Wednesday, 16 March 2016

I Can't Decide If This Is More Amusing Or Bemusing...

Michael Turton lauded in the Taipei Times as a "polymath"?

Wot? And I thought he was just a fat, bearded, hyper-neurotic social justice warrior.

Yes, this is yet another priceless "whiskey, tango, foxtrot" moment brought to you by the Taipei Times, the newspaper of record which, in November 2011 equated a Taiwanese electoral gimmick involving piggy banks with the violent revolutions in North Africa. However, even for the Taipei Times though, this may be a bit of a stretch - and they might even be aware of this because the published interview contains no attempt to get Turton to demonstrate his diverse span of deep subject knowledge...

For instance, they could have asked him (but didn't) how it is that when the government sets a low minimum wage, this helps capitalists suppress wages across the economy.

They might also have asked him (but didn't) how a three meter rise in the capacity of Tseng-wen reservoir would lead to what looks like a thirty meter high flooding of the "Chiayi Farm" and the village of Dapu at the north end of the reservoir?

Alternatively, they might have asked Turton (but didn't) to explain specifically how John Graham-Cumming's submission to the UK Parliament in March 2010 on the subject of coding problems at the University of East Anglia's CRU was "bullshit".

Five years ago, Turton argued for the shutting down of "all coal power plants, everywhere on earth", within five years. Since that hasn't happened, the Taipei Times could have asked him (but didn't) when he expects sea levels around Taiwan to begin rising, and what his advice is on how to build post-apocalyptic survival shelters for the kids?

And so on on and on... far be it for me to suggest limits to Turton's "polymath" abilities.

Anyway, it is weird. Why did they do an interview with Turton? The question isn't asked out of jealousy; if the Taipei Times asked me for an interview I'd refuse. But it's odd for a couple of reasons. First, it's not clear what readers are supposed to gain from the interview. After all, Turton's blog has been widely read for many years and is easily found online through Google and Facebook. Anybody who wants to know what Turton thinks can simply read his blog, and it seems unlikely that one interview (especially in the Taipei Times) is going to significantly increase his readership. Giving him a regular column in which to squeeze out his weekly shite might achieve that, but not a one-off interview. Second, the interviewer made little attempt to challenge Turton on any of his views or various dodgy claims over the years, though perhaps this is to be expected given the amateurishness and political biases of the Taipei Times. But in that sense this was a lost opportunity to show him up for the fun of it. That would have been a laugh because Turton is a neurotic who can't take criticism and habitually deletes comments that question or criticize or opine in ways he doesn't approve of - like a mad king beheading his subjects for having the temerity to look him in the eye.

Weirder still, Turton put up a blog post about this interview entitled "I Am In The Taipei Times Today. Sadly." which he has since deleted (google cache version here). In this post he whinges and whines and complains about the interviewer having "set him up". In the comments to the Taipei Times article itself, all of his little sidekicks come out of the woodwork to squeak in protest about how "unprofessional" they have been toward him. All of this is rather strange because in the published interview itself, Turton's views on several topics are aired fairly and are recognizably his and the interviewer goes out of his way to compliment Turton and say generally nice things about him. Admittedly, he is introduced as a "polymath", a "sci-fi writer" and an "epicure", which can be seen as condemnation by means of excessive praise, but given that this is the Taipei Times, it's hard to tell. This might actually be what they think about him.

A very odd thing, all in all.

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