Also Known as “Butt Hash”
September 19, 2011 § 5 Comments
Paige Kelton of Fox 30 news looks earnestly into the camera. “Here is a shocking heads-up for parents,” she begins. “About teenage drug use.” Kelton punts to reporter Jack Miller, who describes a hot new street drug called Jenkem. Consisting of “raw sewage,” that is to say, human waste, Jenkem is packed into jars and allowed to ferment; once the mixture has produced an adequate supply of methane, the substance is huffed. According to Miller, Jenkem was first documented a month earlier by the Collier County Sheriff’s Department, which circulated an internal memo featuring a description of the drug as well as several graphic images of a young boy huffing from a jar of urine and feces. The memo was subsequently leaked, and several news organizations, including The Washington Post and The Drudge Report, followed up on the story. Although law enforcement found little evidence of pervasive Jenkem abuse, a seemingly inconsequential detail echoed by Fox 30’s inability to find anyone who had ever even heard of the drug, Jack Miller implores parents to remain vigilant against the dangers posed by this so-called Human Waste Drug. Or as the kids are calling it, “butt-hash.”
A few days after the Fox 30 segment, WINK out of Fort Meyers runs a similar report. As newscaster Trey Radel explains, the trouble started a month earlier, when a concerned Palmetto Ridge parent sent a letter to her son’s school principal. Her son admitted to hearing about the DIY drug at school, and she wanted to make sure the proper authorities had been alerted. The principal reached out to the Sheriff’s Department, which launched a cursory investigation; an internal memo was produced, circulated, and subsequently leaked. Based on this information, and possibly in response to Fox 30’s segment, WINK interviewed a number of students from the local high school. Just like Fox 30, however, the crack news team was unable to confirm any actual cases of Jenkem abuse (“Human feces?” squealed one teenager. “Ok I’m sorry, that’s…gross.”). And yet Trey Radel delivers his report straight-faced. The story is “disgusting,” he proclaims, and had sent “shockwaves” through the newsroom.
In other words, successful troll was very successful. First, a bit of background: the term “Jenkem” first appeared in the late 90s, in a New York Times article chronicling the struggles of AIDS-ravaged Zambia. Children in this area were so poor and so desperate that they sought refuge through any and all possible means. Including—allegedly—the inhalation of methane gas. A year later, the BBC picked up on the “recreational raw sewage” story and cited the NYT article as evidence, thus ensuring its long and happy half-life. Eventually Jenkem dislodged itself from its original context and began appearing on a number of forums and websites, often as a punchline or go-to “grossest of the gross” conversation stopper (or starter, depending on the forum). In 2007, the concoction reappeared on Totse, an image board devoted to all stripes of shenanigans. This time it was serious; a Totse user named Pickwick uploaded a series of images chronicling his attempt to “try” Jenkem, including a picture of a half-full jug of shit and piss labeled with the words “Jenkem,” “Pickwick” and “Totse” as well as Pickwick “huffing” its contents.
The subsequent thread and its constituent images became legendary, and like most—let’s say questionable—online content, ended up on 4chan/b/. Jenkem quickly began generating memetic variations, including one copypasta post (text posed numerous times by numerous posters) imploring users to copy and paste the provided text into a letter, which would then be mailed to the principal of whatever local high school.
Step 1: email this to school principal
I am writing you anonymously because I do not want my child to get in any trouble, but I need to alert you to something your students are doing that is potentially very dangerous. Yesterday afternoon I came home early to find my son and his friends getting high on something called “jenkem” which they say they heard about at school. This “jenkem” is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard of. They urinate and defecate in plastic bottles and leave them to ferment in the sun, then inhale the resulting gas. I know it sounds unreal but when I came home I found my son and his friends laying on the grass in the backyard and they were acting very strangely. There was a horrible, putrid smell in the air. I can’t believe my son would do something like this. I looked it up on the internet and apparently this was something invented by African children that wound up online and now kids all over the world are doing it. My son says most of his friends at school have tried it.
This seems to be a new thing and I can’t find any information about the health effects of jenkem – I think it is the methane and ammonia content that provides the desired high, but I don’t really know. Both of those are very harmful chemicals. All sorts of diseases are spread through fecal matter. I imagine it could lead to some very serious health problems at your school. My wife and I are utterly shocked and talking about private school. We have spoken to our son about this and he says he won’t do it anymore, but because it is on the internet kids all over the country are trying jenkem and they need to be educated about the health risks. It is only a matter of time before somebody dies from methane poisoning or this leads to a hepatitis outbreak. I don’t know exactly what you could do about this as jenkem is legal but I needed to inform you of what some of your students are doing.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: PROFIT
According to the “Jenkem” entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, trolldom’s unofficial archive, this particular copypasta appeared /b/ on September 17th, 2007, less than a week before the Collier County Sheriff Department circulated the now-infamous internal memo—which featured precisely the images, and even some of the language, Pickwick posted onto Totse, and which was subsequently cross-posted onto /b/ and ED. As soon as Pickwick got wind of these developments, he distanced himself from his actions, deleting the original post and asserting in no uncertain terms that it was just a hoax—a slurry of flour, water, beer and Nutella. “I never inhaled any poop gas and got high off it,” he was quoted as saying on September 24th. “I have deleted my pictures, hopefully no weirdo saved them to his computer. I just don’t want people to ever recognize me as the kid who huffed poop gas.”
Despite Pickwick’s confession, the media continued running with the story; the Fox 30 and WINK reports were filed early November, as were a number of online articles. FoxNews.com, for example, acknowledged the hoax yet still expressed concern over Jenkem’s negative health effects, the plentitude of raw ingredients, and the legality of possessing similar, which a DEA agent explained couldn’t be classified as a drug “because it’s feces and urine” (Fox). Austin’s KXAN suggested that parents take note of any “funky smell or odor” coming from their children, and Kelli Cheatham of WSBT advocated smelling kids’ breath before letting them go to bed (2007).
So…….this is what I get paid to do.
Also, this is just an intro. Meaning that. Thesis and stuff –YES I’m going somewhere with this– ain’t here yet. Well it’s here. [points to head]. But not HERE [waves at machine]. And it’s what’s on the machine that counts.