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The totalitarian mindset… again

I have noted before that an inordinate number of doctors seem to be totalitarian inclined folks, dead keen on using the force of law to impose their view of what is best on other people.

This, however, takes the biscuit not just for the totalitarian meta-context within which it is framed, but also for sheer idiocy:

The prevention of attacks involving kicking or blunt objects is just as important as preventing knife violence, new research from Cardiff University shows. A team from the University’s Violence Research Group found that injuries inflicted with feet were more likely to result in severe injury than any other method of assault

[...]

The research, published in the international academic journal Injury Prevention, is the first ever to compare injuries by method of attack. Professor Jonathan Shepherd, who led the research, said the surprisingly severe injuries from kicking and blunt objects should make them just as high priorities as knives in violence reduction strategies. Professor Shepherd said: “This might be achieved through public awareness campaigns and tackling alcohol misuse to reduce the chances of people falling over, since victims of violence are usually kicked after they have fallen. “We also need to take action to reduce the availability of blunt objects coming to hand in licensed premises and city centre streets.” [emphasis added]

So… Professor Jonathan Shepherd (a Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery from Cardiff and Director of the Violence Research Group) wants to find a way to make it less likely that people will fall over in a fight (he must mean that as people tend not to get kicked when they fall over unless they are in a fight) and he wants to reduce the availability of blunt objects coming to hand in licensed premises and city centre streets. Blunt objects? As in, well, anything you can pick up? Bottles? Chairs? Bins? Umbrella stands? Ashtrays (oh, silly me, those are due to be made illegal in effect anyway)? So how exactly would you do that? Needless to say ‘bovver boots’ are going to be frowned on.

Presumably the Good Professor wants a panoptic state in which we all wear state approved (and mandated) padded clothing, state approved soft shoes and require everything (and and I do mean everything) be screwed to the floor. Amazing. This is not a man I would like to see in a position of power over me or anyone else.

30 comments to The totalitarian mindset… again

  • You can get inflatable “sumo wrestler” suits. It is rather disrespectful to an ancient sport, but maybe we should all wear them all the time.

    The tragedy is that not so many years ago there was a widely available “armour” that practically every man in Britain from a Duke to a coalman wore to stop himself or others being kicked in a fight. It was this: kicking was considered contemptible. He who would “kick a man when he was down” was the very epitome of a despicable, cowardly person. There was a time when the typical fight involved the participants solemnly taking off their jackets and fighting with their fists, inside a circle of men watching to ensure “fair play” (how they’d laugh at all that now).

    The welfare culture did for that.

    I don’t know Professor Shepherd’s exact views so I don’t want to over-personalise this, but I think that in general the worship of safety and the worship of violence and street culture feed off each other.

  • Kim du Toit

    The problem is that most doctors are used to telling people what to do, and being obeyed. After a while, this starts to affect their outlook, and they turn into little gods (in their own minds, of course).

    My favorite line was still made by The Mrs., when asked by her Chicago doctor whether there were any guns on our house: “Mind your own fucking business.

    The subject was never raised again.

  • The best way to stop people being kicked after they have “tripped” is to recognise that someone kicking another in the head or trunk is attempted murder and to prosecute accordingly and to make sure the perps are know as cowards (see above).

    I do not care if the knucklescraper does not know that it can kill someone, the fact is they are attacking someone in a form that is quite possible to kill them.

    What does the good Doctor recommend – a foot amnesty?

  • Amputation is clearly in order. Feet and hands both. Some people use these objects to injure others, therefore no-one may legally possess…..Don’t see why not, it’s the ‘logic’ of the rest of official thinking.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Maybe they should ban opposable thumbs. Cause of a lot of trouble, from what I hear.

  • RAB

    Yes well all I can say about this is
    that some departments of Cardiff University
    appear to be over funded.
    But others-
    Well let’s put it like this
    Some friends of mine who work for the Archaeology dept
    Are seriously thinking of running advertising next year
    With a slogan-

    Come study Archaeology at Cardiff!!
    You will never earn enough to have to pay off the loan!

