Friday, 6 November 2009

Wall of the Times

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. What a spectacular cock-up.

New Berlin wall built for U2 gig to mark fall of old one.
Twenty years ago, thousands of Germans converged at the Berlin Wall to watch as the hated barrier between east and west was torn down. But tonight, many fans hoping to catch a glimpse of U2 as they played a free concert to celebrate the anniversary of the historic event would have found a small obstacle in their way: a hastily erected wall.

The organisers of the event, the music network MTV, erected a two-metre high "sight barrier" to exclude those without one of 10,000 free tickets from catching a glimpse of the band. The irony was not lost on fans, some of whom said they would boycott the event in protest.

[...]

Listeners to Star FM, a 24-hour Berlin rock music radio station, voted tonight to boycott the concert in protest. The station's leading DJ, Wolfi, said: "Is this is a sick joke? A band whose leader, Bono, campaigns for world peace and freedom, puts on a concert to commemorate the fall of one of the most monstrous barriers in history, and they erect a wall to stop fans from taking part?"

Really, though. There's nothing more to say, right? I mean, we all get it right? DJ Wolfi gets it, anyway. There's just nothing more to say. We can all just sit in stunned silence in front of our keyboards, wondering just how stupid the whole world has become. Death of satire and all that. Death of the invective blogger commentary, too, if this level of odious obviousness continues unabated.

I hate it, too, because it again makes me sound nostalgic for the Cold War, a time when walls were built to separate bodies and people and governments with competing ideologies, complete Weltanschauung, and not just protect the intellectual property of smug capitalists. Alas, I suppose this is 'progress'. Less ¡Mas vale morir de pie que vivir de rodillas! and more 'Well, I'll see a pirated copy on YouTube later.'

Anyway, a Big Numpty of the Week award to the twenty-year old MTV Executive who made the call, having never read a history book in his life. Bono's got no excuse, though.

Ps. Any suggestions for hash-tags on this? #wallgate? Inevitable, really, that someone will call it that. I like the more direct approach: #mtvdumbasses? #boobybono?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ps. Professor Nutt and Freud's Ghost

Just to follow up my little rant this morning, Professor Nutt has written an editorial in The New Scientist that is well-worth examining. Some of his sensible words are at least worthy of repeating here as Wilson's immoral invective.

No one doubts that heavy users of marijuana are risking trouble with their mental health. What I have simply pointed out is that we need a consistent policy, recognising that heavy users of alcohol and tobacco are more numerous and are causing themselves – and others – even more trouble through their indulgence.

Policies that ignore the realities of the world we live in are doomed to fail. This is true for just about all the biggest issues that we confront, from energy and climate to criminal justice, health and immigration. I'm not arguing that science dictate policy; considerations such as cost, practicality and morality also have a role. But scientific evidence should never be brushed aside from the political debate.

Yes. Exactly. No Dictatorship of Empiricism here. Nutt recognises that science alone cannot dictate policy, that governments need to consider other factors. But they should NEVER simply ignore scientific evidence when it proves inconvenient.

The current British government has said repeatedly that it wants its policies to be evidence-based, but actions speak louder than words. On ecstasy, for example, it made policy first, sought advice second – and cynically rejected the advice it was given. The result is shambolic policy-making which gives great cause for concern if that is how governments operate more generally.

The results of a government inventing its own reality and acting on it can be seen in the appalling consequences the George W. Bush presidency had for world peace, the environment and human rights. The message for the British government is a simple one: don't exclude rational argument in order to exploit a visceral public response. Politicians have to win the hearts and minds of their electorate. If your policy is informed by an underlying moral imperative, be open about what that is, and don't try to disguise it with a veneer of pseudo-science. We ignore scientific evidence at our peril.

Raising the Spectre of George W. Bush is much more appropriate and reasonable than the Daily Mail and Wilson's use of Hitler. For starters, I suspect that The New Scientist and Professor Nutt are at least consistent, and that neither officially endorsed George W. Bush, only to later -- when History has proved them spectacularly wrong -- use him as a Boogey-man to incite fear in an already nervous readership. It is exactly this sort of right-wing-knee-jerkism, that Bush so neatly embodies, that we must battle here.

And in support of Professor Nutt, the second comment on this story, by a certain 'Freud's Ghost', seems to share excretera's take on the issue:

Not insane just sad, inward looking & immature. Trapped at the anal stage politicians are more interested in toilet paper than they are research papers. If they had a interest in the real world they wouldn't be in politics. Voter appeal is the only reality for politician.

That's what I like to see! I salute you both!

No. A country run by THESE arrogant gods of certainty would truly be a hell on earth.

Sometimes -- no, most times -- I cannot believe the fucking Daily Mail. This 'debate' was put forward by A N Wilson yesterday, and was promptly tweeted around. (I heard about it from Berto54, Ben Goldacre and Dara O'Briain, so thanks all, because there's no way I'd go within a million gazillion thrillion miles of that rag's website otherwise):
Yes, scientists do much good. But a country run by these arrogant gods of certainty would truly be hell on earth

Oh fuck. This coming from the Daily Mail, right? The newspaper for head-in-the-sand camels, racists, homophobes, bigots and superstitious nuts (one t) of all stripes. It's a Big Tent. Full of assholes.

Wilson is talking about the Professor Nutt scandal, or as it's becoming known on Twitter, #Nuttsack. Listen to this, which is, if anything ever was, truly worthy of the epithet Shit.
Now he has been sacked, the scientific establishment is in an uproar of self-pity and self-importance. How dare mere politicians question their judgments? They are scientists, aren't they? And what scientists say must be taken as true.

The trouble with a 'scientific' argument, of course, is that it is not made in the real world, but in a laboratory by an unimaginative academic relying solely on empirical facts.

Would that 'real world' be the world of the Daily Mail and it's narrow-minded, ill-informed ideology masquerading as 'opinion'? Of course. And why would we ever want to regard something as flimsy as 'empirical facts' over such heaven-sent Truth. I'm sorry. I mean horseshit.