Missing the point on booze marketing, again

So there’s yet another alcohol-bashing study out. This one says [*] that sports stars’ drunk behaviour has no impact on young adults’ drinking behaviour (that’s ‘over 18s’, or ‘legally responsible adults’), but that alcohol marketing does.

This isn’t surprising. Of course alcohol marketing makes people drink more of the brand being marketed, otherwise people wouldn’t do it. But we need people to research things that seem obvious from time to time, because sometimes we find out that what we think we know is wrong. So, decent study, worth funding, all good.


“There’s always been a link made between alcohol and sport… the detrimental effects of that, in the same way as there was previously between cigarettes and sport,” Professor Kolt said.

Err, no. The difference is that smoking, full stop, is harmful. Alcohol consumption below 30 units (300ml of alcohol; 15 pints of bitter) a week has not been demonstrated to do harm, even compared to not drinking at all, and you need to get up to 50+ units before the risks of morbidity or mortality are substantially higher than for non-drinkers.

Unless the study shows that the impact of alcohol marketing is to encourage people aged 18-22 to drink more than 30 units a week, then it’s only of interest to alcohol marketers, and not to policymakers. And if they had found that, they’d most certainly have put it in the press release…

The problem with this kind of alcohol research (i.e. social science on consumption behaviour, rather than epidemiological science on health outcomes) is that nearly all the work commissioned and published by public bodies is carried out by miserable puritans who hate the concept of anyone ever having any kind of fun. This is because researchers who don’t hate the concept of anyone ever having any kind of fun work for drinks companies instead: they pay better, you get a free bar after work, and you don’t have to hang out with people from the first group.

But drinks companies tend to keep their studies private, because they don’t want their rivals to see them…

Therefore, the general pattern in the public arena is that some people will create a report which actually shows mildly interesting things about how people like to consume alcohol – but because of the prejudices of the people who’re writing it, the abstract and the PR make groundless accusations about negative impacts on disorder and health. And then the media reports the groundless accusations as “a study has concluded that”, and the public debate is ratcheted slightly further towards miserable puritanism.

[*] I have no idea what the study says. The above is what the press release says; the press release features quotes from and has been approved by the study’s main authors, and is what will shape the public debate.

Back with a vengeance

Good news, everybody. I’m online, with a real Internet connection and not a telephone, which has been my sole means of Twitter and email for the last week aside from taking my laptop to cafés and pubs [*]. Thanks, Telstra and iiNet, for only taking a month to sort it out.

I’ve also begun writing a report on an exciting (for people who like boring things) topic which requires copious quantities of online research, so I’m expecting to be spending more time both working, and engaging in social media [**]. My liver is particularly delighted at this news.

While I’ve been offline, I’ve missed the emergence of the Lib Dems as a serious political force, the Tory press getting so riled by said emergence that they’ve pulled out the kind of hate campaign normally reserved for children who’ve done something bad, and – most excitingly – the potential collapse of Rupert Murdoch’s influence over UK politics. Meanwhile over here, Murdoch’s rugby club has just collapsed amid a cheating scandal; I wouldn’t want to be the old man’s PA today…

Back on the Liberals, my favourite backlash piece is from the US’s so-far-right-it’s-almost-fallen-off-the-stage National Review. It lists “Five Reasons Why American Conservatives Need To Worry About Nick Clegg”:

1) Clegg’s outlook is anti-American.
2) Clegg is not an Atlanticist.
3) Clegg does not believe in a nuclear deterrent.
4) Clegg is a fervent supranationalist.
5) Clegg harbors strong anti-Israeli views.

Now, bearing in mind that NRO is trying to smear Clegg by putting the worst possible slant on everything he’s ever said, don’t most of these still sound like points that would be good things in a UK leader? (well, 2-5 at least. Not so much 1, which NRO made up because they don’t understand the difference between not always mindlessly backing the US and being anti-American.)

We’ll stop blindly following US foreign policy; we’ll stop wasting billions on something that is of absolutely no possible military benefit to the UK under any circumstances; we’ll work more closely with foreigners; and we’ll stop backing a murderous apartheid regime. I reckon the majority of Brits of all political hues would sign up for 2, 3 and 5. Not so much 4, but that primarily reflects the odd lies that most people now believe about the EU. Indeed, it’d be interesting to write a post from an Old Tory perspective emphasising how Clegg’s approach fits with their preferred way of doing things (you’d need to gloss over Europe quite heavily, of course).

