Wednesday 4 January 2012

Man Speaks Common Sense, Gets Slated

It's not often I excitedly applaud an article at the BBC, but this is one such piece.

[...] it offends my sensibilities as a professional social researcher, but it also offends me as a parent. With my wife, I have raised three boys in south London, and I think it is disgraceful that such a range of people - organisations, politicians and journalists - use terrible evidence, or in many cases no evidence at all, to perpetuate negative myths about the state of childhood and family life in the UK today.

I am also dismayed by how readily we as a society choose to believe them.
Oh this is so true. How, for God's sake, can anyone truly believe that kids are having a terrible existence in the modern world when, in the modern world, adults are increasingly having to engineer their lives around kids?

For example all the best evidence shows that parents now devote more time to caring for their children than ever before, and in particular the current generation of fathers has massively increased the amount of time they spend with their children compared to previous generations.
Demonstrably so. The experience of anyone who has kids will tell you that modern parenting is now almost a competitive sport. Mums and Dads of the late 20th and early 21st century are replaying the 'keeping up with the Joneses' battles of earlier times by trying to show how much more perfect they are than parents of their offspring's friends.

It's a pan-national race to the top, with kids being the undeniable winners.

Nor I would argue are our kids passive victims ripe for commercial organisations. They are actually rather savvy, and I think understand very well what commercial organisations are trying to do when they communicate with them, particularly when it comes to engagement online.
Hmm, I wonder which clowns are promoting such concepts, eh? Vested interests who are looking only to their next pay cheque, perchance?

So why is such a misleading picture being painted? Well first of all I think I have to point the finger at my profession. Quite a lot of bad social research is done, and people draw conclusions from their research that really it is not fair to draw.
You're preaching to the choir there, sunshine.

Another contributory factor is that the media love a bad news story, and reject good news ones. And of course the plethora of children's charities, competing for headlines and donations, understand this.
He's not ... he's not going to say the unsayable? Is he?

Those headlines, for example, were reporting views and research from the likes of Save the Children, the Children's Society and Barnardo's. These charities ratchet up the emotional ante, and I think as they do so their voices become ever more shrill, and reason disappears from the argument.
Yes, he is! Hallelujah!

A man after my own heart as I believe we've covered that kinda thing here before.

Academics feel the same pressure - to accentuate the negative. Their next research grant may depend on getting media coverage for their research, which is greater if the story is negative.

So there are real vested interests driving this.
At this point, I had to pinch myself to believe I was still reading the BBC.

My own children have all lost friends from their homes in south London when the parents, wanting to do the right thing, take them away from the city amid fears of violence and knife crime.

They take them to the countryside, where of course all the statistics show that they are far more likely to be run over in a rural road traffic accident than they ever were to be a victim of knife crime in south London.
The same risk-petrified mindset which encourages paedohysteria like this, in fact.

So the next time you read or hear about social decline, simply ask yourself what evidence do they have, and then ask whether it is really getting worse.

You may find that things are much better than you thought.
And wild applause as he nails the dismount.

So how was this received by the great British BBC reading public? Well, with derision and denial, of course. Commenter after commenter queued up to advance the ideas they have had implanted by decades of drip drip media and vested interest misinformation.

Just as readers here will all have been ridiculed for, at some point, explaining facts to their friends and colleagues such as alcohol consumption has been declining for years, or that obesity isn't really any kind of problem if one looks at the figures instead of the Daily Mail.

Because we are living in an age where myth has been installed as fact, and many incontrovertible truths are dismissed by a majority who trust people who simply don't deserve it. 'Jamie Oliver said it, so it must be true' syndrome.

The Heresiarch pointed to just such an example between Christmas and New Year.

"Britain’s problem with alcohol is not due to price, but a culture of excessive consumption," says the Telegraph. Actually, excessive consumption isn't the problem (by European standards, it is not excessive). Culture, though, is. What causes the Hogarthian scenes that disfigure town centres of a Friday or Saturday evening? Not alcohol, but rather a set of cultural beliefs about alcohol that produces (prompts, encourages, excuses) loutish behaviour. Read Kate Fox's Watching the English if you don't believe me. She discusses psychological experiments that show people will get drunk on placebos while staying sober on alcohol that they believe to be water, and notes that "many other nations manage to consume much larger quantities of alcohol without becoming rude, violent and generally disgusting." She writes:

These basic facts are, among my fellow cross-cultural researchers, so obvious and commonplace as to be tedious. We are certainly all very weary of repeating them, endlessly, to audiences who either cannot or will not accept their validity. Much of my professional life has been spend on alcohol-related research and my colleagues and I have been trotting out the same irrefutable evidence for over a decade, every time our expertise is called upon by government departments, police conferences, worried brewers and other concerned agencies.

Everyone is always highly surprised... and politely determined to let nothing shake their faith in the evil powers of the demon drink. It's like trying to explain the causes of rain to some remote mud-hut tribe in thrall to the magic of witch-doctors and rain-makers.
For 'mud-hut tribe', substitute Westminster, and for 'audiences who cannot and will not accept validity', how about your friends, acquaintances, and neighbours who are so easily hoodwinked by professional liars?

A well-respected 'expert', pictured yesterday

It's not like they're even making life easier or more enjoyable either. I suppose yer average bread and circuses engrossed human just feels comfortable being shat on.

Such a shame that so many are happy to abrogate their time on this Earth to self-serving people who care nothing for them, and never will.


Anonymous said...

Hurrah! a professional who has the gumption to tell it like it is.

Oh dear, their career is over. Just like Professor Bellamy was (with AGW), they will be vilified and derided by the 'usual suspects'. Work will disappear as others fearing the same treatment avoid them.

Still it was nice to see a little common sense for a change. Kudos to Mr Platters for daring to challenged the current PC orthodoxy and in the 'temple to the progressive/marxist deity' that the BBC has long been. (I suspect he was only allowed to say such 'blasphemous' things as a prelude to his destruction - all as a ratings boost and so they can say 'look we do show a balanced view')

Ian R Thorpe said...

We need to start distinguishing between science (test tubes, dials and widgets, microscopes etc.) and pseudoscience (anything involving clipboards, calculators and mathematical modelling) and then stop pouring money into those research projects that are never going to produce any benefit to the wider community but are designed to keep a bunch of tax earters in snacks for another few years.