Fickle Fashion

Several articles I read today highlight how fast and loose the righteous play. First, from Pub Curmudgeon, on Sir Peter North, author of a report proposing lowering the drink-driving limit.

Asked if he’d seen evidence from police records of how many accidents are caused by drivers whose blood/alcohol level is between 50mg and 80mg, North replied: “It’s not something that was made available to me.

“My own judgment is that we don’t need that sort of evidence to bring the limit down.”

So it’s just his say-so. No evidence. Nothing. But it can’t be too surprising given that current recommended daily units of alcohol are well known to have been plucked from thin air.

Then there’s Pete Robinson in the Publican, picking apart the claim by ASH’s Amanda Sandford that

“Despite claims to the contrary, there is no evidence of overall harm to the licensed trade. In fact, alcohol on-sales licences increased by five per cent in the first year following the smoking ban.”

“True, many traditional pubs have closed, but more licensed premises have opened in recent years that now sell food as well as alcohol,” she added.

In addition Sandford said that research had shown that the reduction in heart attacks had increased since the ban, and that the smoking ban was now more popular than ever, with support growing fastest among smokers.

The heart attack claim has been comprehensively dismantled. Heart attacks have been in decline for several decades, and the smoking ban has made no difference at all.

Quite how anyone can believe that smokers are enjoying the smoking ban, I really do not know. If that’s true, then a ban on alcohol will be met with delight by pubgoers everywhere. And a ban on betting will be cheered by race course punters. It beggars belief.

And then there’s Chris Snowdon on ASH’s Deborah Arnott’s response earlier this year to news that smoking has increased in Ireland since its ban from about 25% to 33% of the population.

To pause is to run the risk of the numbers once again increasing: in Ireland, she tells me, the government successfully brought in smoke-free legislation, but “they didn’t do anything else, and smoking started to creep back up again”.

But as Chris Snowdon points out, Ireland did a great deal more than just introduce a smoking ban.

Ireland has constantly increased the price of tobacco and now has the highest rate of cigarette tax of any EU country; it has graphic warnings on cigarette packs; it has banned all forms of tobacco advertising; it has raised the age of purchase to 18 and it was the first country in the world to ban tobacco displays in shops.

One baseless assertion after another is made. Reason has been dispensed with. Once you have become a recognised authority, you can claim anything you like, and it will be reported in the media as the gospel truth.

It’s simply a fad. It’s groupthink. Everybody who is anybody comes to agree that smoking and drinking and fast food and greenhouse gas emissions and chocolate doughnuts sprinkled with hundreds and thousands should be restricted. It’s the prevailing wisdom, and nobody questions it. Everybody knows that it (whatever it is) is the Right Thing To Do, regardless of contradictory evidence. Nobody wants to look like a fool by speaking off-message.

But the herd never stays too long on one path. Sooner or later opinion leaders signal a change of direction, and the herd changes course, and everyone falls over themselves to be the first to articulate the new line.

It’s just like the length of skirts. Or the cut of suits. Or the colour of ties. Once the old fashion guru has had his day, everyone rushes to sign up to the new fashion guru. And their word becomes law.

The Arnotts and Sandfords and Norths are the current fashion gurus. They are the Yves Saint Laurents and Guccis and Armanis of “lifestyle medicine”. Their word is law. Their most trivial utterances are reverentially repeated. They can do no wrong.

But their fall from grace is likely to be as swift as their rise. It will happen overnight. One day they will be riding high, and the next they’ll be as worthless as yesterday’s papers. That’s how it is in the fashion world.

A year ago IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri was riding high. But now the skids are under him. He’s past his sell-by date. He’s a soon-to-be ex-guru. He was just a railway engineer, anyway, people will say knowingly, as they stir their cappuccinos and unbutton their Gucci suits and tap their ipads. Political beliefs have become fashion accessories. They are to be displayed like Rolexes and Lamborghinis. You’re nobody if you don’t have the right one. Y’know, the late 1977 edition. And your complete job in life is to stay ahead of the fashion curve.

I’m endlessly theoretical. You’re theoretical if you’re trying to understand the world around you. And I had a theory, several decades ago, that most people’s opinions about anything were simply the average of everybody else’s opinions. I think that’s how fashion works. Everybody is looking at everybody else, to see which way they’re going. And they’re constantly adjusting their opinion about everything. Somebody told me I was cynical, and perhaps I was. But there was an interesting deduction that could be made of it. And that was this: In fashion world, the real opinion formers are those who are impervious to fashion. It falls to those who stand outside fashionable opinion, and fashionable clothes, and fashionable shoes, to form fashionable opinion. It’s those people who refuse, who put their foot down, that turn the world.

About Frank Davis

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7 Responses to Fickle Fashion

