No overall theme this week, just a brief catalogue of recent bad ideas.
Bad Idea Number One: Rebuilding the Titanic. Given all the centenary overkill, it was probably inevitable. Australian billionaire Clive Palmer has arranged with a state-owned Chinese shipyard to hammer together a sequel to the doomed pleasure craft. The mining magnate insists that the design will be faithful to the Dublin-built original, yet will have enough high-tech gewgaws to ensure its safety. “Of course it will sink if you put a hole in it,” Palmer helpfully added.
Marketers will have the thorny problem of addressing superstitious fears of potential passengers. Do you advertise the new ship as “unsinkable,” the adjective affixed to the first Titanic? Or would that just be tempting fate to a game of roulette in the ship’s ornate ballroom? In any case, there’s no word if Palmer has any other retro travel concepts up his sleeve-like say, partnering with George Lucas for a space hotel in the form of Darth Vader’s Death Star.
Bad Idea Number Two: Journalistically Jumping the Gun on Election Results, and Making Your Political Bias a Bit Too Transparent. Pundit Andrew Coyne got a bit excited last week in the Ottawa Citizen online. “Unless something astonishing happens, the Wildrose Party will form the next Government of Alberta: all that remained at time of writing was to discover whether it would be a minority or majority,” he wrote. Coyne was likely following the misleading polls rather than talking to actual Albertans, and after the Progressive Conservatives embarrassing win (with a majority, no less), his premature exclamation was quickly wiped from computer screens. Of course, nothing ever disappears on the Internet. The web-cached report reads like a scented letter to Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, praising her “gumption,” “sang-froid” and “fully-worked out philosophy of government.” This wasn’t so much reporting as toadying: a croaking audition for a kiss from the uncrowned Queen of Prairie extremists and her Koch Brothers-backed court.
Bad Idea Number Three: Fuelling Rumour by Depriving People of Information. You’ve likely followed the claims and counterclaims in this paper about Chinese foreign investment driving up local real estate prices into the stratosphere. Fellow Courier columnist Allen Garr dismisses the claims as anecdotal, although they can’t be otherwise in the absence of reliable statistics on the national origin of local property owners. Rumours-reliable or otherwise -breed in a vacuum of information. That’s all I have to say about this jagged can of worms, other than to add that this point goes triple for the federal government. Harper’s crackdown on Environment Canada scientists, among his other recent crusades against raw data (like the long form census), isn’t about cultivating public awareness; it’s about throwing Miracle-Gro on grassroots ignorance. Even the Globe and Mail has recently taken to comparing our dear leader’s democratic blackout to the Russian politburo at its height. Oh well. With unpleasant facts out of the way, a least Andrew Coyne will get to play whack-a-mole with the snooze button, and post corporate puff pieces and propaganda on a flexible schedule.
Bad Idea Number Four: Google Augmented Reality Glasses. As the information spigot is being turned off in one direction, making governments and corporations increasingly unaccountable, it’s being opened wide from the top down, powerwashing the consumer brainpan. An overhyped Google’s concept video promises that some day vapourware will meet with optics, swarming the consumer’s field of vision with avatars, tweets and instant messages. Dramatist Max Frisch once described technology as “the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it,” and in that respect Google’s embryonic brainchild sounds like a great way for the urban pedestrian to end up as a smudge on a Ford Escalade.
Bad Idea Number Five: Putting Missile Batteries on Top of Residential Buildings. According to a Reuters story, the British military is planning to put missile batteries on top of apartment blocks in London prior to this summer’s Olympic Games-to defend the public against aerial terror attacks, natch. Once again, nebulous nightmares from above are being used to ratchet up public anxiety and justify raids on the public purse. The Olympics has long been a moveable feast for infrastructure privateers; now the global defence establishment has joined the party.
The Vancouver Courier, May 3