  • The Last Toryboy

    It is a trait of doctors I think, the ones I have met generally have huge egos, are used to be looked up to and are used to their commandments being followed.

    Theres even at least one recent historical case – Juan Negrin, the final (communist) prime minister of the Spanish Republic – was a medical doctor.

  • It’s hard to be charitable towards the doctors when you read such 24 carat bilge but let’s try anyway:

    I wonder if they’re given a task to do -write a report on violence and suggest ways to reduce it, perhaps – and, being good and conscientious doctors, aware of the fact that they’re using up scarce public funds to carry out this study, they go to the task with such vim and vigour that they temporarily leave the real world and, instead, inhabit a nether world of nirvanic possibilities and utopian fantasies.

    I often write posts on my blog that, at the time, seem perfectly reasonable and sensible in light of the task I set out to accomplish at the time.

    It’s only the next day, on rereading my own garbage, that I start to suspect that my suggestion to neuter all statists – whilst fulfilling my original intention of finding a way to prevent the decline of the western world – is not likely to catch on in any meaningful way.

    I feel an empathy with these misguided fools.

  • CFM

    The only need to ban one blunt object at a time. Start with the one attached to Professor Jonathan Shepherd’s shoulders.

    Gary Monro is on to something, and his point applies to more than just “safety studies.” There isn’t any acknowledged limit on the amount of money that can be extracted from wealth creators. Thus public employees and grant recipients will go to any length, no matter how stupid, to justify continued funding of their activities. Certainly easier than finding productive work.

    Oh but for an honest group of politicians that pass a law requiring cost-benefit analyses for State activities. Guess I won’t hold my breath.

  • Eric Anondson

    I’m sure I’m messing this up but I’m recalling that one of the incentives for the development of East Asian martial arts, especially on Okinawa for instance, was the prohibition of use of any object that could be deemed a weapon. So the peasants simply went and invented a defense system that used common farm tools like the staff or flail.

    There are quite plainly too many blunt objects to ban them all. When people feel they need to, they will defend themselves with whatever best lets them do it.

    This is another good example why people should be suspicious of “government-by-niche-experts”.

  • RAB

    Doh Some people are so dim
    they need a bloody good..
    Well quite!

  • Howard R Gray

    The good surgeon, a dentist by trade more likely than not, appears to have discovered the old Newtonian (F=ma) formula. Feet on the end of a leg carry way more momentum than any other body part Q.E.D. there will be more injury!

    So tell me, why was this study done? Joe public without “O” level physics could have kenned this one.

  • guy herbert

    Because in a state-controlled University system, academics are obliged to publish papers, no matter how inane, in order to keep their jobs. (Actually practicing and teaching surgery presumably takes up his useful time, but it doesn’t tick the professor boxes.) Quantity not quality matters.

    In order to conduct research, which they do to be able to publish papers, which they do to keep their jobs, they need grants. They get grants by offering to do research that is “socially useful” for government funded bodies that want to tell people what to do.

  • J

    Anyone who would like to actually read the study can find it here:

    http://ip.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/12/6/395

    If you do bother to read it, you’ll find this entire posting mis informed and taken out of context.

  • J

    Sicne it’s quiet in the office right now, I’ll save you the trouble of actually reading difficult academic papers, and just try to set the record straight.

    From Perry:

    So… Professor Jonathan Shepherd (a Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery from Cardiff and Director of the Violence Research Group) wants to find a way to make it less likely that people will fall over in a fight

    Yes he does. And he suggests that people could be educated that if they are attacked, they should try hard to keep on their feet. There is an instinct to end up on the ground in a foetal position. This research suggests that curling up into a ball on the ground actually increases the amount of damage taken in a fight. So, I think he has contributed at least something to self defence knowledge.

