In a comment to our original post, one of the founders of Green PR has entered a formula into the competition, and includes a long-winded rant suggesting that our criticisms of the nonsense formula are “snide”, a “‚ÄòLord of the Flies‚Äô-like, vendetta”, and are “too hidebound by logic”.
I’ve added my response below the fold so everyone can enjoy the comedy gold.
By the way, this is your last chance to get your entries in for our competition to invent a formula that describes what total bullshit these formulas are. Either leave it as a comment on any of the Bullshit Blue Monday posts or email me via this web form.
The best entry gets a prize!
My name is Andy Green. I am a partner with GREEN communications and it was me who created the name ‚ÄòBlue Monday‚Äô to link it with the existing story about the ‚Äòmost depressing day of the year‚Äô inspired by the formula devised by Cliff Arnall.
Hi Andy, my comments will appear like this.
My colleague has already been in touch with you to set the record straight on some serious inaccuracies in your blog.
We’ll get to those right away.
I am now adding my contribution.
It is a pity your respect for hard scientific facts has not been carried through in your post about ‚ÄòBlue Monday‚Äô. The dictionary defines ‚Äòbullshit‚Äô as containing misleading, or false language and statements. A simple phone call or e mail to Beat Blue Monday campaign, the source of your story, would have enabled you to avoid a number of significant false statements.
We respect anyone advancing the cause of scientific understanding but you seem more intent on pursuing a personal, school playground, or ‚ÄòLord of the Flies‚Äô-like, vendetta on the psychologist Cliff Arnall.
Fact: You originally claim the Mental Health Foundation has shelled out ‚Äòhard cash‚Äô to be linked with the ‚ÄòBlue Monday‚Äô campaign. This was totally not true. GREEN communications, the public relations company behind the current Blue Monday campaign, approached the charity to be a beneficiary, completely free of charge. After my colleague contacted you, I now see this detail has, at least, been amended.
As a result of the Blue Monday campaign, an outstanding charity which has to compete with thousands of other worthy causes, would receive welcome name and brand exposure, as well as specific publicity about its own mental health guide. If fully capitalised-upon, the campaign could also be a significant long-term fund-raiser vehicle for the charity, again where all funds generated would go to the charity.
Fact: Blue Monday is not ‚Äòowned‚Äô by anyone. In the same way ‚ÄòValentines Day‚Äô or ‚ÄòPancake Day‚Äô are owned by anyone. The idea for ‚Äòthe most depressing day of the year story‚Äô was not even originally conceived by GREEN communications. Rather the company recognised an opportunity to do some good in the world by harnessing its professional skills in public relations. Beat Blue Monday is a completely non-commercial enterprise. We do it because we think it is a good thing to do.
Fact denied! See the scare quotes in my original quote (“PR agency Green Communications who ‘own’ Blue Monday”). Although, using them in your refutation claim makes no sense. I link to a page on the use and meaning of scare quotes for your edification.
Fact: There has been a paradigm shift in the ‚Äòmost depressing day of the year story‚Äô. The story was originally put out by a London based public relations agency for their travel client in 2005. When it discovered the story was not going to be used in subsequent years, GREEN communications picked up the opportunity (after clearing it with the agency concerned and Cliff Arnall) and since 2006 has run the ‚ÄòBeat Blue Monday‚Äô campaign. Note, the story as it stands now is not about the day being ‚Äòscientifically proven‚Äô but rather the formula representing the ‚Äòsymbolic day‚Äô of being ‚Äòthe most depressing day of they year.‚Äô The criticism levelled against the Blue Monday campaign relates to the earlier incarnation of the campaign.
Fact denied! The original criticism of the campaign was that it used a bullshit formula that made no sense and that incorrectly and illogically indicated that a certain day is the worst of the year. Your campaign does exactly the same. Hence, the criticism is equally as relevant.
Fact: Read up on memes. You will discover these are self-replicating vehicles of communication. What GREEN communications recognized was the ‚Äòmost depressing day of the year‚Äô story was a meme, already in the infosphere. Through its involvement GREEN has harnessed this meme, branded it with the name ‚ÄòBlue Monday‚Äô and directed this body of information towards achieving a social and cultural good (as determined by our liberal, humanist values, for any post-modernists out there.)
Fact deni… Hey, wait a minute. “Read up on memes” isn’t a fact, it’s a command. And if you’re a post-modernist, what are you doing talking about all these facts?
Fact: I too share concerns about the need to expand understanding and engagement with science. We have generations who leave the education system with the barest scientific knowledge. As a result, real important issues such as climate change, or the seeming lack of any real debate about a new generation of nuclear power stations, are inadequately addressed.
Unlike the understanding of logically incoherent rubbish like the Blue Monday formula which gets international media coverage.
The real problem here is not the likes of Cliff Arnall somehow taking up valuable media space which the scientific community would otherwise receive.
