Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Retreat of Reason

One of the better 'Tonight' programmes last night focused on 'Dr' Gillian McKeith, the dietary 'expert' who is making big bucks at the expense of the stupid and gullible.
In addition to her 'Love Bar' snack featured in the programme, I discovered she sells 'Love Bites' in a can "to nourish libido energy". I suppose love bites in a can could be useful when you get to my age and might have forgotten to leave your teeth in when you went to bed but of course there isn't a shred of evidence that any of these products have any effect on libido.
Ms McKeith really is a very bossy cow. Her website tells you that you must read her book "from cover to cover TWICE" and that you must then take it with you everywhere and always have it by your side - at the supermarket, at the pharmacy, at your GP's surgery. Actually, she didn't say the last one. Probably just an oversight.
It's always difficult to decide with these people whether they're bonkers or just clever at conning money out of people. It could be both of course.
The Guardian's Ben Goldacre, who has been writing about this woman for a long time, appeared on the programme. He is a real medical doctor and heroic exposer of New Age nonsense. The McGibberish website reinforces the erroneous impression that McNutter is a medical doctor when it says "Dr Gillian McKeith is not able to take on new patients at this time." Patients? Shouldn't that be 'clients' or possibly 'mugs'?
There are conflicting views over whether the State should seek to protect people from their own stupidity. But I would suggest two simple interventions. Firstly, there should be a prominent statement on all these products: These claims are not supported by any scientific evidence. Secondly, people with PhDs, even genuine ones, should be prohibited from using the prefix 'Dr'. Many of them don't anyway. My old friend Mo Mowlam was just 'Mo' to everyone at university, including the students. Indeed, if you'd called her 'Dr', which she was, she'd probably have told you to fuck off. Of course, it would mean that 'Dr' John Reid, the Health Minister, would become plain 'Mr'. But would we respect him any less? Could we respect him any less?

It sometimes feels as though the Enlightenment never happened and we are retreating into a medieval world of magic and superstition. A GP I once visited shocked me by picking up a directory of homeopathic remedies. This was someone who had spent years of scientific training at taxpayers' expense resorting to something that has been proven to be nonsense and if I'd wanted a placebo I'd have gone to Holland and Barrett not the NHS.
Francis Wheen has written an excellent book on all this Mumbo Jumbo which I stupidly forgot to put on my Amazon wish-list. But it's not too late to send me a copy. You could always send me a second present. Because I'm worth it.


Vaguely related to this topic, I do hope I live to see the removal of Thought For The Day from Radio 4's Today programme.
This morning, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks began by saying something in the news made him "weep for humanity". (I missed the rest because I switched on my electric toothbrush).
But I know how you feel, Jonathan. I used to weep for humanity every time you opposed equal rights for gay men and women. I wept the more when I recalled that gay men were marched into the Nazi gas chambers along with the Jews. So go away and think long and hard about the real lessons of the Holocaust and, in the meantime, spare me your sanctimonious witterings about suffering and humanity.

The Adventures of Carlo Episode 23

I woke up with a splitting headache and the tune of 'YMCA' going through my head. For a few confused moments I thought I had been to the club with Carlo and Lee. Then I remembered I had come home feeling angry and humiliated and had consumed half a bottle of Glenlivet while watching a nauseating programme about forensic etymology on the Discovery Channel.
When I went downstairs I heard music coming from the Pink Drawing Room. I found the television was still on but tuned to MTV. Then I noticed a body wrapped in one of my Persian rugs. Closer inspection revealed it to be Lee. His Rockport boots were sticking out one end and his gelled hair was stuck to the expensive fabric at the other. A small trickle of saliva ran from the corner of his mouth. Occasionally he emitted a faint groaning noise and writhed around like a snake trying to shed its skin.
At least he's still alive I thought, with decidedly mixed feelings.
I tiptoed out of the room. I don't know why I tiptoed. Madonna was yelling Papa Don't Preach from the television and Lee was still sleeping like a baby.
I decided to have some cornflakes but they were the ones that Carlo dried in the microwave after his water fight and it was like eating titanium-coated popcorn. When I put the milk back in the fridge I noticed a tiny and unfamiliar bottle labelled Liquid Gold. I unscrewed the cap and took a deep sniff. The kitchen began to revolve and I clung to the fridge door, almost pulling the fridge over on top of me. Then I was sick in the sink.
Then, with mounting panic, I thought: if Lee is in the drawing room, where is Carlo? I remembered one of the T shirt-clad teenage Amazons in the nightclub queue saying "the young one's dead cute". More worryingly, a youth with a ring through his eyebrow had spat at me as I walked away. Well, not at me exactly. It was precision expectoration that accurately landed a deposit of froth about two feet from my Oxford brogues. Had Carlo fallen into the clutches of one of those hormone-crazed harridans? Or had he been beaten senseless by lager-frenzied louts? I ran up the stairs two at a time shouting "Carlo!".
I found him lying on top of his bed, still fully clothed. There was a deep red stain on his white T shirt, just above his left nipple. I sat on the bed and gingerly put my hand on his chest. He was still breathing and when I pulled my hand away it was covered in chilli sauce.
Still trembling slightly, I returned to the kitchen and made a pot of strong coffee. I took a cup of coffee into the drawing room where Lee was now sitting up, having rolled my Persian rug into a support for his back. He took the cup of coffee silently as though he were accustomed to being given a cup of the best quality Breakfast Blend filter coffee after spending the night uninvited in someone's house.
I switched channels to Sky News. Lee was about to protest but then remembered he was an uninvited guest and instead produced a packet of cigarettes.
"Smoke?" he said.
I declined.
Then he took a book of matches from his pocket. On the cover was a logo.
It was a pink elephant.
I sat and stared at him.
"What?" he said.
"Nothing", I said.

After the break: the vicar upsets me at the Skidmores' Christmas party


At 6:59 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Write to the beeb suggesting you give the 'thought for the day' on that very topic, ie the end of the sanctimonious, holier than thou pile of shite. Once upon a time I looked forward to the rational 21st century. Seems I'd forgotten the power of millennial resurgences in religious twaddle.

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

All attempts to get the BBC to open up Thought For The Day to non-believers have failed. I don't mind TFTD existing. It just shouldn't be in the middle of a news programme. Why isn't there one in Newsnight or the Ten O'Clock News?
I think we all incline to the Whig interpretation of history, a continuum of progress, whereas the same battles have to be constantly re-fought. And perhaps the resurgence of medieval mumbo-jumbo proves that history repeats itself as farce.


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