No solar

Much hilarity around the internet this morning as self-appointed God and champignon of free speech (except when it offends him) Stephen Fry shared this little gem about a North Carolina town rejecting solar power after Ms Mann, a retired science teacher nogal, told a public meeting that:

plants near solar farms do not thrive because there wasn’t enough sunshine left over for them to photosynthesise.

Worst Mannsplaining ever.
Her husband (qualifications unknown) added:

solar panels suck up all the energy from the sun.

And, in all honesty, you’d actually be hard pressed to disagree with that.

But these aren’t good reasons to reject solar power. No. Good reasons to reject solar power are its massive inefficiency, the fact that it only works during the day and actually takes power from the grid the rest of the time (many learned folks refer to this as “night”), and its “hidden” environmental costs: the land use and habitat loss on their installation, and the massive water use and the nasty chemicals that go into making the photovoltaic cells.

When Ms Mann also questioned the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying “no one could tell her that solar panels didn’t cause cancer”, she was only half wrong. Chemicals like arsenic, cadmium telluride, hexafluoroethane, lead, and polyvinyl fluoride aren’t exactly the healthiest things to be using in any manufacturing process. Of course, the half wrong bit is that the solar panels don’t cause cancer where they are installed – that’s all left over in the third world country that’s producing them.

So that’s alright then, isn’t it?

Next week – the conveniently overlooked problems of wind power, including the killing of bats and birds, the 40-storey eyesores being erected all over our beautiful countryside and the fact that it is destroying the local yachting industry by using up all the breeze.

Trevor Noah on QI

A nice preview of SA comedian Trevor Noah on popular BBC programme, QI:

It’s an admittedly small sample (n=4), but the scientist in me noted that homosexual individuals seem rather susceptible to isiXhosa click singing. I’m not homosexual, nor am I particularly good at click singing, but this fact may be of interest should you be “on the pull” for a same sex partner at some pub or club this evening.

It’s good to see a bit of SA culture (yes, I’m aware that it’s Trevor Noah and I’m stretching it a bit here, but…) on entertaining, quality, prime-time UK TV.

Fry Cocks up again

With at least eleven people including a police officer currently missing and livelihoods, houses and belongings lost in the floods in Cumbria, Stephen Fry feels that it’s a good time to make a cheap and smutty gag about the worst hit area:


I’m sure this will be lauded by his legion of 1,000,000+ automatons followers as hugely amusing, but I can’t help but feel it’s insensitively-timed, amazingly juvenile and done in rather poor taste.
But then, he does have a bit of history in that regard:

Words tumbled from my lips during that interview that were as idiotic, ignorant and offensive as you could imagine. It had all been proceeding along perfectly acceptable lines until I said something like “let’s not forget which side of the border Auschwitz was on.”

You can really go off some people.

“OMG! That’s disgusting!” Twitter and Stephen Fry’s ‘free speech’ hypocrisy

Compare and contrast:

Tuesday last week:
The Trafiguragate scandal, whereby the multinational company, through solicitors Carter-Ruck, succeeded in blocking The Guardian newspaper from reporting on parliamentary goings-on, only to be forced into retreat when thousands of Twitter users (including Stephen Fry) got hold of the story and blew it wide open – effectively negating the gagging order and forcing Carter-Ruck to drop it.

A true victory for free speech.

Friday last week:
Jan Moir shares her views on Stephen Gately’s death in the Daily Mail. Cue widespread outrage on Twitter, a record number of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission (encouraged by Stephen Fry) and even one to the police, forcing Jan Moir into publishing a clarification of her remarks.

A true victory for free speech?

Of course, as many will no doubt tell me very shortly after I hit the PUBLISH button, these stories are completely different. After all, The Guardian was right for wanting to publish that and the Daily Mail was wrong for publishing the other. Right?

Well – who decides? Stephen Fry and his happy band of sycophants had quite a big say in both these issues and as he comments:

Maybe the two twitterstorms of last week point to a new kind of democracy. L’Affaire Moir followed hard on the heels of a quite horrific attempt to muzzle the press by the lawyers Carter-Ruck. In the name of sub judice this notorious law firm slapped a ‘superinjunction’ on The Guardian newspaper forbidding them to mention the name of an MP or the question he had tabled in Parliament on the Trafigura toxic waste dumping scandal. Six hours of TwitterIndignation later, during which time every censored detail was made freely available for all to see, and the injunction was, force majeure, lifted. The internet had hobbled it fatally and it was led limping back to its stall, to the jeers and cheers of the public.

 And I think that we all agree that he’s right, but then goes onto say:

Well, I contend that I do not wield influence. I contend that Twitter users are not sheep but living, dreaming, thinking, hoping human beings with minds, opinions and aspirations of their own. Of the 860,000 or so who follow me the overwhelming majority are too self-respecting, independent-minded and free-thinking to have their opinions formed or minds made up for them in any sphere, least of all Twitter.

Which is utter bullshit. When you have 860,000 people hanging on your every tweet, searching for the “correct”, “trendy” or “socially acceptable” response to any given topic, you wield huge influence and, what’s more, he knows it.
No, not all of his followers are sheep, but let’s face it, to get a record 21,000 letters to the PCC, you only need 2% of them to blindly follow you, the other 98% can stand idly by and graze. 

So it’s the best of both worlds for Mr Fry: he can honestly and truthfully state that “the overwhelming majority” of his followers can think for themselves, while the small minority get on with spreading his gospel on whichever side of whichever subject he has chosen.

I’m not necessarily saying that he was incorrect in his choice of sides on these two affairs, merely that one shouldn’t automatically believe everything that influential people tell you.

Even Stephen Fry. Or maybe even Especially Stephen Fry
Thou shalt think. For. Yourselves.

Jan Moir on Stephen Gately – nearly right


As a Brit why haven’t you written a post today about this Stephen Gately Death Column by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail and all the scandal it’s causing?

Well, OK… Jan Moir’s piece in the Daily Mail about the recent demise of Boyzone’s Stephen Gately was originally titled:

Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death

but has been recently and quietly retitled:

A strange, lonely and troubling death . . .

This sudden change of title may be in order to avoid the wrath of the Press Complaints Commission, whose website crashed, allegedly under the number of complaints she invoked, many of them encouraged by Stephen Fry on twitter (and here).

But those histrionics, aside…

I actually agreed with most of what Moir said.
It was just that her fundamentals were a little skew.

Gately died an unnatural death because he was “a gay celebrity”, not because he was “a gay”.

See MJ, see Keith Ledger, see… the rest of them.

EDIT: Even following the list of comments below, this is taking things too far.