Friday, April 29, 2016

Save Boaty McBoatface, Replace Robert E. Lee

Democracy may suffer a staggering blow this week. Despite overwhelming support from an enthusiastic public, the will of the British people may be silenced by a single civil servant.

A new £200 million science research vessel has been named Boaty McBoatface by 120,000 Britons who voted online to help decide what to call the science ship.

Except not everyone likes it, and one man has the power to sink the name.

Tory Science Minister Jo Johnson has indicated that, despite overwhelming public support, he wants to veto Boaty McBoatface.

Why? The name is so wonderful, I added it to my word processor's user dictionary.

Science Minister Johnson — who I shall now call Grumpy McGrumpface — says it's not suitable and serious enough. More importantly, says the U.K. Daily Mirror, he may be too embarrassed to tell the Queen about it.

That's a good reason to trample democracy: you were embarrassed because you had to say the name to the Queen of England.

It could have been worse. Some of the entries included RRS Onion Knight (from Game of Thrones), RRS Capt'n Birdseye Get Off My Cod (named after a fictitious mascot for Birds Eye frozen fish), and my personal favorite, RRS I Like Big Boats & I Cannot Lie.

I would fly over to England just to watch the Queen declare, "We christen thee. . . I Like Big Boats & I Cannot Lie."

Instead, Grumpy McGrumpface is missing a golden opportunity to use this to his ministry's benefit.

Back in 2007, Greenpeace held an online contest to ask people to name a whale they were going to tag, track, and research in an effort to stop the Japanese government from hunting 50 humpback whales that year.

Over 150,000 people voted, and 78% of the votes went to "Mr. Splashy Pants." There were so many voters, Greenpeace's servers nearly crashed several times.

However, many whale lovers were angry that more beautiful whale names weren't used, presumably like Rainbow Unicorn Peace Farts, or whatever unkempt hemp-smoking hippies think are beautiful names for whales.

For Greenpeace, this was a golden opportunity. Never before had so many people taken such an interest in their whales. They used this chance to educate people about whales and whale research. Better yet, they started fundraising to these voters. And the resulting publicity even convinced the Japanese government to stop their hunt.

Now the British government has a chance to garner national, and even international, interest in science, and to introduce more children to careers in science.

There are 120,000 people who are interested enough to vote for the name, and millions more are following the saga from around the world. People actually care about Boaty! Think about what this means.

You could have Boaty news updates on the BBC, Where's Boaty? games for children, and even have Boaty McBoatface become a character on the children's show, "Thomas the Tank Engine."

I would totally watch "Thomas the Tank Engine" if Boaty were on it.

You could get people interested in science just by allowing a science vessel to have a silly name. But if you're going to ignore the crowd's wishes because you're too embarrassed to tell Her Majesty, you might as well name it "Who Gives a Feather?"

Because if you veto the popular choice, no one will give the tiniest feather about this boat or the Science Ministry.

And I think you know I don't mean "feather."

Speaking of changing unpopular names, the Austin, Texas school board finally decided they didn't want to honor second place any longer, and will rename Robert E. Lee Elementary School. Naturally, this has upset a lot of people who are proud to honor a man who fought to keep human beings as property.

So, in a burst of community pride and dangerous optimism, the school board has asked the general public for suggestions. The plan is to accept nominations and votes, and submit the top three names to the board for a final vote.

Fifteen pages of names were suggested, including Coach Tom Landry, Garfunkel, Bleeding Heart Liberal Elementary, and of course, Boaty McBoatface.

The Adolf Hitler School for Friendship and Tolerance Elementary received eight votes, although I'm not sure if the name was a dig at the General Lee haters or supporters.



The three top vote getters are Elisabet Ney Elementary (15 votes), Harper Lee Elementary (30), and Donald J. Trump Elementary (45). Actually, Robert E. Lee Elementary still got 34 votes, but something tells me he won't make the cut. Again.

So what are both groups to do? On the one hand, the will of the British people is to give a boat a silly name, which can lead to increased interest in science.

On the other hand, the will of Austin's angry bigots is to rename a second-place racist's school after a woman-hating racist.

I'm counting on both institutions to make the smart choice that improves education, and teaches children the importance of acceptance and inclusion for all.

People who think that's a bad idea can go feather themselves.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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