Time For Another Technology Moral Panic? Digital Drugs! Be Afraid!

from the thank-you-USA-Today dept

USA Today got us talking about the concept of technology moral panics with their fear mongering article about predators using game consoles -- and now it's back with a big warning about "digital drugs" in a column by Kim Komando. It's actually just an article about binaural beats, which are hardly new. And, yes, there are those who believe that there are certain binaural beats that can have an effect like drugs, though there are many who believe the impact is mostly self-created.

However, while the article briefly points out that some are skeptical, it immediately moves on to suggest that even so, binaural beats are somehow dangerous as a sort of gateway drug, claiming that they "encourage drug use." Of course, the article doesn't present any evidence of that -- and you could just as easily argue the opposite: that they offer a non-chemical way for people to experience other states of consciousness (if it works, that is). If Komando believes that this somehow encourages drug use, then does she also believe that meditation is encouraging drug use? After all, doesn't that also push people to experience other states of consciousness?

But, of course, when it comes to creating a technology moral panic, all you need is a bunch of scary sounding claims in a major newspaper... and then you just wait for politicians to take over. How long until someone somewhere proposes banning these dangerous sounds?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    NO! Its these articles that make people want this kind of stuff.

    "binaural beats"

    looking it up now, Thanks for the info you DUMB Bietch!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    ChongnotCheech, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 8:50am

    Digital Drugs . . .

    Does the article mention where one might be able to procure some of these drugs . . . for research purposes of course.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 8:59am

    Kim = ID10T

    Kim Komando doesn't know much about computers, so it is safe to assume she wouldn't know much about anything else.

    I've listened to her show, and was unimpressed with her troubleshooting skills. She told someone to reinstall windows when they had accidentally deleted some fonts, when all they had to do was extract them from the CAB files.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    PassinThru, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 9:17am

    I remember those...

    Actually, I remember kind of freaking out to the last section of Jimi Hendrix's "Bold as Love" played over headphones. The effect was semi-psychedelic

    That was binaural, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Danny (profile), Aug 8th, 2008 @ 9:25am

    "rim shot!"

    Wait'll I tell my drum circle!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Reason, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 9:26am

    Have you ever heard the famous saying "you fear what you don't understand?".. Yeah well she obviously doesn't understand where these come from. Even attributing the term drug to this is a little crazy as there are no chemicals added to the brain. I've personaly tried this with a little program called i-doser. It's somewhat a novalty but the effects you feel from the white noise type sound can be quite real. However it takes long time to acheive these effects and it wears off much faster than the actual chemical drugs.. Lumping this in the "drug" category is really foolish, much like adding marijuana is quite foolish. Instead of putting effort into something this stupid couldn't we feed a lot of starving people??? Search i-doser on youtube you'll find some videos i can assure you are fake but a couple that are probably real..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 9:27am


    I didn't realize they'd figured out how to add a soundtrack to snow crash!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 9:30am

    Nice way to appeal to emotion just like the article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    "Wandering" William, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 9:36am


    It appears that USA Today has this odd fascination with morality panics as it relates to technology. I wonder if during the 1920s, they would possibly be pushing for strengthening Prohibition laws.

    Hopefully this work is located amongst the editorial columns.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Karlito, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    Tried it

    Tried it at this site, and found nothing wrong about it:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 9:51am

    We don't know what we don't know until we know it.

    You say that others say that it causes no damage, but does it? You claim that cell transmission isn't proven to cause damage, but does it?

    Asbestos used to be considered a wonder product, then we found out that it isn't. Everyone said men should have their prostrate checked, until the recent study came out that says it does more harm than good.

    Where does that leave us?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    insane in the membrane, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 10:05am


    You got to be joking. Whoever thinks this can possibly be drugs (or even a gateway drug) is absolutley DUMB!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    javajolt, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 10:10am

    "binaural beats"


    Ambient Electro-Acoustic Music & beautiful trippy visuals with binaural frequencies ( Alpha ) by illume in essence.
    This track is from Unison Vol 2.


    Binaural Beats used with Stereo Headphones stimulate; brain entrainment, instant relaxation, emotional balance, healing and wellbeing and heightened states of consciousness.

    Experience the full effects of Binaural Beats with a free stereo demonstration at www.unisontherapy.com

    Binaural beats; a sonic alternative medicine. A dependable relaxation tool for resolving depression and anxiety and provides support to make meditation easy.

    Binaural Beats are a scientifically proven brain entrainment process that slowly started to gain recognition after an article called, "Auditory Beats in the Brain", by Dr Gerald Oster, was published in the October 1973 edition of Scientific America.

    Binaural beats work by sending two different Hz frequencies, to each ear via stereo headphones causing the left and right Brain hemispheres to work in unison to hear a phantom frequency or third tone, the centred Hz difference between the two tones. The Hz separations cerate a constant gentle beat and its timing and pulse match the Hz separation per second.

