A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Tinkerbell vote.....

Yesterday, David Cameron, the new, fresh-faced leader - the Peter Pan - of the Conservative Party was asking us: "Do you believe in fairies?" He.....
"..... flung out his arms. There were no children there, and it was night time; but he addressed all who might be dreaming of the Neverland, and who were therefore nearer to him than you think: boys and girls in their nighties, and naked papooses in their baskets hung from trees.

'Do you believe?' he cried. Tink sat up in bed almost briskly to listen to her fate. She fancied she heard answers in the affirmative, and then again she wasn't sure.

'What do you think?' she asked Peter. 'If you believe,' he shouted to them, 'clap your hands; don't let Tink die.'

Many clapped. Some didn't. A few beasts hissed.

The clapping stopped suddenly; as if countless mothers had rushed to their nurseries to see what on earth was happening; but already Tink was saved. First her voice grew strong, then she popped out of bed, then she was flashing through the room more merry and impudent than ever. She never thought of thanking those who believed, but she would have like to get at the ones who had hissed."

Unquestionably, Mr. Cameron is tapping into the touchy-feely 'Neverland' that is C21st Britain, and especially so among young women. As Martin Kettle points out in today's The Guardian (May 23), 'Cameron has the edge', Cameron is.....
"..... now seven points ahead of Labour among women voters and 10 ahead among women in a notional Brown-Cameron contest. Wellbeing may sound airy-fairy [my italic] stuff to many traditionalists - but it could be winning the next election for the Tories."

And, depressing though it is, Kettle has a point.

All you need to do to test this is to sit for an hour or so in one of our post-Borders' comfy bookshop armchairs by the PC-ly-labelled area: 'MIND-BODY-SPIRIT'.

Fairface FairyFirst, you will notice that the section on 'FAIRIES' is particularly large and that it outstrips the shelves on traditional theology and philosophy by bookmarks. Secondly, you will be amazed at the large number of well-dressed young women who flit gracefully to the 'FAIRY' shelves, where they can read about the history of fairies, fairies today, health-through-fairies, and spells of all kinds. The books are big and bright, like a fairy story before bedtime. The cloan ny moym, the an slua sidhe, the daoine sidhe, the tylwyth teg, not to mention solitary pixies, fly out of every page. Thirdly, observe with amazement the demure seriousness with which our 'yummy mummies' and Bridget Jones devour these votive volumes. "Do they believe in fairies?" "Of course they do!" All those post-Enlightenment tomes that talk earnestly about 'the belief in fairies' dying out in the 1800s, er, or the 1900s, er, or by the 1930s, lie dusty and unopened on forgotten stacks. It is the Enlightenment that has been abandoned, not fairy folk. A trip to one of our major shopping malls, like Bluewater, will confirm this bookshop tryst, the stores there teeming with kitsch figurines of the fairy host. And Fairyland, of course, haunts the web. [Above right: 'Take the Fair Face of Woman, and Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers, and Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy is Made of Most Beautiful Things' by Sophie Anderson (French, 1823-1903): public domain, from Wikipedia: 'Fairy']

Inevitably, some beasts have hissed at Cameron, like The Sun, but the Zeitgeist is with the fairies, and, one fears, with the Boy Cameron. How can that hobgoblin, that Captain Hook, Gordon Brown compete? The clock is ticking with Mr. Blair's crocodile tears.

For me, this is just part of the madness of Our Self-Indulgent Age, in which well-fed souls seek out any fairy story, from 'global warming' and 'organic food' to 'herbal healing' and charming figures with golden wings. Sadly, of course, it began with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and those delightful Cottingley Fairies, the daft old beggar. But there you have it. Humans find it hard to live with the fact that they are alone in the world as truly sentient beings.

Yet, for those of us who want to face up to the harsh realities of a real world - the heterotopias, not the utopias - this is a sad demise. And, of course, it isn't even true for 'Fairyland', where, traditionally, faeries were pesky, malicious creatures, curdling the milk and upsetting three-legged stools.

Now, Anne of Ingleside (why does she become so soppy?) would have adored all these fairy books and ornaments; not, however, her down-to-earth neighbour, Mrs. Mitchell:
"'A rowan tree? Whyn't you have it planted by the front door? It would keep the fairies out.'

'But who would want to keep the fairies out, Mrs. Mitchell?'

'..... I was only joking. O' course I don't believe in fairies . . . but if they did happen to exist I've heard they were pesky mischievous. Well, good-bye, Mrs. Blythe. I'll call round next week for the obitchery.'"

So, young Mr. Cameron is after Anne's - the Tinkerbell - vote.

We have indeed never been modern! Tattoos, body piercing, herbal remedies, trance dancing (aka, clubbing), windmills on the roof - and fairies. The Tory TINK TANK knows it. Shout loud enough, children, and Tink the Tory may revive.

And, like those Cottingley fairies, 'global warming' is the 'cut-out-science' of the Nursery - but folk just want to believe it. After all, we must have a climate fit for the fairies (who only eat organic), don't we?

"Who would want to keep the fairies out?"

Philip, the more we know about the complex workings of the world, the more we turn to fairy tales. Arthur Schopenhauer is alive and well, and surviving in 'Neverland'. "Oh! I do like a bit o' obitchery!" Rowan trees all round!

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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