26 April 2006

No leads, chief, but I know this medium...

The Amazing James Randi is recovering from his surgery.

He's in a much better spot now to be able to write his excellent weekly column which appears here, but can also be accessed via an RSS feed here.

One that concerned me this week is his take on an AFP officer who was suspended recently for consulting a psychic.

I've gotta say, this is a DISGRACE!

(Not Randi's take, that is, but the fact that the officer concerned was merely suspended.)

Barry Williams is quite correct. This officer should have been sacked.

What is truly worrying is that the AFP take pride in recruiting people who think rationally. This is a bit of a shot to that part of their reputation.

As an aside, Randi takes what appears to be umbrage to the AFP’s "spokesman for homeland security" who is quoted as saying:

"I think, perhaps, this fellow has watched a few too many of the US detective shows."

Randi is only half right, though, when he suggests that Australians only buy this type of show to satisfy our desire for woo.

Granted, quite a few Australians like to watch these shows.

But then, so too do Australians also like to watch TV shows such as Buffy and Smallville.

Australians, I recall, also lined up in droves to watch such gritty realism as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Star Wars.

Given that Australians generally should be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction for shows like these, what's stopping them doing the same for others?

What Randi apparently seems reluctant to accept, is that Australians may hunger for woo because the ideas themselves were planted in Australian viewers by the very "US detective shows" that he seems keen to defend.

Randi's point about Australian-made TV shows pandering to the same beliefs is moot if it appears that these have been developed to "cash in" on a market created from scratch by a US-made show.

Certainly, we have a chicken-and-egg question here, one which Randi appears to have, in his haste to defend the good-ol' US of A, to either have mistakenly missed (my suspicion) or ignored outright (don't believe Randi would do this for one moment).

The AFP spokesman was 100% OK to make this joke about "US detective shows" without any sort of qualifying statement. We (the Australian public) know what is meant by this, and I think that is enough.

However, the AFP now have to fix the situation by sacking the officer responsible. Only then will they be able to fix their reputation and proceed with "normal" policing duties.

A point that Randi would be the first to agree with.

So how badly damaged is the AFP's reputation?

The very fact that they're being reported on Randi's website for what appears to be a major cock-up speaks volumes about how the skeptical world views this sort of thing.

Rest assured, this is being communicated around the world as we speak, and none of it is flattering.

Jokes will begin to fly. People will get irate.

Eventually, someone will lose their job over this. Maybe not immediately, but there would have to be an enquiry of some sort.

But the end result could be a good thing - the force will be told to not do this sort of thing. Explicitly.

Which, hopefully, will mean that it won't happen again.

As a postscript, this poor soul has been nominated 3 times for a Bent Spoon award. Good work, constable.


Anonymous said...

It's great to see the big guy back on the job. Just read this commentary today. I didn't read too much into his defense of the US when it comes to this kind of crap. I think he was just saying that this rubbish is a universal problem and it's a bit of a cop-out to blame the Americans.

"...the AFP take pride in recruiting people who think rationally."

By who's standard? I bet they just think they recruit that way. And I agree, this guy should be sacked for being altogether too dumb by half.

Dikkii said...

I suggested that Randi was half-true on this.

But I don't think that even Randi understands the hold that US TV Shows have on Australian audiences.

Let's face it: We wouldn't have screened John Edwards on Australian TV if a US network hadn't offered it to us in the first place.

The bind I'm in, is do I support high local content broadcasting requirements in order to keep US content down?

Or would that be too hypocritical for me to accept, given that I support free market economics?

You wrote, "By who's standard? I bet they just think they recruit that way."

Yeah well, they would, wouldn't they? (Apologies to Mandy Rice-Davies)