    Perry again:

    and he wants to reduce the availability of blunt objects coming to hand in licensed premises and city centre streets. [several snide suggestions of how to do this]

    Alas, the original paper makes some fairly sensible suggestions, unlike Perry’s supositions. Here they are. I’m quoting from the paper now:

    …object availability can be limited through frequent collection of bar glasses, for example, and through continuous litter collection and disposal in city centers.

    Readers might also like to know that the authors did suggest increased criminal penalties. Quoting from the paper again:

    This makes the prevention of kicking and group violence, as well as violence in which weapons are used, major priorities. This might be achieved through more severe criminal sanctions to deter kicking, and public awareness campaigns.

    Overall, the paper is quite interesting, I think. At least, it tells me things that I didn’t know before, and it seems to be quite good research at a glance (large sample size, standardised measurements etc).

    And do you know what? It took me a whole 1.2 minutes to find the full text of this article freely available on the web – so you don’t even need a subscription to Injury Prevention to read it:

    http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/dentistry/research/phacr/violence/pdfs/BMS_InjPrev.pdf

    So what have I learned today? I’ve learned that a blog posting that talks about and selectively quotes a mainstream media posting that talks about and selectively quotes an original research paper, is no substitute for just reading the damn paper and cutting out the middle men.

    The thing that annoys me most is that this paper (and its authors, mind) are being attacked for two relatively unimportant (and admittedly uninspiring) comments at the end of a paper. These comments are obviously not the focus of the paper. The paper’s abstract makes this entirely clear. Two quotes are taken massively out of context to have yet another go at nasty authoritarian doctors and there nasty authoritarian ways.

    Now, for various reasons doctors both here and elsewhere do have a strong paternalistic streak, and I do think there’s a real issue with medical opinions being used unreasonably as a level for social control. But this paper is in no way symptomatic (sic) of those problems. It’s all a case of people fitting the facts to their agendas.

    I’ll get back to work now…

  • Novus

    Sorry, J, I don’t buy it (and I mean that both figuratively and literally). The fact remains that the article is called “Non-firearm weapon use and injury severity: priorities for prevention.” I really only see two ways to go about preventing or at any rate reducing the frequency (or the severity) of non-firearm-related injury: either to reduce the number of occasions on which a blunt object is taken up as a weapon (ie to reduce the number of fights that break out, essentially), or to reduce the availability of blunt objects. The latter is demonstrably impossible since, as various people have remarked, we generally wear two of them on our feet apart from anything else, so any legislative attempt to achieve this would be fatuous; the former is clearly a sociological problem, not a medical problem. By all means explain how the study shows it to be a medical problem if you feel it does so; by all means show how contextually there is something more meaningful or worthy at work than mere self-justification – I’d be interested to see. (Not interested enough to buy it myself, though, obviously.)

  • Novus

    J, your second post hadn’t shown up when I wrote my first, needless to say. I still don’t see why it requires the attentions of a Professor of Medicine to tell us not to fall over in a fight or suggest stiffer penalties for the use of weapons in a fight – particularly since the various categoies of bodily harm (actual, serious, grievous) should take care of that anyway. And I still don’t see how anyone can hope to control the availability of blunt objects, no matter in what interest.

  • I would also add that to tell people not to fall over in a fight is akin to telling people how to roll over a bonnet of a car as a means to prevent road deaths. Symptoms, not the disease.

    The attempt to make a Hight Street on a Saturday Night into some kind of “Bouncy Castle” is also pointless and nannying. It also opens the door to “Ssss’ere faw’! I’s wouldner’v glarst ‘im if dey’d cleared me tay-bawl”.

    (I know that last line is a bit classist, but I don’t recall drunken toffs glassing people very often. I am open to correction on that one, mind.)

    The best “public awareness” is a steady stream of violent thugs being put inside for “20 with no parole” for kicking people who are down. THEN use PR to constantly remind people of consequence.

