For those of you who have not been involved in selection of a Bent Spoon, here’s how it is generally done and how this year’s selection was made. Throughout the year, people propose likely candidates — suggestions are passed on in the form of newspaper clippings, phone-calls, letters, email or, occasionally, videotape. Denis coordinates the discussion, which involves the Skeptic’s executive officers and often members of the committee and members with appropriate expertise.
One award is given each year, with the announcement made shortly before the conference (to help boost interest in the conference). This year, about half a dozen candidates were nominated, a fairly typical number. We don’t tend to bother with the truly ridiculous material that is a mainstay of certain tabloid publications, as (we hope) no-one really believes those things anyway. We also eliminate overseas material (usually TV “documentaries”) as the Bent Spoon is a New Zealand award.
The leading candidate for much of the year was AIT Press, for jeopardising their hard-won academic credibility with the publication of Suppressed Inventions and The Poisoning of New Zealand. The damaging and silly nature of these books had been well covered in Metro by Vincent Heeringa, for which he received one of our excellence awards. Three weeks before our conference, the Justice Department report Hitting Home was released. A journalist who phoned the Skeptics for comment first suggested that it receive the Bent Spoon. Denis and I studied it and discussed the issues it raised with others. Sociologist (and Skeptics member) Greg Newbold independently wrote about many of the concerns.
Ultimately Denis and I decided to give the Bent Spoon Award to Hitting Home for two reasons: (1) AIT Press had already been well and truly excoriated in the Metro article and we were already recognising this with the excellence award (2) the Hitting Home report had far greater potential for broad-ranging social effects were it to remain unchallenged.
At the AGM, the following motion was passed: “That a New Zealand Skeptics subcommittee examine the 1995 Bent Spoon Award to the Justice Department’s report on domestic violence and report back to the NZ Skeptics committee before the end of 1995.”
We urge members to read the report and make up their own minds — let us know what you think either privately or for the December issue of the Skeptic.
Vicki Hyde, Chair-entity