Tuesday, February 24, 2015


When Charles Darwin saw the extremely long floral spurs of the Madagascar Star Orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale) at the base of each of which lies a sauce tzores source of nectar, he predicted that a pollinator must exist whose tongue would be long enough to reach all the way to the bottom.

The discovery, twenty-one years after his death, of the moth Xanthopan morgani praedicta, a creature of sufficiently extended snootage for the task, was a major vindication of his theory of evolution by natural selection.

And so it is that flowers and pollinators are engaged in a perpetual co-evolutionary game. The flower makes the nectaries harder and harder to reach, to ensure that the pollinators have to get far enough into the flowers to get some pollen rubbed on to their persons, all the better to fertilise the next bloom they meet. The pollinator, in contrast, evolves contrivances to reach the nectaries that ensure they don't have to work as hard as that.

I wonder, then, at the forces of evolution, so titanic and at the same time so subtle, that have precisely adapted the muzzle of a golden retriever to fit the shape and size of a carton of Ben and Jerry's ice cream?
(picture courtesy of Mrs Crox)

Monday, February 23, 2015

What I Think About When I Think About Manuscripts

This is a lightly edited version of a post I wrote almost six years ago, but which was brought to mind by my colleague B. K. of London. Although antique, the themes herein are, I think, still relevant. I repost it here by way of a public service.

Every now and then I get asked to a lab or seminar to give a talk about what I do as an editor at Nature. I see before me a wall of faces, agog and drooling amazed to discover that Nature editors are almost really human. When people ask me what I do, I usually give a flippant answer - for example, that I lie back being fed grapes by flying babies.

People ask me lots of questions. In fact, they ask me a lot of the same questions, mostly about peer review, and I tell them how many manuscripts I get to see in a year (between 600 and 700) and how many of these I can afford to accept (30-35). I talk somewhat of what happens between submission and acceptance or rejection, as if Nature were some kind of linear process, like making sausages.

What I don’t think I’ve ever discussed, or thought about much in any kind of deliberate way, are the thoughts that go through my mind when I look at a manuscript and decide on its fate. Actually, I have thought about it, a little, sufficiently for me to discuss it as part of a seminar course I gave at UCLA in 1996, but that was many years ago and a long way from here. I’ve passed a lot of paperwork since then.

In this post I shall try to be as honest as possible about what I think about when I think about manuscripts (acknowledging that to be objective will be impossible.)

The first thing to say is I don’t actually enjoy reading manuscripts very much. Not particularly. I’d rather be walking on the beach or hiking off into a daydream.

No, that’s not quite right. I do enjoy reading manuscripts, sometimes, very much. But I have to read a lot of them in a short time – I rarely have the luxury of being able to savour each well-turned phrase before it’s time for a decision to be made and I have to get on to the next manuscript.

In addition, manuscripts might be more enjoyable if they weren’t, so often, borderline unintelligible – in sum, they take a great deal of effort to understand, and it is a fact not universally acknowledged that Nature editors are mere mortals like the rest of us. It’s not so much that manuscripts have errors of spelling or grammar or are badly written, because (in the main) they don’t, and aren’t – it’s much more than that. It’s as if the authors expect readers, (and this reader in particular), to be as fully conversant with the terms, usages, protocols, excitement and importance of their work as they are themselves.

Pressure of time only compounds the lack of intelligibility – to me, lack of transparency only gets in the way of doing my job effectively. Such pressures detract from the pure serene that one might otherwise gain from reading, say, an acronym-clogged, jargon-infested billet-doux about the doubly negative interaction of one set of abbreviations with another set of abbreviations, the positively-double-positively-negative consequences being, in addition, determined, activated, repressed, enhanced or abrogated (at this stage it’s hard to tell) by another, quite different set of abbreviations.

It’s a matter of perspective.

This is a point worth dwelling on, because within its grimy folds rest many misunderstandings between farmers and cowmen authors and editors.

Let’s imagine a case history.

You are, most likely, a postdoc, trying frantically to rack up as many publications as you can before your time is up. Your field is specialized (aren't they all?) but you think your work might have some more general applicability (that dread phrase ‘therapeutic implications’: always a downer to the jaded editorial eye). Nonetheless, you are proud that there seems to be a corner of knowledge that you have made your own. For the past three or four years you’ve lived and breathed this work.

You’ve been in the lab more hours than actually exist.

You see gels and apparatus and Eppendorf tubes in your dreams, and when awake, as patterns in clouds or the shapes of puddles on the sidewalk.

This corner of knowledge is tiny – but to you, it is the whole world. Everything in your life is now defined by it. And that’s how you write your manuscript, your baby, sending it off all alone into a cruel world, with nothing more than a bunch of grapes to maintain its modesty. After many travails and adventures it runs into …
A Nature editor, recently
... and promptly wets itself.

