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Ben Harvey: Health warnings make me sick

There are some myths, some lies so outlandish & absurd & patently false that they linger in the mind of society simply because their improbability impresses us so very much. Like the one, for example, about Prince (or Volvo, as my Aunt calls him, after seeing his rebranded symbol) who – as legend would have it – had a couple of his ribs removed so that he could bend over far enough to be able to auto-fellate himself.

There’s a reason that evolution specifically designed men to not be able to do this, by the way. It’s because those offshoots of early man that were blessed by nature to be able to suck themselves off never actually had any reason to leave their caves, never encountered that mysterious black monolith and so went down the evolutionary cul-de-sac that top geneticists now have termed “Belgium”.

There are, of course, other blatantly fabricated myths that linger for the simple reason that they’re so much more interesting than the truth. Jamie Lee Curtis being a hermaphrodite, for example – kids at school still bandy that whopper around the place, albeit with slightly less idea who Jamie Lee Curtis is than we did. I remember being told that at school some fifteen years ago, and laughed along with my friends even though, if I’m honest, I actually thought that Hermaphrodite was a type of Greek salad.

Anyway, every nation has these cherished lies. Having something we all believe in has helped glue us together as a collective since we all got bored with God. The flipside of this, of course, is that there are things we collectively don’t believe in, that we reject out of hand and that we blithely snort at as being obvious nonsense.

Mobile phones giving you cancer, for example.

It’s been a constant, never-ending dribble of warnings, reports, research studies, testing, consultations, experiments and government committees. You’d have thought, by now, that – like other constant dribbles – some sort of stalactite would have been the result, a pointy, solid mass of fear that would actually stop us from spending a good chunk of our day with that little radioactive brick half an inch from the wet grey sponge that makes us.

I guess it’s a question of relative risk – one news story about a Great White shark off the coast of Cornwall and, across the whole UK, swimming-trunk sales plummet by 30%. Several thousand stories about telephones giving you head-cancer and we still have more mobile phones in this country than we do people (a statistic rivalled only by the USA, where there are more guns than people. Logic would dictate that we kept buying speedos and just invited yanks over here to shoot the shark, but, hey, that’s statistics for you).

It’s a very British response to anxiety. We discard all the evidence, all the articles and news-stories we hear about this, and just take a subconscious look at what the person next to us in the queue is doing; Britons only ever object to mobile-phone usage in leaderless, neighbourly groups, usually with placards saying things like “Upper Whittering Parish Neighbourhood Watch Against Phone Mast Peril!”. And even then it’s less because of the health concerns and more because the Daily Mail said that phone-masts bring down house-prices. Panic by committee. How perfectly English.

It’s a little like cannabis, actually, in that we’re told again and again and again that it might be dangerous, that it might have long-term effects, that it might damage you cumulatively. Also, like cannabis, it’s not actually possible to point to any one individual that’s died in this country as a direct result of mobile-phone use – there’s no dead business-woman or salesman that the opposition can use as a poster-boy for their cause. Of course, mobile-phones kill hundreds of people indirectly, either because they’re dialling whilst driving, or they get stabbed whilst being mugged, or maybe they get bum-gangrene when it gets stuck after calling Mr. Prostate. The only real difference is that the government reaps vast sums of tax from the industry and therefore has rather compelling reasons not to bang up the directors of Carphone Warehouse for Intent to Supply.

The reason I’m bleating on about this is that, again, we’ve had a report saying that there’s “a slight hint of a cancer risk for long-term users“. Some people think covering your head with tinfoil protects you, but these scientists are obviously more concerned with covering their arses. A “slight hint of a risk”? Cretins. What use is that? They sound like Jilly Goolden tasting wine. “I’m getting…yes, yes, just a slight hint of…tumour. The merest whiff of peaches and chocolate and oodles of electromagnetic damage to the RNA on my palate”. With fundamentally pointless, litigation-proof idiocy like this, is it any wonder that we ignore them? It’s the oncological equivalent of the joint of lamb I had for tea in the week – “Warning!” the box said. “Contains raw meat!”.

Pointless bloody scientists. If your plumber, after looking over your boiler, said ‘yeah, well, it might be leaking. That’s £200, please”, then you’d fill his trouser pockets with gravy and set the dogs on him. Yet apparently wearing a white coat gives you carte blanche to reel out this sort of toss and then award yourself another degree for it. The reason this makes me angry is that there’s so much confusion in the population about the radiation that phones kick out that the government has a moral duty to find out about this and actually come to some useful conclusions instead of merely attempting to placate the concerned housewives of the land by throwing the occasional grant at the occasional gimp with a Geiger-counter and some letters after his name. And goodness me, wasn’t that a long sentence.

Just because you can fob someone off doesn’t mean that you should. There is an argument that the Powers That Be resolve this issue completely simply so that the idiotically-skittish members of the population that do actually worry about this sort of thing will calm down and buy phones, putting money in our pockets like the good, docile, obedient little drones that they are. Personally, though, given the nations’ obsession with gambling, it may actually shift more units if retailers take ten random handsets for sale from their stores and replace the lithium batteries with plutonium batteries – introducing such an element of risk to the business of buying phones will provide more of a hit than any scratch-card imaginable…

…I am a business genius…

PS: Whilst finding out just how the hell you spell ‘Goolden”, I found this. You should check out the ‘personal life” section, if only as a shining beacon of the impartial & utterly reliable nature of Wikipedia…


  1. Beautiful Ben!

    We live in a society where we are all Chicken Licken and the scientists are telling us the sky is falling in.

    I don’t suppose in their studies into RF and brain tumours they ever thought to take out the probability that continuous stress caused by being on call 24/7 (the real problem with the mobile phone in my book) might just be a factor in any increase?

    We live in a world of celebrity and panic, and panic if you are not yet a celebrity. We want instant answers to questions, and question the answers if they don’t fit our sheep-like mentality. We wrap our kids in cotton wool, worry about paedophiles on every street corner and then bemoan the fact our kids aren’t getting enough exercise and are porky. We live in a world of paradox pushed by the media.



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