    Unison Therapy incorporate several types of brain entrainment and audio psychology processes into their; sound therapy / audio therapy and blended with beautiful music you will go, beyond meditation.

    illume in essence
    (Jandy Rainbow & Tahlee Rouillon)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous of Course, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 10:15am


    This is hardly news. I Remember a program
    to generate binaural beats with a computer
    written just after the sound blaster cards
    became available. Later the program Cool Edit
    came with a tool to do this as well, the
    "brain wave synchronizer." There was also an
    article on using a sound card to generate the
    waveforms for direct application of electrical
    currents but this is dangerous. The PC lacks
    necessary isolation from the electric utility.

    Binaural audio beats depend on the non-linear
    response of the listener to mix the two signals
    generating a low frequency product that may have
    some effect. People toyed with it in the 1940's
    probably earlier... The computer is simply a
    substitute for two audio oscillators. You can
    obtain the same effect with two low power RF
    oscillators pointed at the subject's head.
    Magnetic fields as work well. There was even
    an LP produced with two tones recorded on it
    (yeah, vinyl) for use with stereo headphones
    in the 1970's. Flashing lights also work to
    some extent too.

    The main thing is to get that low frequency signal
    into the brain, either directly generated or as
    the result of mixing to signals with the desired
    difference in frequency. The path to the brain
    can be through the senses like sound or light.
    It may be an applied electrical current. Or via
    radio waves, magnetic induction, even electrostatic
    fields have been used.

    One company I worked for modified some standard
    product high power microwave sources for research
    in this area during the late 1970's.

    Why fiddle with some second order effect when you
    can go straight to the root of the matter?
    Google trans cranial electro stimulation instead.
    Also check the USPTO. The methods run the gamut
    from gentle brain wave entrainment to magnetically
    induced electro convulsive "therapy."

    Some names of historical interest; Jose Delgado
    (the original doctor evil inserted electrodes
    directly into the brain) probably used equipment
    made by Grass Instruments. Michael Persinger who
    uses magnetic induction. Frey, Sharp and Grove
    researched microwave induced hearing.
    Patrick Flanagan who seems to have gone off the
    deep end after inventing an electronic hearing
    device using surface electrodes and Somatics, LLC
    the magnetic seizure and ECT guys. Even waaay back
    guys like Volta and Ampere experimented with currents
    though the eyes and ears...

    Of course I'm not advocating that anyone experiment
    with their brain. Leave that for the professionals.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    onyxashanti, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 10:44am

    I use binaural beats every once in awhile as a "detox" from music. as a full time musician/artist, sometimes i just get tired of hear any music at all and binaural beats help drown out the rest of the world and make that little place between your eyes tingle. but i will say that, coincidentally or not, the first time i went to sleep playing them, i woke up with a blazing headache and a big ass pimple. the second time, a few months later, i woke up with a cold sore. i havent allowed myself to believe that they are related, but i also have refrained from listening to them in my sleep.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    GeneralEmergency (profile), Aug 8th, 2008 @ 10:46am

    When I saw...

    ...the term "Digital Drugs", I thought someone had introduced some erratic behaviour code attached to small round digital goods objects (pills) into one of those MMORPG virtual world games.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 10:46am

    Re: Bah!

    You sacre me {shaking}

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Freedom, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 10:59am

    Gateway Drug...

    This is low but has to be said...

    Kim Kommando's real gateway drug is her husband. He has a radio show in the Phoenix area and if anything will drive you to drugs, it is listening to his show!


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Sierra Night Tide, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:21am



    over here

    You looking for some binaural beats? got a deal for you...real good stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    mjt, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:28am

    But it's for the children..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    LolitaRita, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:52am

    This Kim Komando sounds like a real dumb-ass. BTW, thanks for turning me on to something new. Right now as we speak I'm downloading binaural beats from a free website, just because I want to get high off my music. Idiot biatch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Rosetta Stoned, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:53am

    Re: Digital Drugs . . .

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    deadzone (profile), Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:56am

    The real scary thing

    The Brown Note!!!

    Hilarious and Scary. Also, totally a myth and untrue.

    Come to think of it, that article is basically a "Brown Note" of sorts as it's just crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    DS78, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 12:33pm


    Since when does USA Today hire pr0nstars to write articles? Was it the name or the actual article that gave it away? I'll never tell...

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some digital drugs to consume.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    David Lloyd-Jones, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 12:55pm

    Drugs, Morality, Retribution, Assertion-of-Power...

    I gave my elder daughters just one bit of advice about drugs: don't do 'em in the United States, where the random flailing of what they call a justice system can cause you a lot of damage.

    Fortunately, although they are American citizens, and adults now, they were able to spend most of their youths outside the USA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    gg, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 1:09pm

    compare USA Today article to 6/28/08 Komando posting

    Here is a URL for Kim Komando's 6/28/08 web posting re Digital Drugs:


    Am I the only one who thinks the tone of the 6/28/08 posting is substantially different from that of the USA Today article?