  1. Anonymous says:

    In everyday life, I encounter very few, if any, people who are as disturbed by matters like anti-smoking, global warming, food, epidemiology, government, etc, as I am.
    Even if they are as initially outraged as I am, I notice that it soon wears off. I try not to bring up such matters in conversation anymore, because the perception has come along amongst the people I know that I’m “uppity” about such matters. I used to push on anyway, but now I’ve given up and don’t bother so much with them anymore.
    Occasionally my buttons get pushed and I’ll get going, but I just try to keep it to myself for the most part. Not because I’m ashamed of what I believe, but because once I’ve expended enough breath to gain a mild reputation without creating any result, I know that I’ve simply wasted my time.
    This morning I stopped at a convenience store/gas station for coffee. When I was about to drive off in my car, one of the clerks had come outside to urgently call to a woman pumping gas. Why? Because the woman pumping gas was talking on her cell phone at the same time.
    I had to get going to work, and this situation was really none of my business anyway, but it bothered me because I’d witnessed a human interaction that distracted from everyday life that had empowered one person over another,and it was based on sheer nonsense.
    In this scenario, though, it is the uninformed person who has all of the appearances of being both informed and morally righteous. Cell phone signals have no ability to cause fires at gas pumps. It’s a popular myth that the media perpetuated and, in classic “drive-by” style never bothered to correct. The idea is so intellectually inviting to people because it’s a non-fact that poses in the perfect guise of a little-known-fact. Doubt it? why, here’s ten million media reports and even reports from scientists that the media enlisted to prove my claim! No further evidence needed. Issue over.
    In fact, someone is likely to object to my saying that cell phones don’t cause gaspump fires. Perhaps even you will! I won’t even try to state why this is untrue. Why? Because it will do no good. People who believe this will continue to believe it no matter what I explain. You can’t prove a negative, after all.
    The idea of cellphones starting gaspump fires is just somehow, well, so (forgive me) memetically sexy that it’s nearly irresistible. When authorities and the media pronounce the absurd, counter-intuitive, and unlikely to be truth–well, people just love that somehow. It makes people feel like they’ve cheaply purchased knowing something that others don’t. Pseudo-knowledge in the truest sense.
    I smoke, but my frustration isn’t so much about smoking, or if I’ll refrain from smoking. What’s frustrating to me is that society forces me to even passively participate in this game of make-believe where I have to pretend that things like outdoor smoking bans are something that require debunking. Or to pretend that there’s even some kind of reason to put smoking hospital patients into the street.
    So, it’s somewhat like making pretend that 2+2=5 just to get along in a world that can’t possibly function very well for very long with such a basic error at its heart. It doesn’t matter how many experts believe that 2+2=5, or how many people believe it, or if friends roll their eyes at you if you state how wrong this idea is. At the end of the day, 2+2 does not equal 5, and there isn’t a damn thing that 6 billion people on the planet agreeing otherwise can do about it.
    So, what’s the difference between believing 2+2=5 and that smoking bans prevent heart attacks? I guess the former would be more detrimental, because it’s so basic, but a lie is still a lie.
    I refuse to believe that lies are truth, or a good thing. It’s that simple, and I can’t help it.
    (Should I sign? Oh, why not?)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Another great one Frank.
    Your right the trend setters are the black sheep when they speak against the herd……But then,the growing number of black sheep have become the herd…..from 25% up to 33% now thats a herd of black sheep!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I remember as a young designer, I was reading the Fashion Forecast for the coming season.
    “Heads will be small this year”
    I wilfully chose to read this statement literally and after that everything just seemed to fit effortlessly into place.
    By the way Harley, would you agree that the first notable intrusion of the bodysnatchers was the British Crash Helmet law in the early 70’s?
    I always wore a crash helmet, mine was one of the first full facers available in the country.I was sufficiently aware to realise that kissing the tarmac at speed was unlikely to improve my appearance.
    The government dared to tell me that I would be prosecuted if I did not protect my own head!
    How can you fine anyone for possibly endangering something they own?
    No one seemed to realise that the then government had just taken authority not just over my own head, but theirs as well,if they chose to exercise it.
    On the same excuse of “saving thousands of lives”

  4. Anonymous says:

    Trouble is, ASH’s fifteen minutes of fame is enough time for it to put in place ideas that will be difficult to dislodge.
    I do hope you’re right and I can look forward to the spectacle of the Grauniad racing to be the first to expose the myth of passive smoking.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I was stationed in floriDUH! back in the late 1970s and was involved in helmet run protests with the local biker groups on a statewide level. ABATE chapters……As a wee lad of 20 at the time it was my first run and we rode helmetless nearly 500 strong from daytone to tallahasee….on the steps of the state capitol I sat and asked an old biker, its really stupid not to where a helmet, The old biker said to me, its not the wearing or not wearing of the brain bucket we are opposed to,its the govmnt telling us we have to and making a criminal out of us……And my war aainst the nannys began……another argument back then was, its like telling a car driver you have to wear a seatbelt……..look what happened a few years later. That pretty well cemented my war on nanny/nazis…….Govmnt intrusion is the enemy no matter the law they are pushing,smoking bans are but one in a long list of criminalization of a free people……to this end I fight and for no other……simply put liberty and freedom are the ideals I fight for……..

  6. Anonymous says:

    I was of the opinion that if a seat belt was good enough for a racing driver it was good enough for me,even so, if you want to be catapulted through the windscreen having previously been advised to wear one, that shouldn’t be a matter of law.
    What puzzles me is if they know we grew tobacco all over England during WW2 and have been brewing our own alcohol since the dawn of time, why do they think they have any chance of holding us to ransom?
    I finally stopped seething quite so much over the crash helmet law when it was pointed out to me that compulsory wearing of crash helmets makes it a lot less traumatic for the emergency services if they have to come and scrape you up.
    Now that reason I will accept.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As I point out,its not the wearing of,its the law requiring such……..oops sorry officer but your seatbelt road block is comparable to a nazi attack on personal freedom………But sir ITS THE LAW…….but but but I and everyone else in this illegal search and seziure stop going on have rights against such wreckless abandon of freedom and liberty……..Now BOY! LICK MY JACKBOOTS…..
    Kiss my freedom loving arse NAZI!

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