Boaty McBoatface: an update

If you live in Britain, you probably already know that the will of the people–or, more accurately, the will of 124,000 people, because there’s no such thing as a unanimous people, is there?–has been trampled by the boot of humorless bureaucracy.

And who said journalistic objectivity was dead? That opening was a model of objectivity.

If you want the back story–all in the finest tradition of balanced journalism, of course–you’ll find it here.

The new research ship will not be called the RRS Boaty McBoatface but the RRS David Attenborough. Or–no insult to Mr. Attenborough, who I like as well as I like any other TV presenter–the RRS Snore. In an effort to placate the baying public (or to faintly indicate the ability to detect a joke when in proximity to what seems to be one), one of its remotely operated subs will be called Boaty. Never mind that a sub isn’t actually a boat. Neither is a ship. Or that the public isn’t actually baying.

As long as I’m arguing for my own objectivity, let me interrupt myself to say here and now that I don’t much care what they name the ship, I just like the silliness of it all.

Someone’s already started a petition to rename the ship. When I checked it had 297 signatures. So not a mass movement at the moment, but it’s still worth a newspaper article or two.

But we’re not out of absurdity yet, because a parliamentary committee is getting ready to hear evidence from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which was behind the vote it so spectacularly lost control of. I gather it’ll be asked whether the public engagement was a triumph or a PR disaster.

Isn’t it interesting that they can’t tell the difference? And that of all the problems in this battered world, this is worth their time?

I can’t end without mentioning that NERC isn’t to blame for not choosing the run-away favorite name. That was the science minister, Jo Johnson, who seems to be invisible to parliamentary committees–a spell Harry Potter would envy if he’d chosen a career in politics. NERC’s crime was to turn public opinion loose in an uncontrolled form. I hope they don’t lose their funding for it.