The Boaty McBoatface Affair, And What It Means For Donald Trump

Boaty McBoatface

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.

Final thoughts:

  • 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.

20 thoughts on “The Boaty McBoatface Affair, And What It Means For Donald Trump

  1. The failure to accept the name that resulted from the process they created is going to hurt them in the long run, I think. Had they stuck with “Boaty McBoatface”, I could see many people monitoring its travels and activities and perhaps even be encouraged to support McBoatface’s research financially. Heck, I’d put big googly eyes on its bow and a live streaming camera on its mast. With a different name, they lost that goodwill and whimsy.

    • Agreed. Think of all the now thirty-something environmentalists who grew up reading “Thomas The Tank Engine.” This really should be their boat.

      • I thought it gave extra visibility to the good work, and agree that it would have upped the connection, too. And they’re going through hard weather and hard work on that boat when it launches, but hey, they’ve got some whimsy in the name. I think it should stick, and be the ‘face’ of all the work no one ever pays attention to…

  2. Also the most popular name for a new council in eastern Sydney, Australia is Beachy McBeachface. Perhaps Jonathan Turley should change his name to Turley McTurleyface.

  3. “Boaty McBoatface” is at least cute and not malicious. I cannot image anyone actually expecting the British to put that name on the boat. With Donald Trump, there is actual malice, with many actually expecting him to topple the existing order let something new raise to fill the void.

  4. “The Greedy McLieface School of Law.” I think I just ruined my keyboard. Reminds me of a very popular electrical contractor in the area. The name of their company: “Doolittle & Sitmore Electrical”. We also had a hair salon up in the desert named “Curl Up and Dye”. Notice I remember them long after I have moved away….
    I do think they have to stand by the process they created. And so does the Republican Party, as nauseating as that might be. However let this be a lesson to all that sometimes processes need reforms. And the election process is one that REALLY needs some reform.
    Once again I am reminded of the prophetic words of a not-so-nice fellow many years ago: “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
    ― H.L. Mencken
    And this as well from dear FDR: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
    ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

      • I think it used to when it was more rigorous and tried to teach fair mindedness along with a common standard. (not to be confused with the faddish ‘common’ or ‘core’ plans that leave students unprepared for life or further education/training). I think those who still believe that in a minority today.

  5. >The Council was lucky the elected name wasn’t Poopy McBullship.
    Personally, I liked the fourth place finisher.
    “RRS It’s bloody cold here”

    And yeah, it’s stupid letting “the internet” ADD options to the poll with little to no restrictions. A much more suitable method would be similar to how we end up doing elections. Pick two or three likely candidates that the institution will be satisfied with, then let people vote on those, and ONLY those.

  6. My entry, from Chinatown, San Francisco: Mona Risa Hair Salon. On Kearny Street. Consistently “corrected” in listings. Original partners were Japanese.

  7. Given the opportunity to rename their sports teams from The Indians, the Stanford students voted in The Robber Barons. Needless to say, the trustees scuttled that. The Scottsdale Community College teams were called The Artichokes by student vote for at least a few decades.

    Why do institutions put these things to votes if they’re not going to defer to the results? Probably not unethical, just dumb.

      • That and pink and chartreuse being the school colors, as I recall? Are the teams at UC Santa Cruz still called the Banana Slugs?

  8. I preferred “Big Smashy Metal Thing” or “Boatimus Prime” myself. I disagree with the contention that it’s analogous to Trump; just off the top of my head, where Trump will likely be an unmitigated disaster, McBoatface could have drawn a younger generation to become interested in science, arctic exploration and questions arising from that increased knowledge base. Consider Chris Hadfield: He drew a generation of young Canadians closer to the stars by releasing a series of short videos about life in space, as well as participating in Reddit AMAs and maintaining an active Twitter account.

  9. “where Trump will likely be an unmitigated disaster, McBoatface could have drawn a younger generation to become interested in science, arctic exploration and questions arising from that increased knowledge base. “

    Well, hold on now. Let’s review the history of British ships in ice-filled waters.

    Unmitigated disaster is still a distinct possibility.

  10. I think its a great name and should have been expected from the British population .

    Plus its a research vessel its not a ship of the line, so why not have some fun with it.

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