Great Britain’s National Environmental Research Council has a new $300 million ship being readied for a 2019 launch. It is a 128-yard-long, 15,000-ton beauty designed to serve as a “new polar research vessel which will deliver world-leading capability for UK research in both Antarctica and the Arctic.” The Council put naming its new ship to the public, and asked for it to choose a name. Apparently in the grip of a Monty Python hangover, the name overwhelmingly chosen in an online vote was “Boaty McBoatface.”
Uh, no. Science Minister Jo Johnson announced that another, more suitable name would be chosen.“The new royal research ship will be sailing into the world’s iciest waters to address global challenges that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, including global warming, the melting of polar ice, and rising sea levels. That’s why we want a name that lasts longer than a social-media news cycle and reflects the serious nature of the science it will be doing,” he said.
Jonathan Turley, who has written two posts about “Boaty McBoatface,” is expressing dismay that humorless bureaucrats would reject “democracy.” And I’m sure if George Washington Law School decided to have the public pick a new name for the professor’s employer, he’d embrace whatever whimsical, law-mocking choice they made, like “The Greedy McLieface School of Law.”
Turley thinks the ship’s popular name is funny, ergo he thinks its just fine. Of course, he doesn’t have to justify the agency’s budget, or put the gag name on his resume, or convince people to take the projects of an organization seriously when its flagship presents itself as a lark.
Johnson and his colleagues have a higher ethical duty than blindly accepting a “democratic” vote from people who don’t really care about the National Environmental Research Council’s work. “Boaty McBoatface” would be detrimental to the Council’s public image, self-image, moral and effectiveness. They had a duty to reject it. Prof. Turley thought it would be great for T-shirt sales.
He really needs to get off campus more.
- This is a lesson: An organization shouldn’t put anything to a public vote if those voting doesn’t share the values of the organization. The Council was lucky the elected name wasn’t Poopy McBullship.
- It was also foolish to include a name among the finalists that the organization couldn’t live with.
- Agreeing to name Donald Trump its nominee is the Republican Party’s equivalent of the National Environmental Research Council acceding to “Boaty McBoatface.” In both cases, such a decision would be irresponsible and a breach of duty.