The tragedy of Boaty McBoatface


Last week it was announced that the new polar research ship Boaty McBoatface would be named RRS Sir David Attenborough instead. True, NERC never promised they would name the ship after the most popular vote, but I think it still raises questions.

NERC is publicly funded, so you would think that they would want to serve the public as best they can. And the public had spoken. 124,109 votes were cast for Boaty McBoatface. The next in line was Poppy-Mai with 39,886 (which was the small child that married her father). David Attenborough collected only 11,203 votes, less than a tenth of what Boaty earned.

However, it was not to be. Jo Johnson said there were “more suitable” names, and that they would be selecting one of them. In the end, they settled on naming it after Sir David Attenborough. Attenborough is a British institution to be sure. However, if I was him, I would have sent a rather grumpy message pointing out that I was in fact not dead yet.

At the same time, we had our local elections. Turnout was around 45%. Most people did not even go out and vote. The situation is more dire in reality because it’s only 45% of those registered to vote: not everyone is registered, and some are even denied the right: prisoners and those under 18 years old for example. Only 69% of the population are registered to vote.

These are not the levels of participation on democracy that we would like to see.

Here is the tradegy: with Boaty McBoatface, people actually became excited about democracy. Young people were voting. People were sharing, and telling their friends to vote. It was worth basically nothing and yet people were engaging, excited and thought they would make a difference. Imagine if we could get that excitement about government elections.

There can be little argument against calling it Boaty McBoatface. Yes, it would be a ‘silly’ name. In what way does that affect the vessel’s ability to do science? The answer, is in no way. Nintendo named their console after taking a literal piss, and the Wii outsells both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

But then a suit stands up and tells everyone that they have made the wrong choice. Forget what the public wants, we will pick a “more suitable” name for you. The powers that be have spoken, and respecting what the public wants is not on the agenda. No wonder nobody turns out to vote, they’re not even allowed to name a ship.



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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 11th, 2016 at 10:26 am and is filed under Religion & Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.