Interesting times. I’m almost sad to be out of the UK for this election, which definitely isn’t something I’d have expected around January time…

[*] which it’s enjoyed, I think, although it hasn’t touched the beers I bought it, and still doesn’t show any signs of wanting to sleep with me.

[**] It’s an irregular verb: “he pisses about on the Internet; you’re a blogger; I engage in social media.”

Local media medium scepticism fail

From this week’s Popbitch:

“About your item last week on John Lennon’s psychic mate, Joe Power, I interviewed Joe about four years ago for a London newspaper. We were doing a ‘walkabout’ at West India Quay and he was introducing me to the various spirits that popped up along the way. I had a photographer due to meet us there, but he was running late. I hadn’t told Joe we were expecting anyone else, when all of a sudden he stopped and said, ‘Who else is supposed to be here? I’m seeing a man and it looks like his fingers are chopped off’. A few minutes later, the photographer turned up – wearing fingerless gloves.”

What happens when a local paper interviews someone to run a profile? Either they send a reporter and a photographer, or they send a reporter with some photography skills and a camera. If you’re a semi-famous mate-of-a-celebrity, you’ll know this.

What do people who need to do delicate tasks with their hands in the outdoors wear when it’s cold? Fingerless gloves. If you’ve ever been anywhere cold, you’ll know this.

So, what would be a good way to spook and convince a reporter who turns up for your outdoor, wintery profile interview without either a camera or a photographer…? Hmm, yes.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-04-18

  • RT @HowardLovecraft There is a gnawing in my abdomen which at first I mistook for festering hunger. That is, until discoloration appeared. #
  • Oddly, Communist Party enter #ge2010 with sensible economic manifesto: http://bit.ly/boElfb – wealth taxes are the best taxes #
  • Another day, another #ebz refill http://fallenlondon.com/c/50394 #
  • hates: a) iinet b) TP-Link c) Vodafone d) himself, for buying a naked broadband connection and a cheap router off ebay #
  • I have five devices allegedly capable of picking up broadband of some description. And no broadband. Yay technology. #
  • That's two DSL routers, two 3G modems, and a 3G phone with modem capabilities, in case you were wondering #
  • I can make one of the 3G modems provide fairly decent broadband by taking it out to the pub. Like master like servant, I guess. #
  • Darling Harbour at sunset is pretty. Why are we so attracted to large bodies of water? #
  • Dear Iceland. Thanks and all that, but we actually said we wanted your *cash*. Ta, The British People #
  • Met the excellent @ChrissieM yesterday, after 10 years of internetty acquaintance. Top Quality, Would Recommend, etc. #
  • More crowdsourcing: anyone know a good RSS reader for #nokia #n97? Or a VHP reader would probably do. #badIndianfarrightpoliticspuns #
  • This is a glorious language rant; I agree with every word: http://bit.ly/brnhZc #
  • For once the Internet's working, so a quick #ebz sesh is in order… http://fallenlondon.com/c/52856 #
  • is off to the pub. To drink beer. With a Welshman. And probably some New South Welshmen too. #
  • That was meant as a FB update, but it can stay. In other news, I'm slightly too stupid for multiplatform messaging software… #
  • Over 60% of Brits say they'll vote for centre-left parties, and the next government will probably still be Tory? That's the real fail… #
  • …petty fights over *which* centre-left party will get the most seats are irrelevant by comparison. #
  • Pleased the RMT got stuffed. Unlike Unite/BA, the dispute is *entirely* the RMT making shit up, and Network Rail *entirely* in the right #
  • If any of the parties were to promise an Act of Attainder under which Bob Crow would be hanged, drawn and quartered, I'd vote for them. #
  • RT @cearta: Charleton J: internet is populated by fraudsters, pornographers and cranks. Me: so is Ulysses but we don't ban that any more #
  • Another year with no Orwell award nomination. Fuck, how many elephants do I have to shoot? #
  • I thought that might happen. #
  • #ebz or pub? Still rather hungover… http://fallenlondon.com/c/53572 #
  • Irritatingly, I think my elephant comment was the wittiest thing I'm ever going to say. And it was wasted. Luckily, so am I. #
  • If I was the completely chilled person I want to be perceived as, I'd make a certain phone call right now. But I'm not, so I can't. #
  • is stone cold sober and looking for bottles of love. This is lies; I'm actually plastered. But I like Del Amitri #guiltypleasures #

