actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

Crime / JusticeI am a Canadian Court-recognized Fentanyl Expert. I am Staff Sgt. Conor King with the Victoria Police Department. AMA!

Nov 1st 2017 by VicPDCanada • 13 Questions • 147 Points

EDIT: Thanks for your questions, I really appreciate your interest. Its always good to know that there are many people out there who care deeply about the natural world. I think before we think about Mars, we need to look after Earth. Take care

Brent

Hey my name is Brent Stirton and I’m a South African photographer with a lot of experience in the documentary world. I currently spend most of my time working on long-term investigative projects for National Geographic Magazine, but my work has been published in Vanity Fair, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, and other outlets. I have a big passion for issues related to wildlife, conservation, global health, diminishing cultures, sustainability and the environment.

Last week, I was named the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year by the Natural History Museum for this piece I did on rhino poaching: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/10/dark-world-of-the-rhino-horn-trade/

Other projects: https://www.brentstirton.com/state-of-blindness/ https://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/13/brent-stirton-an-ode-to-nelson-mandela/ https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2016/07/questions-and-answers-brent-stirton/ https://www.brentstirton.com

Proof: https://twitter.com/NatGeo/status/923912301144571904

Q:

How did this Fentanyl thing start? Why have I been hearing about it so much over the past few months?

A:

Were you ever close to "breaking character"?

I'm assuming it's gotta be hard to keep a straight face and pretend to agree with what is being discussed?

Since revealing your story have you received threats from anyone/anywhere in the movements?


Q:

What has been your favorite project to photograph?

A:

Fentanyl has been around for decades and played a smaller role as a illicit opioid in the street market. However, in 2012, factors changed, including the removal of the powerful prescription drug Oxycontin which had been highly abused as a street drug. That created a vacuum and organized crime groups capitalized on the opportunity realizing they could create counterfeit Oxycontin pills with fentanyl as well as selling fentanyl as "cheap" heroin.

You're hearing about it so much because it is killing people in all walks of life in unprecedented numbers.


Q:

There were a few times when I was very angry and what people were saying around me hit me very personally. At those times I was extremely frustrated and wanted to oppose them. At those times, yes it’s difficult.

Yes there has been some threats.

A:

It's tough to pick a favorite project, I tend to work on things I feel I should, that often means they're difficult and when I'm shooting I'm worried that I'm not getting it right. I'm also someone who once he has finished something, doesn't want to look back on it. I can say anything where I can make images with emotional content, that's what I am drawn to. As for favorite project, that would be the next one.


Q:

Please explain why decriminalizing all illicit drugs and offering them as medication via physician isn’t a better alternative to violent gangs distributing the same (but often deadly b/c of unregulated fentanyl doses) products?

Why is criminalization and failed enforcement better than treating the addiction crisis as a health/medical issue?

Thanks.

A:

Hey Patrick,

Really respect your work. Did any alt-righter ever mention (1) the spread of disinformation or (2) the usage of ironic humour, for instance through memes, to propagate their ideology? If so, what did they say about it (e.g. were the vulnerabilities of new media seen as opportunities)?

Thanks!


Q:

Hi Brent! What is your favorite animal to photograph? Is there one that is particularly difficult to photograph?

A:

Many societies around the world are asking exactly that. Dealing with addiction and drug use exclusively through the criminal justice system has had many failings. This fentanyl crisis has brought together the police with the medical community like never before and cutting edge efforts at providing opioids like heroin through legally sanctioned medical means has begun, for example, in Vancouver. These efforts will be watched closely to see if this should be expanded.

Our current approach is based on four pillars - of which enforcement is only one. The other pillars are: harm reduction, treatment and prevention. That's where our efforts are currently focused. As police, enforcement is exclusively our domain, but we partner in safe consumption sites, prevention education and with social supports through partnership initiatives like our Assertive Community Treatment teams.

In Canada, if government chose to approach it in a different way, police would respond accordingly.


Q:

Thank you! Yes, that irony is a powerful tool to make their ideas more palatable was brought up often. You can read much more about this in the full report which you can download here: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com

A:

I think I like mountain gorillas, particularly the Silverbacks. They're really amazing to be around. Second would be elephants, they're always majestic. None of them are easy to photograph. I tend to photograph the intersection between man and wildlife, I don't often have the time to focus purely on the animal.


Q:

This is a great answer - but can you expand on your partnership with safe consumption sites and other social supports? As a fellow Victorian, it feels like the bulk of the work in harm reduction and truly saving lives is being done by extremely dedicated people at the Grassroots level (SOLID) and groups whose main mission is based elsewhere (AIDS Vancouver Island). What is being done by law enforcement, or civil/provincial/federal governments to support those efforts?

