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