Thursday, 22 January 2009

Once you start looking you can find it everywhere

This was going be a short post about one stupid thing but has ended up covering four very different kinds of stupid. I've attempted to rein in my criticism as far as possible, firstly because it's more fun if people find the stupid for themselves, and secondly because if I analyse these masterpieces of mindfartery for much longer the bile is going to reach and kill my brain.

  1. PETA's "Sea-kittens" campaign - As I wrote a post on this last year, I was delighted to see this topic hit the Guardian and - far more importantly - Unspeak. Ingrid Newkirk's defence of the campaign is less than convincing:
    And while "sea kitten hunting," formerly known as angling, is cruel to animals, commercial sea kitten hunting is environmentally catastrophic. It has devastated the ocean's ecosystem to the extent that large fish populations are only 10% what they were in the 1950s. Scientists warn that the damage caused by the fishing industry is irreparable.
    We invite everyone of any age to play the sea kitten game and find out more about Peta's Sea Kittens campaign. It's a bit of fun with a serious message: never dismiss any individual's interests just because they look a bit funny.
    I completely agree that overfishing is a huge environmental problem which needs to be prevented as it cannot be cured later. What I don't get is why "everyone of any age" should be invited to wade through a flood of drivel before they can find out important facts about the situation. And how is that "serious message" in any way linked to the campaign? My mental faculties clearly aren't up to scratch, maybe I should start eating fish.

  2. Elizabeth Wurtzel's explanation of how all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic - One reason I love the Guardian's Comment is Free section is that people are given space to explain opinions that you may have suspected were only straw-man positions. I've come across many things refuting this idea but never met anyone who supported it. Wurtzel's article is similar to Newkirk's defence of PETA, in that it only serves to inspire fresh counter-arguments. I have one thing that I'd like to add to the existing criticism of this article, specifically countering this assertion:
    [...]while I'd like to artificially separate anti-Zionism from antisemitism, like most American Jews, I'm not willing to make that false distinction: when there is more than one Jewish state, the world's hatred of Israel might become no different from its exasperation with any other country, but since Israel is the only homeland, and really it is nothing more than six million Jews living together in an area the size of New Jersey, I can't pretend that the problem with Israel is that it's a poorly located country that happens to be at odds with its neighbours and only coincidentally happens to be Jewish. The trouble with Israel is the trouble with Jews.

    In fact it's easier to make a distinction between "the Jews" and Israel than it is to separate a country from its citizens. Whether you're talking about Judaism or "Jewishness", you're discussing a worldwide community of millions of people, with vastly different backgrounds and opinions, with members who have inspired profound respect in many different fields. Israel is just one political / geographical entity. It's really very difficult to confuse the two, unlike discussions about "Iran" and "the Iranians", for example.

  3. "Six months after the MMR jab... a bubbly little girl now struggles to speak, walk and feed herself" - If there's one word I'd like to ban from Daily Mail headlines, it's "after". This article made me very angry indeed, being the shameless exploitation of a parent's fear and misery in order to shamelessly exploit other parents just to sell cheap paper to wrap potato peelings in. Every damn line is either persuading parents to mistrust vaccinations or manipulating their emotions to make the persuasion all the more effective. It's such a dangerous campaign to run, with absolutely no reason for it, but once tabloids get up on a high horse they'll happily trample anyone into the mud. It seems impossible to me that a literate individual could write the following sentences and not grasp the reality of the situation:

    [Doctors] have told Melody's mother Alicia Ellis, 25, there is no reason to believe the MMR vaccine has anything to do with her condition.
    However, Miss Ellis is convinced it is the only logical explanation and there could be a connection to a neurological problem she had as a newborn baby.
    Miss Ellis, from Leeds, said: 'Show me the evidence that it's not linked to the MMR jab and I might be all right, but they can't.
    The tiny baby was seriously-ill in hospital and was close to death. Doctors feared she would suffer from developmental problems as a result, but to their amazement she made a complete recovery and grew up as a normal, healthy little girl.
    'I think the jab has attacked the part of her brain that was damaged when she was a baby. It's just too much of a coincidence for this to happen just two days after her jab, but no-one wants to listen to me.'

    It only seems like too much of a coincidence if you've been manipulated into believing that vaccinations are very dangerous and that doctors don't care if they are, and a child has only "grown-up" healthy once they've stopped growing. Furthermore, it's impossible to provide proof of a non-link which would convince a lay audience (*trivial parallel warning*)- the more you tell someone that there's no evidence linking their choice of underwear to their team's performance in a cup final, the more they'll suspect you of rooting for the other side.

  4. "foul, lowest-common-denominator, sub-literate emotivist twattery" - I couldn't think of a better description of this video. For goodness sake, don't follow this link. It's not worth it. It's billed as "tear-jerking" but then so is waxing your nose-hair (probably). I learned two things from it: A. that presenting single-braincelled judgements on the state of modern Britain in the voice of a child only highlights their over-simplicity and B. that it's not a good idea to watch something which someone called "Pigdogfucker" finds offensive.

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