    BAD, BAD media. STOP picking on the sheeples...they panic much too easily for this type of obfuscation and FUD.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Choney, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 1:21pm

    Re: compare USA Today article to 6/28/08 Komando posting

    God she's a blonde and she's a chick. And people are getting computer and tech advice from her? Gawd. We are all doomed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    disturbd, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 8:52pm

    50 cents worth

    Holy Crap! We covered all the bases on this one. From LSD to smack and to heaven and hell! Please tell me I can get all of these on TPB. It is costing me a grip right now getting all of these things from more questionable sources and places. "Digital drugs supposedly synchronize your brain waves with the sound." What exactly does this mean? Is my brain like shooting a sine wave out of my forehead that I can tune to different frequencies and stuff? Sweet! Give me some smack, one blunt, and one beer! Most of the people who experience these effects are the same ones who talk in tongues, talk to and see ghosts and spirits, have been healed by that preacher guy on T.V. (or sat in the congregation and believed that crap) or live in a group home because they suffered a severe head trauma. "Companies that sell digital drugs take both sides of the argument. They say that the doses are extremely powerful. Some are recommended only for experienced users." OOOOoooooOOOO!!!! The poor children!! I fear for the lives of my kids!! Anyone who takes this crap seriously and is not laughing is retarded. If there was anything here, I hope we all would have heard about it before Kim Komando told us. Did they really need to do a scientific study to determine this is crap? I think if there were any real power in these "beats" 50 Cent and every other rap artist would have it figured out and be working it and we would all be addicted to gangsta rap, beeeach! You should be more worried about energy drinks mexico and street gangs or something... or maybe your IQ if you take this for anything besides comedy. For the LULZ!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    disturbd, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 8:56pm

    i forgot one thing...

    In Soviet Russia, the binaural beats you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    correction, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 9:21pm

    Re: i forgot one thing... ummm errr

    what i meant was..., in soviet russia, beets binaural you. .....sorry, i just listened to 8 hits of acid in a row........ what? stop talking.....ok..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Glenn Charles, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 5:06am

    Re: "binaural beats"

    "Scientifically proven." That means that a causal change has been absolutely established under the empirical hypothesis. How was such a glaring contradiction in terms accomplished?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    John Wilson, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Pssst

    Liar! They're monarual beats...what the hell good are those?

    Oh, just a minute...the cat has something to say which she's suddenly saying in Oxford english.

    See you later, I'm off to Jupiter!



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Matt, Aug 11th, 2008 @ 9:24am


    You mean like Apple commercials...caus I love Apple commercials. I think I could watch those all day long.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    mohan, Aug 11th, 2008 @ 10:46pm


    That was a nice post ! Is this possible ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    peterparker, Aug 11th, 2008 @ 11:45pm

    Digital Drugs, I thought some one had introduced some erratic behavior code attached to small round digital goods objects in to one of those virtual games. I never think this is possible, Binaural Beats are a scientifically proven brain entrainment process that slowly started to gain recognition after an article called, Auditory Beats in the Brain.
    to learn games

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    greg, Aug 14th, 2008 @ 10:43am

    digital drugs

    From the descriptions it sounds like classical music, opera, etc. are the same principal. It makes you feel happy, sad, or whatever. Music alters your mood and makes you feel better... maybe we should report the radio stations and the whole genre of music makers to the D.E.A. Felling good is bad, God wants everyone to suffer. Give me a break.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Objector, Oct 19th, 2008 @ 8:58am


    First of the person below me is right. The only way people start doing this is when the media outlets tell everyone about it so they can start doing it. Second THESE AREN'T ACTUAL DRUGS! they're not dangerous rather they;re just different forms of meditation. in order for it to work you have to clear your mind (meditate) then it will alter the meditation

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    Dar McWheeler, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 10:02am

    Beat Frequency Drugings

    "My new CD is great, once you get past the drugings."

    I'm a composer and producer here in Canada. Since the 80's I've been producing those entirely bogus "hypno" recordings and following the research on this subject.

    From my personal experience I can say, yes, you can definately get a kind of brain-isn't-working-correctly buzz from listening to this stuff. My research eventually led me to conclude that the whole "hemi-sync" hypothesis is bad for you.

    Your brain is *supposed* to have two, independantly working hemispheres running at slightly different "clock speeds". Syncing them only serves to interfere with the proper working of your brain. Not so great, really.

    But as for the whole youtube videos nonsense, purely a reaction to being on camera/placebo/ego thing. It actually takes 20+ minutes for anything signifigant to happen. And by signifigant I mean, feels like you've been listening to sine waves with your eyes closed for 20 minutes. That'll make anyone feel goofy.

    Just a thought.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    Rachel, Feb 3rd, 2011 @ 3:42pm

    binaural beats

    The sudden media blitz on binaural beats being dangerous is actually quite funny. Binaural beats are nothing new and I agree that saying that they encourage drug use is just like saying meditation encourages drug use. Why is it dangerous to experience altered mind states in a non-chemical way?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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