Friday, May 27, 2005

On the invention of forks...

The UK once again leads the way in social protection. The BBC report follows the usual pattern. First, start instilling fear with a scary sounding quote and ugly statistics:
A&E doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce deaths from stabbing. A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase - and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.
Note the detailed descriptors "long" and "pointed". Then the fear words "violent crime...increase". Then, to finish the non-sequitur: kitchen knives are used in half of all stabbings. So, given that there are way more kitchen knives than others (utility, pocket, hunting and other dangerous implements of flesh carving origins), it is surprising that they are only used in half of stabbings. And what relations do stabbings have to do with increasing violent crime? Lets read on...
They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon. ...The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all.
Note the specifics: "many", "prompted", "all too available". Then comes their real agenda, the absolute "no all". No reason? None, not a single one? Wow. Freedom, large turkeys and overbearing government scientists obviously were not considered reasons. So, they must have talked to a lot of experts...right?
They consulted 10 top chefs from around the UK, and found such knives have little practical value in the kitchen. None of the chefs felt such knives were essential, since the point of a short blade was just as useful when a sharp end was needed.
Oh, well, 10 experts is better than nine. Note that the question has changed, too. These 'experts' say the knives are not "essential", which is different than "no reason". And "little practical value" is not "no practical value", much less "no value". Further down the article, the writer himself gives us a "practical" use:
...a pointed long blade pierces the body like "cutting into a ripe melon".
Got it.

Next, the BBC turns to the time honored tradition of policy promulgation through historical divergence:

The study found links between easy access to domestic knives and violent assault are long established. they must have looked at societies that banished "domestic knives" and seen that "violent assault" drastically dropped, probably right after the society starved to death since they could not cut their chicken cordon bleu. Oh, wait, continuing to read, I see they mean the enlightened French have done something like this so we should emulate:
French laws in the 17th century decreed that the tips of table and street knives be ground smooth. A century later, forks and blunt-ended table knives were introduced in the UK in an effort to reduce injuries during arguments in public eating houses.
Which is, of course, why the French had no violent crime in the 1600's. Also interesting to note is that forks were introduced into the UK to "reduce injuries during arguments". An historical tidbit I never knew. I always thought they were first used by the Greeks to make eating a bit less messy.

Update: It appears I am not the only one who thinks this is stupid...

Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which supports gun control, joked, "Can sharp stick control be far behind?"

Ok, so he gets it. Or not...
He said people in his movement were "envious" of England for having such problems. "In America, we can't even come to an agreement that guns are dangerous and we should make them safer," he said.
According to the NYT (spit), one American Chef (unenlightened, therefore) gets it: "He compared the editorial to efforts to ban unpasteurized cheese. "Where there is no risk," he said, "there is no pleasure."

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