U-M alum and former Daily reporter David Enders has returned to Baghdad to work as a journalist. Except this time, instead of starting an english-language newspaper (which he did, until it ran out of money last year), Enders is stringing for other media organizations. Including, interestingly, none other than the marijuana culture magazine High Times. Here’s a bit from Enders in a teaser posted on the High Times website for his feature article titled, “Losing the Plot: Fear and Loathing in Baghdad”:
“Occupied Baghdad is a lot like Detroit. You can replace “white flight” and “hollow urban core” with “We leveled heavy sanctions” and “We bombed the hell out of it,” but the results are pretty much the same: lots of empty buildings, a police force you canít trust and lots of people who take the law into their own hands. Squatters live in the bombed-out and looted ministries and government buildings. They are forced to move occasionally so troops can clear out the unexploded bombs dropped last year that theyíve known about for months but are just getting around to dealing with. …
So a sort of Robocop future has become Baghdadís present, as post-invasion confusion gives way to occupied hedonism. Itís the kind of situation that lends itself to the bizarre, the banal and situations so absurd that while there is no Godot in Baghdad, this is probably a pretty logical place to wait for him. (Or her.) Meanwhile, though, people have to find something to keep themselves occupied. … “
Enders’ story is part of an editorial shift over at High Times away from lush pot centerfolds (no kidding) towards something resembling serious journalism. The Washington Post has picked up the change, writing about Enders and changes in the magazine recently in a story titled “High Times At 30, Getting Its Head Together” From that story:
“Man, the news from Iraq is, like, a major bummer. Read the mainstream press and all you get is bombings, murders, uprisings, riots and hostages. Fortunately, one publication dares to print the news that won’t kill your buzz.
That publication is High Times, the marijuana magazine now celebrating its 30th anniversary. And the news is this: There’s plenty of weed in the new liberated Iraq.
“There are few laws in Iraq right now,” writes Dave Enders, High Times’s man in Baghdad, “so although drug possession was punishable by death before, you can now pass a spliff openly in front of the cops.”
Which may not, come to think of it, be exactly the kind of freedom that President Bush envisioned for Iraq.
Enders, a freelancer from Michigan, covers more than just the dope scene in Baghdad. He also writes about U.S. soldiers and the nutty do-gooders who’ve swarmed into Iraq and about Hamid, “a 26-year-old translator/bodyguard/heavy-metal fan.” Hamid was an Iraqi soldier until he deliberately shot himself in the leg to avoid fighting the Americans and now smokes weed and writes protest lyrics set to the tune of “The Wall” by Pink Floyd: “We don’t need no occupation, We don’t need no CPA. . . . “
“The desire to leave,” Enders concludes, “is the only thing US soldiers and Iraqis have in common.”
Enders’s entertaining piece is a good example of High Times’s new editorial policy — less dope, more reality. High Times still covers the weed — and runs full-color centerfolds of voluptuous pot buds — but since January it has expanded its coverage of the rest of the world. In recent issues, High Times has published articles on prostitution, bike messengers, comedian Dave Chappelle, a Colombian guerrilla, singer Ani DiFranco, education reform and a piece on Arnold Schwarzenegger by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Gary Webb. … “
In case you missed it, you can read more about Dave’s exploits in the most recent Michigan Today, in a story he wrote about his experiences titled “Assignment: Baghdad How I started a magazine in a war zone, to avoid the post-college job market”