark as 18+ only.
3. Pay some kids in pizza and beer to make some vids for youtube.
4. Get some ignorant folks to put it on the news.
5. Make money out the wazzo!

These folks are making money without a record company contract or the RIAA! All the rest of this article is just marketing BS.

subzer0epsil0n says:

Did anyone notice...

Did anyone notice that at 2:05 in the video when they were talking about the crackdown on iPod use on campus, the time shown on the device was 4:20PM? I just started cracking when I saw that in a reference to drugs.

But as for this video, this reminds me of the South Park episode about “cheesing” off cat urine.

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