A:

What was the scariest thing you heard or saw or experienced being undercover with them?


Q:

What would be some of the less obvious steps you needed to take to get where you are today as a world-renowned photographer? Is there anything you would do differently in retrospect?

A:

Much of the support that we offer is by way of partnership. This is important both symbolically - so the public understand that we're working together - and practically, when it comes to establishing harm reduction services like safe consumption sites.

That practical work is important for people who use drugs to know that they can choose a safe consumption site without being arrested for possession at that site. Otherwise, why would they use it? This means that we need to work with the surrounding community, who are often concerned that a safe consumption site will lead to an increase in crime and disorder where they live. Our work there is in support of these efforts.

The symbolic work is also key. It's important for everyone to know that when we're not adversaries with organizations like SOLID it's because we both share a common goal - keeping people safe and alive. That's a core value that both organizations share.

The unsung heroes in much of the opioid crisis are BC Ambulance first responders. They're saving lives each and everyday too, along with the staff at safe consumption sites, and those in the community who get trained in and carry naloxone, thanks in many ways to the British Columbia Center for Disease Control who have worked tirelessly to put naloxone into the hands of everyone who needs it. Our officers also carry naloxone to respond to overdoses and exposure.


Q:

Charlottesville was obviously frightening, as was my time with the armed neo-Nazis in the Northwest. Some of the early meetings, before I fully gained trust, was of course nerve-racking but I found myself settling into it quicker than I thought I would.

A:

I think that I was very shy for a long time in my career so I did not market myself or go see potential clients. I didn't even go to World Press for the first few wins I had there. That was a mistake on my part. I think these days you can use social media to put out your work and still be a reserved person. As for world-renowned, those goal posts just keep moving. The better you get, the more you need to ask of yourself.


Q:

I am not second guessing your statement, just wondering if you could provide the specific link to the Health Canada info so I can pass it along? thanks for keeping everyone safe!

A:

What did you find is driving people towards these beliefs? Were they instilled by family members? Is it simply a victim mentality? What's the driver and why are we seeing what appears to be a rise in these beliefs right now?


Q:

What was your goal in the beginning of your career?

A:

The bulletins that I get may not be publicly posted. I've asked /u/osoko to keep looking for an update.


Q:

This is a really complex question and probably too hard to answer here quickly. The real question is what makes white men, many of whom are middle class and/or relatively well educated, decide that they - not ethnic minorities - are in fact the real victims in society. The whole movement is consumed with a sense of victimhood. They genuinely believe that white men are the most oppressed people in society. Understanding why this is is the key. The answer is very complicated. Often it is about a sense of relative decline. In other words they are not doing as well in life as they expected to. Many are from white middle class families, went and got a degree and yet are now in their mid-twenties but still don’t have a job and live at home. They then resent being told how ‘lucky’ and ‘privileged’ they are. In short, while they are privileged, they don’t feel it and this makes them angry and causes them to search for answers. The alt-right offers easy answers to these very difficult question: “Your life isn’t going as you planned, well here is someone to blame!” Of course, on top of this there is plain old racism, sexism, and hatred.

A:

My goal was to pay my bills through photography so I did all kinds of pictures. I found out about photojournalism after the first year and that changed a lot for me. I started working on anti-apartheid issues in South Africa and it became important to me to defend the good guys


Q:

I noticed you didn't comb your hair for the Fighting Fentanyl video series; did you get in trouble from your wife as a result?

A:

What were you most surprised to find was true about the alt-right? What were you most surprised to find was untrue?


Q:

Hi Brent! Have you ever been in a shoot where you were personally in danger but stayed to get the shot? e.g. Paul Nicklen and the leopard seals

A:

She thought I "looked handsome" but thought "I should be smiling more". It didn't seem appropriate for the subject. Because normally, I'm always smiling. Of course I am. I'm Irish. Which also explains my curly, curly hair.


Q:

I was surprised about several things! How young people in it are and how international it is. It’s extremely well connected internationally, I talked about Swedish far-right activists in Sweden at barbecues in the US and met people from all over Europe on dinners and events. It’s also very openly racist but I was also taken aback by how much people in the movement glorify violence.

A:

The dangers I've had have come far more from people. For example, I have been in a number of situations with Rangers where we are being fired on by rebels who are poaching. I also worked in Iraq and Afghanistan where its normal to be under fire at some point. That said, I have had to run up plenty of thorn trees to get away from charging rhinos. Elephants too, and they are really scary as they can knock the tree down and they are really tall. I try not to agitate them when I'm working but sometimes I am in the wrong place at the wrong time. As for Paul, he's a genuine animal whisperer, I don't have his skillset so generally I have run faster than the guy next to me if the animal decides to charge


Q:

Are there any conclusive ties to money laundering at BC Casinos and fentanyl?