    To be effective, the urban grapevine must be pump-primed with multiple real hard examples of punishment for such behaviour. Alas, NueArbeit (Macht Frei) seem to scamper over to their mates in Advertising and spend our money of a fatuous, unsubstantiated media campaign before, and usually in place of, any real action.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    The overall theme of this paper (notwithstanding J’s added comments) makes me think of The Humanoids by Jack Williamson. It’s a classic scifi book that started as a short story and expanded into a novel.

    In it, humans create faceless robots that do our bidding, labor, etc., but also are programmed to protect us. Suffice it to say, unlike Asimov’s robots, these robots take “protect” very literally and systematically shield us from anything potentially harmful. To give an example, at one point they progress to where humans are not allowed to open doors for themselves and other completely absurd things. However, this is possible because of the fact that the Humanoids do all labor–including replicating themselves–and are so prevalent that all humans are in the presence of Humanoids at all times, and can be gently, but firmly, prevented from doing anything the robots consider harmful: eating meat, flipping light switches, walking down stairs (these are all things from the book).

    So a faceless, everpresent “force” that is far too powerful for anyone to overcome alone controls us utterly for our own good; which is the logical conclusion of the type of attitudes that some do-gooder totalitarians have. Much of the book is chilling, but I must warn that the ending is both confusing and disappointing, depending on how you interpret it.

    Now for some jokes at the paper authors’ expense:

    1. First they outlawed blunts, now they want to outlaw blunt objects.

    2. I think the paper’s theory about blunt object damage needs to be tested on the good doctor.

    I’ll be here all week, and don’t forget to tip your waitress.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post and good comments.

  • Brian

    I recall reading in the law cases in the Times a while back that some cretinous rozzer had charged (what the rozzer considered to be) a crim with ‘possessing an imitation firearm’, namely his fingers in his pocket (the crim’s pocket, and the crim’s fingers, I hope I’m making sense here).

    For some reason it required the case to go all the way to the court of appeal before some sense dawned, and the beaks held that ‘fingers are not an offensive weapon’ and in any case nobody could be charged with possessing them.

    Which is rather a relief really.

  • J

    Novus,

    I agree the title is curious, but even so it’s important to note the difference between priorities for prevention and methods of prevention. The organisation that produced this paper (violence research group) seems clearly geared towards influencing public policy (i.e. making us do stuff) on the basis of health research – that’s health in it’s broadest and least useful sense.

    However, despite the quite possibly dubious sources of funding, and motives of the funding organisation, the paper itself just doesn’t strike me as unreasonable.

    If the paper attempted to show the efficacy of different methods of preventing violence, I’d be more concerned that the source of funding would bias the paper, but since the paper is essentially a review, I’m less worried. If anything, I think this paper would be useful for anyone wanting to point out that knives are not such a great threat, and please can we be allowed to carry them again. The paper could be used as in a reductio ad absurdam of the anti-knife argument, by saying that if we ban knives we must certainly bad shoes.

    TimC:

    I think you make a good point when you say that a regulation shifts the blame from those who commit the offence, to those who ‘enabled’ it by failing to meet the regulation. This is a pernicious effect seen everywhere in modern life, and I don’t dount that if some law about the availability of empty glasses in pubs came into force, criminals (and journalists, nanny staters etc) would waste no time in jumping on it.

  • Alice

    Good post, Perry thanks. These billions of blunt objects are weapons of mass destruction ! And particularly,
    deadly feet ! Here is a surprise, full of scientific data for Professor Shepherd.

    Yesterday (Dec 21st 2006), an 11 year old died in Meaux, near Paris. This is the only article in English, I’ve found :
    “http://www.playfuls.com/news_10_5974-12-year-old-Fatally-Wounded-By-Schoolmates-In-Paris.html”>http://www.playfuls.com/news_10_5974-12-year-old-Fatally-Wounded-By-Schoolmates-In-Paris.html

    “The two classmates were in a physical education class when the two entered into a fight, the reason for which was unclear.