Powered by Twitter Tools.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-04-11

  • Vodafone Australia must die. GARR. Useless eejits. Who builds an epayment site that rejects domestic debit cards *and* foreign credit cards? #
  • Looking 4ward to Times going paywall: website badly coded w/plain text pages 1MB & breaks mobiles. Nasty Twitter surprises will diminish… #
  • Tookey's review of Kick-Ass daft for obvious reason: 0% overlap between geek kids who'll watch movie & chav kids who do knife-crime… #
  • Loving the original #Airport movie. Especially the world's silliest British accent on the BOAC pilot… #
  • Old lady fairdodger in original #airport movie is quality. #
  • My god! It's a white chap with a bomb! #originalairportmovie #
  • Twitter keeps failing. #originalairportmovie impressive in setup – it's been on an hour and *all* just buildup… #
  • Blimey, she's not a BOAC stewardess, she works for Unbranded Gonna Crash Yank Airline. Why would a pretty English girl do such a thing? #
  • Plane looks cgi, but I think that's just because a 4-engine narrowbody is crazy-retro #originalairportmovie #geekery #
  • Haha, reminded that US airlines charge for booze #originalairportmovie #unspeakablebastards #
  • So the white guy with a bomb is Italian. Oooh, those crazy Italian terrorists. #originalairportmovie #
  • Descend to 10,000ft you fools #originalairportmovie #
  • Italian suicide bomber has exploded. Plane descending to 10,000ft #wellduh #originalairportmovie #
  • Nun drinking whiskey just won a million points. #originalairportmovie #clichetastic #
  • One of the many cheesy subplots of this movie is the screwing-over of NIMBYs and BANANAs. I endorse this subplot #originalairportmovie. #
  • Enjoying the hardcore Boeing product placement (in days when MDD and Lockheed made pax planes) #originalairportmovie #
  • "an escaped convict who lived in 2 worlds", says ABC trailer. Err, isn't that the whole populace? #
  • #ebz The Starveling Cat! The Starveling Cat! Sits on your chest when you're sleeping flat! http://fallenlondon.com/c/47018 #
  • Easter was a big weekend. I'm now trying to work, but mostly failing. Tomorrow I hope to not feel like death. #
  • Theresa Villiers is an idiot – this is precisely the situation where gov't paying lawyers and accountants is needed: http://bit.ly/9enQL5 #
  • Enquiry showed DfT's starting premise was wrong. That made it worthwhile. By TV's logic, any experiment that refutes hypothesis is a failure #
  • WIN: "if a film's going to turn us into paedos, it’s no bad thing if it also encourages young ladies to carry knives" http://bit.ly/aJvq6M #
  • Amusing RATM-style #Save6Music stunt, with side benefit of promoting the excellent HMHB: http://www.joydivisionovengloves.com/ #
  • Yes: RT @mrpower 1997 was one of those times when change was necessary. I was hopeful. It didn't last long. Eventually found Blair loathsome #
  • Great stuff from Merrick on the criminalisation of young people solely for being young: http://bit.ly/bnJb4m #
  • I've just signed up to have someone apply a metal grater to the surface of my eyes. Insert S&M jokes here. #
  • Study finds that badly educated people like moronic comedians & well-educated people like clever comedians. Shock! http://bit.ly/cB0xRd #
  • #ebz is a welcome distraction from #ge2010 fever http://fallenlondon.com/c/47565 #
  • Obvious but needs reiterating -> "Cameron’s message is clear. And it isn’t change" http://bit.ly/9mD7o8 #
  • I know BNP-ist Nick Eriksen's pro-rape comments are horrible, but HELLO, HE'S A FUCKING NAZI. "Nazi in 'is vile'" shock… #
  • Not fond of Boris, but whoever's brought a complaint re his Brent Cross speech is a git and deserves to lose. #
  • …both as Boris elected and correct avenue for complaint is next election (as for Ken), and as slating Nimbys and Bananas is to be praised. #
  • "I meant to say, it was aces" RT @tonytrainor VA governor apologizes for leaving slavery out of Confederate History Month http://goo.gl/t07X #
  • Excellent. Not only are #Tories fighting #ge10 on a manifesto of hating gays, they also hate women: http://bit.ly/9tOcxN #
  • This is why anyone left-liberal who lives in a Lab/Con marginal is morally obliged to vote Labour. They are different, and Tories much worse #