You might not be able to say, but are you and your team involved in this investigation, since you deal with trafficking?

Are the casinos on the island being investigated?

http://vancouversun.com/news/national/exclusive-how-b-c-casinos-are-used-to-launder-millions-in-drug-cash

http://vancouversun.com/news/national/highest-proportion-of-high-rollers-at-river-rock-casino-are-real-estate-professionals-internal-audit

A:

Who is the funniest person you meet while undercover?


Q:

First, congratulations! And keep up your excellent work.

As a biologist working in Etosha, Namibia, the recent increase in poaching there is a source of grief, rage, and frustration. Do you have any experience in the region and input on where the local anti poaching efforts are failing?

A:

Not that I can answer, sadly.


Q:

There were some pretty colourful characters but perhaps the funniest was Stead Steadman who went everywhere dressed like a member of the Hitler youth in khaki shorts and a khaki shirt. One time I accompanied him to a Nordic ritual in London and he was blowing a horn but couldn’t get it to work so it just let out fart noises. It was very funny.

A:

I worked in the Kunene region in 2011 on black rhino. Personally I think the huge spaces worked well to protect rhino initially as there were easier places down south. Nowadays I think it can be the reverse as its hard to protect rhino when they roam so widely. Personally I think a community based solution makes sense but the amount of money in play for horn is making that difficult. I still believe genuine community involvement is key, their intelligence network need to be understood and supported Its a really tough situation with no immediate answer.


Q:

Hi,

Can you explain the difference in response to this as a public health issue in comparison to the criminalization of crack cocaine in the 80s and why?

A:

Hi Patrick,

Why did your group feel the need for you to go undercover?


Q:

Thanks for the answer.

A:

That’s great question ! Maybe the medical community and police have learned from some mistakes made in the crack epidemic ? I don’t think the medical community was nearly as engaged in the response as it is now. Of course crack cocaine wasn’t killing people at these rates, but it seems to me that there’s been an evolution in thinking about drug addiction in the last few decades. Police are better informed about the science of addiction and have partnered with the medical community to form a cohesive response. The medical community has embraced their role in addiction treatment.


Q:

This is a really good question. HOPE not hate do undercover research for a number of reasons. Firstly, many far-right groups portray a far more moderate image to the outside world than they do in private. Going undercover allows us to expose the true hateful politics behind the scenes. However, it also gives us an unparalleled understanding of how these far-right movements organise and interact. We also gain information about their plans which gives us time to plan our response. We are always one step ahead!

A:

Sure, I'm sorry I don't have anything better to add. I wish you the best with your work


Q:

First of all, thank you for your service. Fentanyl, and most opioids, are just absolutely awful.

So here's my 3 part question.

1-What, in your opinion, is the best way to combat the Fentanyl/overall opioid crisis?

2-Do you feel marijuana is an effective alternative to opioids?

3-Do you think the crisis will ever be put to an end?

A:

Whens a full documentory going to come out?


Q:

What's the earliest time you're willing to eat lunch?

A:

1 - I think the best way is to reduce demand through treatment of addiction and long-term prevention; stopping use before it starts. Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides that they are going to start to live their life struggling with an addiction. Many people who use drugs do so in an effort to deal with trauma. If you deal with that trauma before it leads to addiction, in the long-term you deal with fentanyl and the overall opioid crisis.

2- I have read studies that point to marijuana having many medicinal applications including treatment of pain as a substitute for opioids and I know that marijuana is not linked to fatal overdoses. So, in my opinion, worth exploring more.

3 - Yes. It's going to be years, not months, before we come out of this crisis. It's going to take enormous effort and we need to not let it become the "new normal."


Q:

We're really excited about the film but it will be a bit longer unfortunately! To stay up to date follow @hopenothate @hopenothate_usa or sign up here: https://hopenothate.com/videos/

A:

I don't generally eat lunch if I'm working


Q:

Thank you for what you do.

My ex passed away from what may have been a fentanyl overdose.

I hope this nasty drug is taken off the market. Do you think that will ever happen?

A:

Sorry if you've answered this already, but after your time with the alt-right how organised do you feel they are in terms of social disruption and organised acts of violence? It seems that what plagued groups before was that lack of leadership and cohesiveness. Are these gross more savvy?

Thanks, Grace.