Science gets the reputation it deserves with limited media exposure, partially through the difficulty in understanding of some of its subject matter to non-scientific audiences. More fundamental, and fix-able, is that the scientific community has not invested in telling its story as thorough and effective as possible, sometimes being too hidebound by logic, and failing to recognize the potency of emotion in communications, and the reality of memes.
The Blue Monday campaign does not seek to claim to be addressing real issues for the scientific community in the world. If you are sincere scientists, as opposed to the snide variety, why not focus on real issues and spend your valuable time addressing these?
That’ll be my day job then.
Opinion: Having met Mr. Arnall, where he gives up his time for Blue Monday at no cost, and in his professional career has helped hundreds of people with depression and addictive behaviour problems, I am of the opinion that he is a thoroughly decent human being.
Actually me too. Really, I’ve never met the guy and have never criticised him personally – just his nonsense formulae. Although his tendency to threaten to sue people for criticising his formula is a little off colour I feel. You may want to talk to him about this.
He is however, guilty: of agreeing with us that his information for ‚Äòthe most depressing day of the year story‚Äô can be directed to achieving a social good.
You can do just as much social good without misleading people. I say again, I applaud your efforts to promote mental health. Misinforming people in the process is counter-productive. Just run a campaign that isn’t based on tosh. Job done. Everyone’s a winner.
Nothing could be further from the truth of the image of Cliff somehow raking in lots of corporate gold from this venture. Over the four years of ‚Äòthe most depressing day of the year‚Äô story he has probably earned less than ¬£1,700 ‚Äì and has not been paid a penny by GREEN communications.
Cliff is understandably concerned, now that his children are using the Internet, they don‚Äôt come across unfounded and malicious references to their father, such as one post suggesting he should be ‚Äòshot through the face with a crossbow‚Äô. Any right minded person would act to protect their reputation in such instances.
The post, not written here, did not suggest that this should happen. It just described something nasty that he could write a formula about. However, a tasteless example, I agree. Interestingly, I believe Cliff didn’t threaten to sue over this, it was over another post by another author that was entirely reasonable in its assertions.
You have invited contributions of new formulas. You might want to consider this one:
G+O+O¬≤+D = Beat Blue Monday
G = Desire to create good to make the world a better place
O = Available meme and publicity skills
O¬≤ = Public and media receptiveness
D = Failing to address real issues for the scientific community in the world
S = Highly intelligent individuals
N = Too much time on their hands
I = Inadequate fact-checking
D = Failing to address real issues for the scientific community in the world
E = Propensity to pick on easy targets
In the spirit of your invitation to be creative, maybe the English language could be enriched by a new term, distinct from ‚Äòbullshit‚Äô called ‚Äòsnideshit‚Äô: a term to describe negative opinions, containing misleading or false statements, used, like children in a playground, to pick on an easy-to-hit victim. I am too gracious to suggest the term should be applied to anyone involved in this debate.
I leave the comedy as an exercise for the reader.
So, where do we go from here?
I have a strong suspicion the interests of balance and fair reporting might be subsumed in your subsequent journalist coverage about Blue Monday. You have the easy option to write a one-sided editorial in your column, which gives you a platform to score easy points.
I think you’re confusing me with Dr Ben Goldacre, who also thinks this is tosh.
However, rather than have an on-line slanging match, where it easy to posture and hide behind the facelessness of the Internet, I would really welcome an open, off-line meeting. (I am sure I could get Cliff Arnall to take part as well)
As the Martini ad used to say ‚Äòanytime, anyplace, anywhere‚Äô ‚Äì where we would have a genuine open discussion on any questions you care to raise about what ‚ÄòBlue Monday‚Äô is, and represents. It could even be extended it to a wider debate of how can science meet the challenge of getting the reputation it deserves.
Taking part in such an open meeting gives you the chance to prove yourself not as a group of ‚Äòsnide scientists‚Äô, but willing to take part in a real, open discussion to explore how can ‚Äògood science‚Äô be communicated.
How can an open discussion happen in a private meeting? That’s the point. You’re promoting nonsense publicly, so we’re criticising you publicly. Rather odd that a PR company isn’t comfortable with public debate but there you go.
That approach may be old school, but will avoid the depressing prospect not of Blue Monday itself on January 19th, but of a worthwhile initiative being undermined by your talent, which if focussed on more worthwhile ends, could achieve some better good for the world at large, while also helping the cause of scientific understanding.
There’s a really simple solution that doesn’t need a meeting. Drop the formula and the ‘worst day of the year’ drivel, and just promote the Mental Health Foundation and overcoming depression without misleading people. That’s all we’re asking.
You do some good and the campaign doesn’t hinder my work treating patients, who genuinely get misled by this sort of thing, doing scientific research into mental illness, which the nonsense formula apes in the media, and educating people about science, which your current campaign undermines.