Puzzlemaster

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The Independent Culture
SO TALK shows like Vanessa have been faking it. We non-experts always thought so. But now the experts have woken up to it; so it must be true. It wouldn't matter that things were faked, if the boundary between fact and fiction had not become so eroded. There is no clear labelling.

Many of these shows skirt the issues they purport to investigate. Their presenters ensure that the right questions are not asked and the discussion stays in the shallows. And that the venom of the right-feeling mob gets directed at the scapegoats. I know, I've been there. But these issues are soluble only by free debate. And this is only entertainment.

But then victimisation and intolerance are national pastimes. In the recent show-trial, Hoddle was sacked not for being a bad manager, but for being disliked. He was guilty of being different; of putting a personal religion ahead of the state religion: soccer. Better luck next incarnation.

It is uncomfortable to see people victimised just for saying stupid things. Views are not changed by bullying and spite, but by example. By patient discussion. By inspiring. By their owners being brought round to seeing their inconsistency. Stupid remarks, like mistakes, are a wonderful didactic opportunity. But intelligent debate was stifled and passed up for a witch- hunt.

I don't hold it against Tony Blair for stating his views on Hoddle on Richard and Judy's show. I like a man who's in touch with his prejudices. England is our national team, and we are all entitled to a view.

I do, however, hold it against him for lecturing us on what to eat. How dare he export his expertise from an area in which he excels (politics) into an area in which he knows nothing?

Avoiding beef was easy, although it appeared in the most unlikely foods. But now that Blair is his own Gummer's daughter, how do we avoid genetically modified food? There's no proper labelling. We've been eating it willy- nilly.

Of course Tony has the advice of experts. But it is well known that for every scientific expert who gives advice, there is another advising the exact opposite. It is all a question of which set of experts you choose.

Will we like living in Monsanto Island? Do we want them to build a new Jerusalem in England's ungreen and unpleasant land? Will hippopotomatoes be safe to eat? Won't gene escape mean a loss of choice? Isn't the ecology damaged enough without introducing vast unknowns? This is not entertainment: it needs thinking through. We have a right to a view.

The message on the side of the yellow lorry that dumped four tons of GM soya on Blair's doorstep at least raised a smile. It read: "Tony, don't swallow Bill's seed." Soya been warned.

Points to Ponder:

To judge from the puzzles sent in, Puzzlemaster seems capable of inspiring by example. Rosie Forth of Colchester sends this teaser inspired by the dome puzzle (30 Jan).

Beginning at any star, trace a continuous path along the network, visiting each star once and once only, finishing where you started. Alternatively, prove it to be impossible. Well?

Please send comments to: indy@puzzlemaster.co.uk

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