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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Saturday 8th June 2013

Oh, no! Not another piece about ricin.

Sorry, but I feel the need to return to the subject of the ‘ricin letters’ scares because, just as the repeated nonsense about the ‘threat’ posed by the toxin from Ricinus communis, castor oil plant, tells us something about the media’s wish to scare its consumers, there has been a new twist that says something equally dark about both the media and the wider public.

As I pointed out last week, the most recent of the ricin scares had nothing to do with attempted poisoning because an image included in the story clearly shows that crushed castor beans were the suspicious substance. Now, police have made an arrest that suggests that a motive other than trying to harm any prominent politician was involved.

I’m not going to get involved in the possible motive. What I’m interested in is the coverage of the story both before and after the arrest. As you’d expect my Google Alert for ‘ricin’ has given me a great many items to choose from so this link is just to the first one appearing in today’s email.

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant

There are other reports of the arrest of Shannon Richardson that are fairly restrained and use photos of her being taken to court. That is a big change from the way she appeared in earlier stories when her husband was the suspect. This, from the New York Post, is typical in that it has a photo of her wearing a bikini and holding a big weapon (fnarr, fnarr as Finbarr Saunders would say).

The similarity between this case and the first in the current series (both involve one suspect before the person making the accusation against them being taken into custody) triggered this piece.

A Google News search for ‘Dutschke ricin’ produced 2,940 results whereas ‘ricin Richardson’ returned 30,400. You don’t have to look far to see why the latter story is, in the eyes of the media, more interesting.

According to one of the stories, picked at random, ‘Richardson…is a former beauty pageant [sic] and actress’ and a ‘5'9'' beauty’. Unsurprisingly, that story is illustrated with a picture of Richardson posing provocatively in tight jeans and bare midriff shirt. Many of the other stories use similar photos but the stories about Dutschke show him walking down the street wearing a jacket.

The Mail Online can, of course, be relied on for doing it better than anybody else and not altering its approach now that she is under arrest. Its story ‘Pregnant actress charged 'for sending ricin letters to Bloomberg and Obama' - two weeks after she claimed her own HUSBAND was behind poison plot’ describes her as ‘the former Dallas beauty queen’ and uses no fewer than seven posed pictures of her just to make sure there is no doubt about how ‘hot’ she is.

I’d love to point fingers and rant against the media but, just as I always say about internet scams, they wouldn’t keep doing it if it didn’t work. That makes me rather sad.


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