Monday, December 05, 2005

Only Don't Connect

Nothing much to object to in this week's Nick piece; he is back on domestic issues and away from the Greatest Intellectual Conflict of Our Times and thus much more congenial reading. On the other hand, I suspect that this is not because he is calming down with the prospect of troop withdrawal, deciding to mend a few fences and generally wandering back onto the reservation. It's just as likely that it just happens to be the case that the kind of person he talks to on domestic policy is just more likely to be someone who seems sane to me and my lot than the kind of person he talks to about foreign policy.

I say this because of the disturbing lack of connection between different weeks of columnism. This week, Nick is telling us about a monstrous conspiracy of the medical establishment to blacken the name of one of its critics in order to shore up a tragicomic piece of medical incompetence (the invention of "Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy" out of eight parts statistical fallacy to two parts whole cloth[1] by Professor Sir Roy Meadows). But hang on … was it the week before last or the week before that that the same Nick Cohen was telling us that there were no such things as medical cover-ups and conspiracies and anyone who thought they were was a loony? Why yes it was, and specifically a loony that ought to be sued into insolvency as punishment for raising the question. Surely there's some need to join the dots here – to acknowledge that public panics about health and their failure to be reassured by the government and the scientists, has its root in the fact that politicians and scientists lie, one hell of a lot? If the government isn't competent to run the CSA, why does it make sense to be a humanitarian interventionist? This compartmentalization of the mind is another worrying sign; I wouldn't necessarily go as far as to say it's one of the Seals of Dacre but it's another characteristic of a certain kind of politics. In the meantime, it's just worth noting that while Aaro is explicitly attempting to generalize his Iraq War epiphany into a more fully-worked-out politics of Decentism[2], Nick is just a chair who bears the impression of the last arse to have sat on him, still fulminating wildly at a slightly different set of targets. Paradoxically, this means that Nick is less dangerous and potentially pernicious than Aaro.

[1] Plus one part genuine child-murder, obviously. There are some parents who murder their children; not all that many, but some, and it is highly likely that quite a few of them have got away with it as a result of the collapse of Meadows as a reliable witness. In fact, given a few back-of-envelope calculations about the frequency and virulence of measles epidemics, it seems to me that it would be a brave man who said that the MMR panic would be responsible for more child deaths than the complete discrediting of MSBP as a genuine disease.
[2] Although I maintain that Aaronovitchite Decentism is fundamentally an aesthetic rather than a political system of thought at present, however.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Although I maintain that Aaronovitchite Decentism is fundamentally an aesthetic rather than a political system of thought at present, however."

Hmmm. decentism, Cameron, Ian McEwen's Saturday and it's fanatical followers. There seems to be a sort of "ideology of comfort" emerging.

12/06/2005 04:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"scientists lie, one hell of a lot"

really? this seems like a bizarre and unwarranted generalisation, almost to the point of being utter bollocks.

12/08/2005 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Professor Sir Roy Meadows is a scientist, and so were all those buggers on the television talking the most perfect nonsense about Foot & Mouth disease.

12/08/2005 05:44:00 PM  

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