Q:

Hi Brent! Love your work, both photographically and in terms of raising awareness of pressing conservation matters.

Do you have any advice for an aspiring wildlife photographer such as myself on how to turn it from a hobby into a career? I'd love to end up doing wildlife photography like you do (especially with a focus on conservation) as my career, but i'm only just starting out (been going for a year now) and would massively appreciate any snippets of advice you're willing to share.

A:

Firstly, sorry for your loss.

So far we've been unsuccessful at taking other drugs like cocaine and heroin off the market and so we may well have the same outcome with fentanyl. That said, fentanyl largely comes to us from China and potentially the Chinese government can play a significant role in curbing the exportation to North America.

Fentanyl does have legitimate medical uses and it is the medical field where it should remain available.


Q:

The alt-right are constituted by may different groups so it’s not cohesive but individual groups can be and they definitely have the ability for organised violence. But they don’t necessarily need to be organised to cause a lot of damage, to individuals and society at large. The hateful, dehumanising language and social pressure within these groups can make individuals commit violent acts. The Charlottesville attack is one example. In the US, I met with white supremacists group who promise to carry arms and practice for the coming race war. And in Europe there are multiple groups who do combat training for example.

A:

I'd say be disciplined and find projects to work on. Try to shoot the A-Z of the issue and then use social media and targeted emails to try and publish. Don't neglect any other work that comes up, even if its weddings, its important to put some money away to finance your projects. Commit to this for the long term and you will be successful. Don't spend all your money on gear, buy used and get what you really need, don't be fooled by marketing. I can do my job with gear that came out 6 years ago for the most part. Spend your money on producing the story you care about.


Q:

According to a comment he made further up, it's never been confirmed to have happened.

IMO, it's a scare tactic. Weed is so cheap, cutting it with anything would only make it cost more, and weed users are remarkably consistent, there's no good reason for a dealer to make less money by risking the death of their customers. It changes with other drugs, which are more expensive than weed (basically any of them).

A:

How much danger were you in during your undercover mission?


Q:

How do you deal with all the bugs? Is it ever a concern to get bitten by bugs? Any tips to deal with mosquitoes, or other flying pests?

A:

Health Canada has recently indicated that they have not yet found fentanyl in seized marihuana samples sent to them. However, that doesn't mean that all marihuana is safe. Cross contamination certainly remains a concern from my perspective.

Pot from dispensaries comes from unknown origins, some of which is linked to organized crime, which is engaged in selling other illicit substances so cross contamination is a real possibility.


Q:

HOPE not hate took every precaution to keep me safe but of course there is a level of risk that can’t be avoided. In the USA I spent time with hardcore neo-Nazis who were armed to the teeth. I have no doubt that, had I been uncovered, it would have had grave consequences for my health. I was also in Charlottesville and just feet away from the fatal car crash that tragically killed Heather Heyer.

I wrote about it here: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/my-year-inside-the-international-alt-right

A:

Bugs are inevitable, you want to avoid being bitten by mosquitos as much as you can but you're in their space. Wear long sleeves and pants at night, use an eco-friendly non-deet spray, and if its really crazy, use a hat with a net. I worked in CAR recently and was getting stung by bees more than 50 times a day so also check that you don't have allergies. Its a good idea to take an Epi-pen if you can


Q:

With all the overdose deaths from fentanyl, do you think providing addicts with clean drugs could be a viable solution?

A:

Hello, I'm a philosophy and social science student at a Mexican university and I'm working on a project about the Alt-Right movement. I wanted to ask 2 questions:

You wrote about sitting on review boards for new members of the Alt Right in London, can you talk about the recruitment and acceptance processes in the US/UK?

Also, can you talk about the internal ethical code that these groups have? You described the internal fights within the movement, and I imagine there's some sort of ethical norm that they have internally to keep the movement from completely destroying itself.

Thank you for your time and your dedication.


Q:

With shots like these, how difficult is it to deal with the emotions of seeing something like that? Does that at all impact whats going through your mind in terms of composition and other techniques you use?

A:

Hey - /u/osoko here. S/Sgt King is now off at a community meeting, but, don't fret, he'll be back and will answer your question. It may not be until tomorrow morning, but we'll answer you!