    According to as of yet unconfirmed information, the young victim was in the course of the fight set upon by other classmates as he lay on the ground. ”

    There are so many things to ban yet : feet, “sensitive” school, difficult subjects like Mali or balloons (two versions of the media), children in certain suburbs etc.

    No wonder there are so many searchers on the so easy subject of “the taming of the West”. They always get serious reports in the media, and fortunately in nannyknowsbest.blogspot.com too.

    But the parents of the nameless victim have lost their only child. In France, even the first name of the victim is hidden when no community can claim damages on his or her account.

    “I am quick to laugh at everything, so as not to have to cry”. P.A. Caron de Beaumarchais (French author and playwrigt, 1732-1799. “Figaro”, scenario of two operas of Mozart and Rossini).

  • Rone Aone

    I read the article (Non-firearm weapon use and injury severity: priorities for prevention).
    It is here for those who did not- http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/dentistry/research/phacr/violence/pdfs/BMS_InjPrev.pdf

    It seems to be unjust to accuse its authors of a totalitarian mindset.

    “Wild West” vs. “Nanny State”, is it what this post was meant to be about?

    Injury severity ranking study was aimed at statistically substantiating the view that preventing group violence is as important as preventing the use of weapons because group violence is more likely to result in use of feet against a person (more so if he or she is fallen or knocked over).

    Since severity of injuries inflicted by the use of feet is second only to those inflicted by the use of a non-firearm weapon, it singles out the use of feet as a weapon and makes it an important issue with regard to crime prevention.

    Concequently, it reduces the number of victims of such sort of crimes and eventually reduces overall health expenditures.

    So much for the “totalitarian meta-context”.

  • So much for the “totalitarian meta-context”.

    So a guy wants to reduce the availability of… blunt objects (I suggest you look around the room you are in and ponder just how many thing are quite suitable for belting someone over the head with) and (presumably) non-soft footware and you cannot see how that is just a tad totalitarian? Ok, you tell me how you would achieve that without pervasive re-ordering of, well, everything. State approved shoes mandated in case we attack each other perhaps? If that is not what he (and you) mean, then what exactly do you mean?

    …it singles out the use of feet as a weapon and makes it an important issue with regard to crime prevention. Concequently, it reduces the number of victims of such sort of crimes and eventually reduces overall health expenditures.

    Without explanation that is the sort of meaningless statement I see all the time peppering most tax funded government reports. How exactly do you, as a matter of practicality, work that ‘important issue’ into a way of preventing crime? Assault is already illegal so what are you suggesting? Outlaw feet? Please explain what on earth you mean.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    Concequently, it reduces the number of victims of such sort of crimes and eventually reduces overall health expenditures.

    Which is only an issue because everyone bears the cost of the NHS, whether they want to or not. Which is sort of…totalitarian.

    Justifying further restrictions of liberty based on forced sharing of costs is so damn common with you assholes. You get both the socialized crap you want AND get to use it as an excuse to stamp out other behavior you don’t like. It’s win/win!

  • Rone Aone

    Thank you, Perry.

    I read the article once again…

    Implications for violence prevention paragraph seems to be in efect just a concluding statement in that paper, albeit put somewhat ackwardly by Mr. Shepherd JP an academician who obviously decided to venture into policing details, that the most severe injuries, apart from firearm wounds, are those inflicted by feet and/or blunt objects rather than other parts of human body (elbows, fists, etc). That’s it.

    As I see it, it was ment to highlight the conclusions of the paper,nothing else. A strictly narrow profesional rather than a totalitarian approach on the part of the researcher.

    I doubt if generic police initiatives or more drastic measures could implied here. No matter how much of a control freek one might be.

