In the age of global terrorism, the need to increase security to protect our freedom is something most of us accept without a second thought. “If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to worry about” is the mantra repeated whenever concerns are raised about any loss of civil liberties accompanying increased surveillance – succeeding not only in dismissing those concerns but also implying that anyone who IS concerned MUST have something to hide.
So what Benjamin Franklin had to say on the subject seems to make about as much sense as saying that those who are willing to trade money for something they want deserves neither and will lose both. Everything comes at a cost, and loss of liberty is the cost of safety. Everybody understands that.
But what DOES make sense are the constant threats to our safety and well-being that we hear about on the news everyday. Every kind of ill, from terrorism to carbon emissions, from measles to AIDS. All are kinds of illness. All put is ill-at-ease. All are kinds of dis-eases to which we are continually trying to find a remedy or cure.
I’ve just been watching the excellent new BBC/Open University movie, The Challenger, starring William Hurt, telling the story of how Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman uncovered the truth behind the 1986 space shuttle disaster.
As a former physicist with a passion for science stretching back as far as I can remember, I’m getting increasingly concerned about the way the the meaning of the word “evidence” has been subtly changing over the last 40 odd years, to the point where it now means the opposite of what it originally meant.
Language is, of course, constantly evolving. There are many words which now mean something very different to what they originally meant. For most of human history that’s been a natural, organic process. But ever since Edward Bernays combined the science of crowd psychology with the psychoanalysis of his uncle, Sigmund Freud nearly a hundred years ago now to create the ‘science’ of Propaganda’, the practical applications of Public Relations, Messaging and Language Management have been going from strength to strength.
This year marks a decade since a committee under Professor (now Sir) Michael Swann advised the British government to curb the then wholesale, indiscriminate use of antibiotics in agriculture.
This committee was established because of amply evidenced claims that the inclusion of potent antimicrobial drugs in feedstuffs for pigs, poultry and other livestock (to promote growth and prevent disease) had encouraged the emergence of bacteria resistant to those agents and capable of causing human gastrointestinal disease.
DAVID LEE, the NFU assistant press officer at Agriculture House, Knightsbridge, was giving the new issue of Radio Times a quick once-over on the afternoon of April 26. Looking across at Roger Turff, the press officer, he said: ‘I’m about to spoil your day’.
Radio Times and the Brass Tacks programme on BBC 2 was to spoil quite a number of days for both NFU members and staff; between them they also involved other specialised divisions of the Union, farmers all over the country, and almost every other organisation connected with Britain’s meat industry.
THE BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation has flipped its lid. After weeks of scrupulous impartiality throughout the general election campaign – extending to even fiction programmes – it has seemingly sought to let off steam through the medium of a new programme called Brass Tacks.
This programme – billed in the Radio Times as ‘a new concept in broadcasting – is an insult to the public intelligence and professional journalism. If the hitherto much-respected BBC has any sensitivity left it will review the senior staff appointments on Brass Tacks.
AN INTERNAL Ministry of Agriculture survey of practices of calf dealers and fatteners has raised new official fears about drug abuse on British farms. The survey, which was instigated last year as part of the last Government’s policy of tightening up on animal welfare, turned its attention to the use of drugs almost as an afterthought.
But preliminary results have now revealed what Ministry vets call ‘worrying’ levels of apparent drug abuse on the farms involved. In particular, the survey has revealed wide and sometimes almost routine use of restricted antibiotics on many farms.
It seems to confirm the worries expressed in the recent BBC TV programme Brass Tacks about the use of one of the products – chloramphenicol, which is the most effective antibiotic against most types of salmonella including the common cattle infection Salmonella typhimurium.
More than 20 veterinary surgeons took part in radio ‘phone-in programmes throughout the country after the screening of BBC’s controversial programme Brass Tacks on May 8. The programme looked at modern intensive methods of animal production and the potential risk to public health.
The programme asked whether it was time to tighten the rules on use of antibiotics even more than the regulations made following the Swann report 10 years ago which had shown that drugs were being misused by some sections of the industry. It asked, too, whether farming should take a different direction and move towards “organic” methods, which were less reliant on the routine use of drugs and chemicals.
There is always a danger in producing what is considered to be “good television”, particularly on a scientific subject, that some of the more mundane yet pertinent facts will be ignored. That was the case in the BBC2 programme Brass Tacks, broadcast on May 8.
The programme looked at modern methods of intensive animal husbandry and the potential risk to the public health from antibiotics and other medicinal substances (see below). But as was inevitable given the type of presentation, a number of issues were raised that were not satisfactorily answered.
It Shouldn’t Happen to a Pig, BBC 2 Poultry World, 17 May 1979
VIEWERS must have been left confused after last week’s BBC television programme on drugs in animal husbandry and organic versus intensive farming.
The experts, aided by filmed shots of processing plants and abattoirs, told them that poultry was involved in 6,000 of the 11,000 cases of notified food poisoning in a year. Salmonella and the use of drugs was put over as a health risk in the film and pre-publicity that has brought industry protests of bias.
Brass Tacks has returned with an interesting innovation in public access which combines national television and local radio, but offers as raw material only the same irresponsibly sensational nonsense which we grew to distrust in its previous series.
The BBC should be thoroughly ashamed of the journalism on this programme, and we shall have to keep a very close eye on it.