Q:

Super good questions. Get in touch with us trough our website (hopenothate.com) and have a look at our full report. You can download it here: alternativeright.hopenothate.com

A:

Well, on this story I went to more than thirty sites with dead rhinos, I was looking for something that would have sufficient emotional resonance. When rhinos are killed, the carcass deflates very quickly and scavengers pull it apart. As a result, I needed to find an animal that still had dignity and was capable of arousing pathos in people. I also need to make the picture quickly so that I don't interfere in the forensic investigation. So truthfully, I only allow myself to be emotional after I have taken care of all those aspects which allow me to make the picture. I do feel very angry about these killings, there are good people on the ground who do not have the support they need due to a failure of leadership both in Africa and in Asia


Q:

I have close friends who's child abuses herion. Well, by child, I mean in their 20's. I've known them since they were little. I don't think addicts, especially the younger ones are aware, or they are in denial of how even more deadly herion has become. They think fentanyl is only found on the "East Coast" (USA). Her parents feel totally hopeless, she hasn't even talked to them in years now. She has a warrant out for non-appearing at a court date for posession. She had a good childhood, but she was abused by a boyfriend who started her on dangerous drugs. Anyhow, my question is, aside from Narcotics Anonymous, is there any way to help families in situations like this? In the USA a lot of Walgreens pharmacies are now offering Narcan with training if you have a prescription, or some even OTC with training. I doubt there is an easy anwser. Second, I work in the medical field, not as an MD, but it feels so frustrating that people having been "prescribed" pain medication is being used as a scapegoat. I see where there is a connection, for sure. But, in my own experience, addicts who use heroin and other dangerous drugs often will do so if they just have access to them. MDs and they rest of us are stepping up, and a lot of changes to prescription pain medication is being done. But, I hate to see my MD co-workers seemIngly having the heap of this crisis thrown on them. As mentioned above, my friends child uses heroin, they never had a pain script. Other users I've come across didn't either. I hope in time, addiction won't have so many layers of excuses and actually focus, li,e you've said, on the trauma behind abuse. Thank you for your work on spreading awareness of Fentanyl and its deadly analogs et al.

A:

I'll ask the least exciting question first... how much overlap do you find between the Alt Right, Trump supporters and Trolls?

I feel like the biggest trolls I knew on social media jumped on the Trump bandwagon, have supported the alt right (under the guise of free speech) and now we know Russia weaponized troll farms.


Q:

Hi Brent, how do you choose your projects and do you have advice for creative people who also want to make an impact? Thanks!

A:

I really feel for your friends, your friends' daughter, and yourself, having to watch from the sidelines while her life falls apart. That's one of the many harms of addiction - the impact on loved ones and families.

There are ways to help, but like your question the approach is multifaceted and complex.

You mention Narcan. Certainly, overdose prevention can help in the immediate crisis. But that's not a long-term solution. Addiction treatment is a challenging path, but an important one to take.

How families be supported is best answered with how you can help support your friends. I encourage you to be there for them. Listen to them. Support them. Hug them. They're also victims of addiction.


Q:

You do find considerable overlap and the trend you describe is common. That said, there are good reasons to not assume every Trump supporter supports the alt-right, or that every troll supports the alt-right etc. Trump was a phenomenon the alt-right latched onto for their own political gain and many have since disavowed him, for example, for his foreign policy positions. Likewise, trolls can be found on all sides of the political spectrum and none. Furthermore, the alt-right contains activists from a variety of far right movements (see our report’s breakdown of its factions: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/what-is-the-alternative-right ), and so might not have approached their support for Trump on the grounds others did. Similarly, many in the alt-right are not as familiar with internet culture and trolling.

A:

I choose my projects based on what I think is the greatest need. I am also asked to do projects which I feel I should do. Its a mix. As for creatives, I would say use any channel you can to get the word out. If you work for an agency, see if they can do some pro bono work on these issues. Try to help NGO's that deserve it. People like the EIA and the IAPF, but do your research first as to who is really effective. Creatives can be really valuable in raising public awareness, the biggest issue is ignorance on all sides


Q:

What surprised you most or was most different from your expectations that you had before going under cover?

A:

Hi Brent! Do you have specific communities you have established around the world, or mainly the places you travel for assignments, of people you trust and that can help you? You must have to work under the radar a lot and I’m wondering how you manage those uncertain human factors...


Q:

Thanks for your question. I was surprised at how many young people are in it and and how international it is. It’s extremely well connected internationally. It’s also very openly racist but I was also taken aback by how much people in the movement glorify violence.

A:

I'm fortunate to have built good relations in a number of places, my contacts are really essential. I do prefer to work quietly and to do that I keep only a very small circle of people around me when we are shooting. I think if you treat people with respect and really make an effort to dignify and understand their jobs, you can make friendships based on mutual respect


Q:

Would you say the alt-right generally smell more like basements or mace?

A:

Mace doesn’t really smell, so I’d have to say basements. Millennial Woes smelt faintly of hay, which was disconcerting while many others smelt of sadness and loneliness.