Monday, 18 January 2010

"Dear Media, from Science" (No.1)

(letter 1 of several, latest ones are here)

Dear Media

Hello. It's me, Science. Hope you're well. You seem a bit angry of late, snapping at people for no real reason. I've heard we all get a bit more right wing as we get older, but seriously, calm down. Try some meditation or yoga or Chamomile tea. And this is me (the personification of the abstract concept of Science, just to clarify) saying that, so you know I must be worried.
Look, I know we haven't always got along in the past (I know there was that Nuclear arms race thing, really sorry about that but you know what the 60's were like). Normally this wouldn't be a problem. My guys and your guys could simply avoid each other. But that's not really an option, because my guys have to go through your guys to tell people important stuff they've done. And that's where we have an issue, and it's why I'm writing to you. We really need to have words, because frankly you're making my job a lot harder, and it's clearly already way too hard for most of your people to get their head around.
(Seriously, do you bother with interviews any more, or just pick a badly scrawled name from one of the hundreds in Kelvin Mackenzie's hat? I mean, John Gaunt? Watson and Crick never discovered anything that twisted).

Firstly, would it kill you to be a bit more specific when you tell people what I'm up to? The number of news stories I've read which end with "...say scientists" just drives me to distraction. And I can't afford to be distracted, a lot of my work is quite delicate., some of it involves brains!
Do you realise how vague a term 'Scientists' is? It's like 'cars', there are hundreds of different types. It might be accurate, but it's not specific. You'd never say "'Kill all homosexuals', say religious people". And I don't blame you, there'd be uproar, but it's basically the same thing. You're not helping by grouping my lot together like that, they're a very diverse bunch. Einstein and Pasteur were both Scientists, but only one has anything useful to say on the laws of relativity. That and the big mustaches are all they have in common (both were also from mainland Europe, and they're both dead, but let's not get bogged down in this).
This implication that 'Scientists' are all in agreement whenever a 'breakthrough' is made is gibberish. As a result, people think my lot are some shadowy cabal who meet once a month in order to decide what new rules we have to dictate to the general populace. I've tried telling them that they're thinking of the Freemasons, not my lot, but to no avail. You're the one who's giving this impression, not me. Cut it out will you! If a botanist says there's no climate change, don't class him as a scientist, assume he's an idiot and ignore him, you have my permission. Some specificity, please. I know it sounds like extra work, but how hard can adding or changing a single word be? You're not writing the Bible here, and even if you were, same applies.

In keeping with the previous point, just because someone says they're working for me, it doesn't mean they are. This Gillian McKeith person for example, I've never seen her before in my life. Yes, she's successful, but that doesn't mean she has a clue what she's on about. She's written a bunch of books filled with bizarre concepts and fantastical processes. Hoo-bloody-ray for her, but does that give her the qualification to dictate diet? Why stop there, why not J.K. Rowling pills? Tolkien supplements? Think, will you! Scientists are reputed to be intelligent, why would an intelligent person willingly choose to indulge in close up examinations of an obese person's bowel movements? And you're the one who put it on TV! I have a number of good therapists working for me if you fancy sorting that out.
Here's a good rule of thumb; if the person you're talking to is wealthier than you, odds are they're not one of my lot. Spread the word. Please don't encourage that sort of behaviour, just tell people straight; it's a con. What's that? Lot's of people believe in things like nutritionalism and homeopathy? Yeah fair point, we wouldn't want the media telling people things they didn't know, what a crazy system that would be.

Oh, by the way, this whole 'balanced argument' thing you've got going on. I see your point, but make your mind up! Either you present 2 sides to every argument or none, why is it just when it's a controversy involving me! Yes, some people think that MMR and Autism are linked, some people think that Me and my guys would knowingly build a device capable of swallowing the planet with a black hole and turn it on just to see what happens. These people are wrong, you know they are, but they get to air their views anyway. When a murder is reported, do you get statements from the people who thought that the victim had it coming? Why not? If balanced arguments are so vital, why are some stories exempt? Come on mate, a bit of fairness is all I'm asking for.

Yeah, I suppose I do come across as a bit demanding. I mean, why do what I say? What do you owe me? A fair point, I've no right to tell you what to do, you're way too powerful to care what I think. By the way, the printing press, radio, electricity, ink-jets, laser printing, typewriters, lenses, cameras, photography, video technology, air travel, satellite communication, television, mobile phones; you're welcome, don't worry about it. I mean what's a few civilisation-changing breakthroughs between friends? No doubt you could do without them, no problem. But bear in mind, I also invented blogs and the internet, you ignore me and I will obsolete your ass! Not something that can happen to me so easily. I'm the embodiment of the abstract concept known as Science, don't know if I mentioned that.

And yes, you can argue that, as you're dependant on the general public ,you have to give them what they want, but it won't wash with me mate. There are plenty of smart people in the general populace, but catering to them would be more effort wouldn't it? Path of least resistance, lowest common denominator and all that. Don't you have any pride in your work? But I guess it's easier to become sloppy when it's possible to just make up some stuff that sound's good rather than do the research like I have to.

Speaking of which, what's with all the 'opinion' columns? Why the hell would anyone care what Piers Morgan thinks? And don't say 'But they do' automatically. Try a little experiment; For a week, pretend that Piers Morgan doesn't exist. I hypothesise that the World won't spin off it's axis. If anything, I predict it will get somewhat better; people will go about their lives feeling more jubilant and free without knowing why, like a dog that's had a painful growth removed from it's genitals. Prove me wrong!

Anyway, hope you take all this on board. Have you seen Politics lately? I'm afraid I haven't spoken to him since he cut my Nutt off. Git. And how's Big Business? Don't protest, we all know you've been sleeping together for years now. It's embarrassing, watching you make excuses then scampering away behind the Bushes (Presidents and foliage) together, just admit it will you?

Anyway, think about what I said, yeah?

Science (BA Hons)

P.S. Reading this back, I do come across as a bit of a sanctimonious prick, don't I. I'll work on that.

Twitter: @garwboy (a follow up letter is now available, here)


Richard said...


ali said...

I am looking forward to the publication of your first epistolary novel.

Science really has a point.

Great posting! Thanks.

Yusecki said...

I think I need to get me some Tolkien supplements. Would really improve my imagination. Though I hear there are side effects of singing and in rare cases taking on the spirit of Tom Bombadil.

Lucy Kemnitzer said...

Dear Science,
It's me, Language. Well, not Language, but the personification of more or less correct conventional language in the service of intellectual discourse.

I love what you're doing here, Science, nice, clear, funny and engaging stuff, but you really need to pay more attention to your apostrophes! The possessive its is really better off without it.

Thank you for writing, Science, and do keep us posted.

Maybe Media will discover a use for me, once it has listened to you.


Ivan3man said...

Great post, but at the second paragraph before last, where you said:

"I hypothesise that the World won't spin off it's axis. [...], like a dog that's had a painful growth removed from it's genitals."

Those two cases of "it's" should both be an its (possessive form of the pronoun it), not "it's" (abbreviation of it is or it has).

I often have to remind Dr. Phil "The Bad Astronomer" Plait about that as well.

Ivan3man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ivan3man said...

Hmm... I've just noticed, after posting, that Lucy Kemnitzer has already mentioned the above its business!

prin said...

And yet, they both missed "firstly" and "dependant". :D

The MMR-autism thing is terrible though. It caused a new outbreak in Europe.

Lucy Kemnitzer said...

The MMR-autism link is a fraud, perpetrated by an actual fraudster. And "firstly" is not an error.

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Science is cool - I've never had it talk to me before PE cure

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