  • Good point -> RT @mudlarklives: Cameron obv getting advice from Yank advisers. Bad enough to support their wars, now their bigotry too. #
  • "Fuel poverty" nonsense on the news. I don't believe in fuel poverty in the UK, never mind in a state where it *doesn't get cold*… #
  • Anyone else think Labour have seriously ballsed up Tory-shafting potential re ID cards, if cost of cancelling is only gbp40m? #
  • The only reason not to commit more cash upfront is that the next Labour gov't planned to abolish them anyway. Which is reassuring. #
  • Hmm. Stuart Rose criticises Brown for suggesting Tories misled him; Terry Leahy supports govt. Now compare M&S performance with Tesco… #
  • Unforgivable Brit-bashing bullshit from @TIME http://su.pr/23szAj – yet another reason to stay home next time the US launches a stupid war #
  • Slightly depressed about Innocent Drinks' sale to Coca-Cola. Not surprised, but slightly depressed nonetheless. #
  • #ff #followfriday @themanwhofell (like you don't already) @anattendantlord @Oedipus_Lex @alaindebotton (no, really) #
  • "Oooh, it's the money" analysis of #debill has one serious flaw: telcos (=ISPs) have *far* more cash than record/movie companies #
  • In particular, UK movies are paid for by the lottery. If from now nobody ever paid for a movie, it wouldn't impact UK film industry at all. #
  • Actually, that gives me an idea – gbp7 grant to cinemas to reimburse every entry to a UK film. That way, they might occasionally show one #
  • Note to online publishers: if you think your feature article needs to be spread over multiple web pages, IT'S TOO LONG! Also, it doesn't. #
  • is wondering whether Poland did anything to annoy Mr Putin recently… #
  • Linda Bowman is like NAMBLA: while she can't help her feelings, she should realise they're wrong rather than trying to change the law… #
  • Once again, best commentary on #ge2010 comes from a fictional character: http://bit.ly/9UYPJY #
  • It's a Sunday morning, so of course I'm on #ebz http://fallenlondon.com/c/49775 #
  • Right-wing-pseudo-victimhood item number 23,335: despite the fact that we live in a culture which is filthily barbaric to criminals and… #
  • …fetishises crime victims and their relatives to a frankly surreal degree, pretending that it's the opposite (w.r.t http://bit.ly/cNMEGc ) #
  • Does anyone else get annoyed at the bit in Shaun of the Dead where Shaun's being a tit about despatching his zombie ma, and the Irish guy… #
  • …who's otherwise a wanker is being entirely sensible and right, and everyone sides with Shaun and drives the Irish guy to his death? #
  • Possibly this is another sign of my inability to deal with the 'fact' that bereaved people are allowed to act like twats with no comeback. #
  • FACT: @daveweeden's cat (and Twitter avatar) is really quite exceptionally cute. #

Powered by Twitter Tools.

Consequences, or their absence

I originally posted this in the comments at Crooked Timber as an aside, but thought it deserved elevation of sorts:

It’s worth remembering the very limited harm that was done by Tony Blair’s stupid and wrong decision to get involved in Iraq. The net result was that:

a) a lot of people internationally thought the British were slightly more wankerish than they previously thought us, at least until they forgot about it again.

b) the risk of Islamist terrorism against UK nationals rose from imperceptibly low to still imperceptibly low but slightly higher than before.

Also, some of the military casualties of the war became people with British passports instead of people with American passports, and some of the civilian casualties of the war were shot or bombed by people with British passports instead of people with American passports.

But as far as I can see, that doesn’t affect the total harm done, unless you think the British Army is appreciably worse than the US Army at minimising casualties (which doesn’t appear to be the case either from the casualty data or the anecdotal evidence that I’ve seen), or that American deaths are more acceptable than British ones.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-04-04

Powered by Twitter Tools.

The idle musings of John B