Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Statistics and the G8

Readers of this little oeuvre will know that your rigorously rational Pedant-General has a certain fondness for things of a mathematical nature. I am therefore THRILLED to be able to declare that:
Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Although if I'm one of the data points, I would recommend thinking very carefully before using the results.

I digress. It was with the noble study of statistics top of mind that your eagle-eyed Pedant-General attacked his morning porridge. With faultless timing Boris did the honours:
"Just to prove my theory that commie tyranny was still chic, I sent a Spectator assistant to Camden Lock market, and she returned shining-eyed, with tales of hammer and sickle T-shirts, and laden with badges of the foremost commie creeps of history. There was a badge of Lenin - good old Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. He was responsible for killing about five million people."
About five million people? Five Million. That somehow rings a bell. Perhaps we could try to put that number in context. Oh yes: It is - more or less - the entire population of Scotland.

Dear reader, I have something to exercise your imagination this morning: Picture, if you will, the troops arriving in trucks to seal off the bypass around this renowned capital city and herding every single man, woman, child and Pedant-General to the camps to be slaughtered. Think, if you can bear it, of these troops littering our elegant streets with explosives and returning to their trucks, leaving naught but a smoking ruin behind them. Contemplate the same operation effected upon the great hub of commerce and industry that is the City of Glasgow. And turning up the A9, to Stirling, nodding briefly to their left at the great and good at Gleneagles as they move on to Perth, and Dundee, and Inverness and every hamlet from Gretna to John O'Groats and from Kelso to Kirkwall.

Imagine then, the poisoning of the land that any remaining citizens are left to starve and sealing of the borders that they may be shot on trying to escape.

That is the death of five million people.

Think of this when you see the images of Lenin and the rest of his kind displayed so proudly by the protesters in Edinburgh next week.

The fantastic group blog Drink-Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays For War has some protest-chic to die for. Ahem.


dearieme said...

And had there been no Lenin, there would have been no Stalin, Hitler, Mao......

dearieme said...

You are not a "statistic" you are a "data point". Unless, of course, they take a scunner to you, in which case you will be rejected as a mere "anecdote".

The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...

Brilliant. You are absolutely correct: Give that man a Pedantry medal!

In fact, I think I shall adopt a new strapline:

"The Pedant-General in Ordinary: Proud to be 3 sigma from the mean"

Somehow "The Pedant-General in Ordinary: Statistically Insignificant" doesn't have quite the same ring...

dearieme said...

Oh well, what about "The Outlier in Chief"?

Cornelius Fenestrifex said...

Quite right. If Prince Harry had attended that fancy dress party sporting KGB uniform there would have been not a whisper of disapproval. The hypocrisy of it all is disgusting.

The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...

Hmmm.... A very interesting point this one.

I'm not quite so sure that you are completely right though. I think that, in general, most of us - even the Bollinger Bolsheviks - recognise that the KGB were really pretty unsavoury. [/Typical Stoic British Understatement]

I suspect that you are right that the Sun et al wouldn't have picked it up, but only because the readership of the Sun wouldn't instantly recall who the KGB are/were, let alone recognise the relevant insignia and the story would therefore have been harder to tell/sell.

Where you are absolutely smack on the money is the hypocrisy: if he had shown up dressed as Lenin, or possibly even Stalin, he could very likely have got away with it. Communism appears to have "irony value".

Thank you for adding to the mix, though.

Cornelius Fenestrifex said...

Yes, I should have made it clear that only among Guardianistas and other lounge-lizard Leninists would not an eyebrow have been raised. All those with an awareness of the history of Russia in the 20th century would rightly have been appalled. Isaiah Berlin, when asked which was the more evil, Hitler or Stalin, plumped for the latter.

Simon Holledge said...

Boris Johnson was apparently referring to the Soviet famine of 1921 which was caused by a drought, though exacerbated by government economic policies.

The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...


Quite probably. But his substantive point - that it is peculiar, if not actually wrong, that left wing dictators are apparently OK for branding when "right wing" ones are not - is still spot on. The whole point is that whilst we all agree that these sorts of comparisons are odious precisely because they are ALL odious, the communists somehow appear not to be odious. Which is odd.

MY point, is that the numbers involved are so staggeringly, incomprehensibly large that we cannot, err..., comprehend them.

I hope that my little analogy in this post allows us to get a sense of just how horrific these regimes were, even if some of the deaths were only "exacerbated by government economic policies".

"exacerbated by government economic policies". hmmm... That's a nice little euphemism.

Boris Johnson's Office said...

Thank you Pedant General for this excellent illustration! it's a great help to have the figure visualised in this way.

Boris Johnson's Office (Melissa)

Boeciana said...

Hmm, the city's still standing so far. (Have I doomed her by saying this out loud?)

Am in complete agreement with regard to the absurdity of Soviet chic. It is also odd that 'Nazis' has become an indiscriminate insult, while 'Communists' has not - I get the impression that rightish people use 'Commie' with at least approximate accuracy to describe someone whom they believe to have very left wing tendencies. (Whether this perception is always accurate is another matter.) In contrast, I was in a pro-life (peaceful and quiet) demonstration, when a passing chap shouted 'Nazis!' The supposed connection between opposing abortion and supporting National Socialism, or even general right-wingery, is quite beyond my grasp.