    As to my suggestions with regard to curbing the use of feet and blunt objects in violence, I think preschool education and early family support would be nice to begin with. As well as health education and violence prevention programmes reaching out individuals at risk, community campaigns consisting of educational activities for teens.
    And, yes, extensive media coverage, off course.

    After all, violence is a learned behaviour and therefore preventable.

    Prevention IS the best cure.

  • TPS

    Since severity of injuries inflicted by the use of feet is second only to those inflicted by the use of a non-firearm weapon, it singles out the use of feet as a weapon and makes it an important issue with regard to crime prevention.

    “Be aware; if you fall down during a brawl, you could get a kick in the teeth”. Thank you very much, Captain Obvious.

    Concequently, it reduces the number of victims of such sort of crimes and eventually reduces overall health expenditures.

    How does it do this, exactly?

    This paper is just another example of the medical establishment doing their best to ban everything, up to and including sharp sticks. In the US, a sizeable portion of the medical community is involved in the anti-gun lobby.

  • Nick M

    Natalie,

    The tragedy is that not so many years ago there was a widely available “armour” that practically every man in Britain from a Duke to a coalman wore to stop himself or others being kicked in a fight. It was this: kicking was considered contemptible.

    I don’t believe this utopia ever existed. The UK in the past was often viciously violent. There have always been gentlemen (of every class) and scumbags (of every class). England was never Tolkein’s Shire. The good Prof actually went to lengths to deny that idea.

    There probably has been a recent rise in violence in the UK but to blame the welfare state for this is odd. Personally, I put it down to the happy hour “3 shots for a quid” mentality which is partly down to capitalism red in tooth and claw. It certainly hasn’t been helped by our (until recently) absurd licensing laws meaning everybody was kicked out at the same time but this seems to be the extent of the state’s culpability. Ever noticed the real barneys happen at the cab rank?

  • Nick M writes: “I don’t believe this utopia ever existed.” This is one of those arguments in which, like a well-known chess opening, the first ten moves are already well known.

    Did this or any other utopia ever exist? No. Utopia has never existed.

    Did a situation ever exist that would, if it could be achieved again – correction, if a situation half as good could be achieved again – have government ministers trumpeting the good news from every rooftop? Yes. That situation existed in respect to violence throughout the first two thirds of the twentieth century in Britain.

    The fact that there have always been scum of every class is undeniable. I am constantly seeing this truism put forth as if it were an answer to the allegation that crime and violence was less in the past when being an unalterable truth of all times, it is not an answer. The question is, has the trend gone up or down?

    If you are interested, Laban Tall of UK Commenters often posts about this. Here’s his latest. Some books are recommended in the comments.

    I could get busy looking out all the multifarious pieces of evidence for this I have come across in various history books, not to mention the testimony of every old person (and many of only middle age) I have ever spoken to on the subject. But, frankly, I’ve got Christmas stuff to do. You might look up the vast increase in the murder rate. Murder, the best-counted crime, serves as a proxy for other violence which is more subject to changes in definition, variation of willingness to report, and official massaging of statistics.

    But here’s a thought for free – medical care for victims of violence, both stabbing and blows, is much more sophisticated than it was. A kick in the head or a knife in the guts is less likely to be fatal. Yet still the numbers and rate per thousand of people killed in fights goes up. It looks to me as if the underlying increase of violence is even worse than the statistics on deaths show.

    “Blaming it on the welfare state is odd.” No, it’s quite a mainstream argument these days, Nick M, although for decades there was a concerted effort to demonize anyone who made it as hating the poor. In summary: family breakdown, no male role models, creation of an unsocialised underclass, poverty trap, etc., etc. Jaemes Bartholomew’s The Welfare State We’re In makes it in more detail.

    Happy hours? Might have some minor effect, but not nearly enough to explain the tide. The recent change in the licensing laws was a good thing, sure. If you are right and it was the explanation then we’ll soon be seeing a situation once again when it is as safe to walk home at night as it was for our grandparents won’t we?