Monday, January 25, 2010

Appleyard versus Portillo 2

Not really a successful discussion programme: too short, too many guests and too broad and therefore shallow. You can watch it on iPlayer here. I’m spoiled now by (good) blogs as far as debating goes, I think. Dinner with Portillo is probably the best that telly can do.

But it was quite rib-tickling from the point of view of a Thought Experiments reader with experience of the Way of the Yard. Bryan made about four utterances each of which fell stillborn into baffled silence. The other guests plus Portillo appeared to be suspicious of him; and rightly so since the Yard was starting from a position in which he took it as read that describing science as ‘amoral’ is meaningless because apart from a very narrow series of actions, eg. in the lab or at the computer, everything about any kind of science – from the rationale for the research and the justification for the funding through to the use of the results – is moral. Therefore all the obvious rhetorical points which you might expect to hear in a sixth-form debate about science and morality can be skipped. The rest of the guests listened to him, nodded warily and proceeded to make all the obvious rhetorical points which you might expect to hear in a sixth-form debate about science and morality. The Yard looked tired and picked the carbs out of his dinner.


malty said...

The dinner appeared to be dominated more by volume than content, the end result of virtually all television discussions, you're right about the wariness, as ever the result of a good 'fool that I am for asking' dropped into a debate, the penny having dropped, the defence mechanism comes out, if you don't get it, ignore it. In any case the science debate has been talked off the planet, boring.

I have rather a jaundiced view of Portillo, a friend who ran a large manufacturing plant and who's gaffer was a mate of John and Norma was allocated the task of babysitting MP after he opened a new extension, the gaffer was a largish Tory party bunger so I guess Major had said to minor 'lad, get yourself up there and open my pals new toy'
After the glamour, tape cutting bit, the gaffer cleared off and left poor Edgar in charge, three hours of conducted tour plus free booze and sarnies. Portillo, huffed, totally ignored everything that was said to him, spent the time preening and posing for the camera, not unusual for his profession I know but unpleasant at a personal level.
Shortly after this his constituents gave their opinion of him.

Gaw said...

A couple of the participants seemed to be looking to science for some sort of moral guidance or code. It seems to me you'd just as well go looking for such a thing in rugby football or chartered accountancy or cinematography. That is, it's there but only because it's everywhere and expressed through different human practices, all with their different objectives.

The programme itself was another demonstration of how TV has become hopeless at this sort of discussion. Producers are obsessed with continuous visual stimulation of the viewer as a way to avoid 'boredom'.

So in this programme you had too many people doing too many distracting things, the arguments being all but lost. Best just to stick a camera in the In Our Time or Start the Week studios.

monix said...

It might have worked better on radio, perhaps with Melvyn Bragg in the chair.

Brit said...

Agreed, Gaw and Monix. In Our Time is probably the show which least assumes its audience is comprised of idiots, but its often deadly dull. Start the Week I like but again can be rushed. Both much better than the Portillo format, which has at least 3 guests too many.

Malty - yes, I'm judging Portillo as a telly pundit rather than a politician. Some preening is expected from both but is much less tolerable in MPs.

Willard said...

Sums up my reaction to the programme. Plus that funny looking woman looked and sounded drunk.