After years of UK governments studiously ignoring every scientific report about drug policy, a home affairs select committee hearing, chaired by Keith Vaz, turned to the real expert: Amy Winehouse’s dad.
Marina Hyde has a very amusing take on it at the Guardian:
In light of this week’s efforts, Vaz can only be a hologram sent from the future specifically to plunge early 21st-century Britons into shame at the rancid state of their politics. OK, deeper shame.
On Tuesday, this mission took the form of inviting Amy Winehouse’s father to give evidence before his committee’s hearing into the cocaine trade â€“ about which Mr Winehouse immediately confirmed he knew nothing. A cabbie by profession, he appeared to have been elevated to the status of expert witness on the basis of his daughter’s heroin addiction, and his fronting of a forthcoming documentary.
This is how politicians work. Side-shows and distractions. And Marina notes how similar it is to the antics of U.S. politicians…
In the US this practice has long been out of hand. The rot began in 1985 when Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Sissy Spacek were called as expert witnesses before a congressional hearing entitled The Plight of the Family Farmer. They’d all played farm wives in movies, you see. Forced to pick the nadir of such “expert” appearances, I’d cite Elmo from Sesame Street appearing before a house committee on children’s education. According to one congressman: “Elmo, in many ways, speaks for children everywhere.” No. Elmo is made of fun-fur.
A fun piece that’s also sad in its truth.
The really sad part is that experimental psychology knows almost exactly what’s going on here. It’s such a shame that terms like “halo effect”, “availability bias” and (misplaced) “consistency” isn’t part of every single human being’s vocabulary.
Good books on the subject:
Robert B. Cialdini: “Influence: science and practice”
Stuart Sutherland: “Irrationality”
In the Middle Ages, during the Inquisition, farm animals were interrogated as to whether their masters were witches. Their reactions would determine if their owners would be executed. Needless to say, millions were…because some hen cackled or a dog barked.
Substituting ignorance for expertise, irrationality for rationality, cloud-cuckooland fantasy for logic, etc. has been a hallmark of drug prohibition from the beginning. This isn’t anything new…
Yeah, we’re so lucky, because today they’ve cut it down to one animal, the dog. Though, by all accounts our canine friend can and will put people behind bars and ruin their lives.
Good thing we’ve come so far …
I gave evidence just before Amy’s dad which attracted little attention, overshadowed as it was by the glow of celebrity
its all available to watch on video online (see above link). I actually mentioned Amy Winehouse at the end of my evidence – worth a look (as is the evidence in the session immediately afterwards.
seems to me our political process has/is falling the same way UK’s has. Lie ,stupidity and more lies.
@R.O.E.: humans are remarkably alike in my experience if you’re able to see past the obvious differences in actual policy. I mean that there may easily be differences in the ultimate shape of the policy, but the process of getting there is similar – and plagued by the same shortcomings. Robert B. Cialdina, the world famous psychologist on influence, have codified those into the following:
2. Social proof
Those six are GREAT for furthering cooperation between people and for economical rules of thumb that works most of the time.
However, these wonderfully human beacons can misfire. It’s misfires we should be concerned about in a democratic society.