I understand this kind of proprietorial attachment perfectly well. I understand that people can get almost messianically excited by … I don’t know, synapses, or the Golgi Complex. For I, too, was once a researcher and can still get turned on by some of the things that made science fun, all those years ago. For example, when I see what to you is a dry-as-dust fossil, I see a tropical, sun-kissed beach. When I see what to you is a dull and dreary cladogram, my mind quite possibly sees voluptuous sexpot celebrity chef Nigella Lawson licking an ice cream.

So I know what it feels like. Although I have discovered new kinds of intellectual stimulation since joining Nature (Hox genes, evo-devo, the Neutral Theory of Biodiversity, high-temperature superconductors, feathered dinosaurs, stem-tetrapods, all kinds of weird fossil hominids, extrasolar planets and other cool stuff), most of the papers I see – and judge – have only a remote connection with the things that used to float my boat.

Now, you might think this a grievous admission for a Nature editor whose gaze can reputedly pierce fire, cloud, earth and … flesh.

It’s one reason why my fellow editors are very reluctant to cavort parade in the public gaze the precise subjects in which they are trained, because if they did, they’d get irate letters from rejected authors complaining that the person who rejected their manuscript was not competent to have done so.

My response to any such complainant (I have never received such a complaint, personally, as far as I can recall) would be that manuscripts that require such specialist knowledge that they can only be handled by a specialist editor should be sent to a specialist journal, and not to Nature.

Therefore, for my part, I am happy to exhibit the extent of my own ignorance given the task I am set, to emphasize that even though it’s Nature, a high-profile journal of record read by Professor Trellis of North Wales tens of millions, people really shouldn’t have to work as hard as that.

So, here it is.

My Qualifications

- B.Sc., Class I, Zoology and Genetics, University of Leeds, 1984;
- Ph.D. Zoology, University of Cambridge, 1991, thesis entitled Bovidae from the Pleistocene of Britain;
- One (1) published paper on my Ph.D. subject;
- Several books on subjects quite different from my Ph.D. and in which one could argue I wasn’t an expert;
- A review of a Motorhead concert in Cantab.

My Responsibilities

- Handling manuscripts in palaeontology, comparative biology, systematic zoology and botany, evolutionary developmental biology, biomechanics, archaeology and Aliens from Outer Space. I also get to read, comment on and handle papers on genomics, some aspects of molecular biology and development that have evolutionary angles, all other parts of organismal biology including theoretical, experimental and evolutionary ecology.

Thousands of manuscripts have come under the pitiless gaze of the Gee over the years – not one of which has been in the speciality in which I am trained. Now, the question is whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

I would (naturally) say that a little perspective is a good thing. After a while, one doesn’t really need to know the fine details of a manuscript to have some sense that it is likely to make it into Nature or not. In most cases, it’s easy to judge whether a manuscript represents an incremental advance or a fundamental finding, irrespective of its subject matter.

In fact, too much knowledge can be a hindrance. When I receive manuscripts in topics dear to my heart, I worry that I might be sending manuscripts out to review that I find exciting, even though, were one to sit back and take a breath, the advance is, when it comes down to it, incremental. That’s why we editors tend to circulate draft decisions and opinions among our colleagues – to get the perspective of people who know less of the details than we do, and so have more of an appreciation of the whole picture.

Researchers with any sense, or who wish to get on in life, will read around the subject. They’ll scan the literature in fields apart from the one they need to master for the purposes of work. It’s worth noting that in any interview for a position at Nature, candidates are likely to be asked to talk about things they’ve read recently outside their field – and that this is the question that generally causes otherwise faultless candidates to stumble. One might argue that Nature and journals like it are there to serve that multidisciplinary need. That’s why we have features and articles explaining scientific papers to non-specialists, and why we ask authors of research papers to be more accessible than they otherwise might be. I still remember getting a call from a palaeontologist to say how much he’d enjoyed reading a review article in that week’s issue about protein folding. He felt he’d learned something.

What makes this job worthwhile is reading a manuscript which you just know will change things. Such elicit JFK moments – you remember where you were when you read the manuscript. These manuscripts are extremely rare. I guess that sensation has happened only five or six times in my more than 27 years at Nature. It’s probably no surprise to learn that these manuscripts generally concern palaeontology.

However, there have been one or two, handled by my colleagues and outside my field, that have seized my imagination. One of these was this account of a computer model of the Drosophila segment polarity module. This paper stimulated me to such an extent that it catalyzed a whole book.

What really gets me going is when the authors share with me, the reader, something of the journey that led to the results, rather than just the results themselves. What made that paper exciting was the researchers’ account of the repeated failure of their model to mimic reality, and how they applied the lessons learned at each stage to reap eventual success. This is not an argument for negative results, but for a way of writing that engages the reader.

Perhaps what I am getting at is that scientific papers tend to be static. The best literature of any kind has a beginning, a middle and an end, in which the protagonists undertake some kind of journey, whether geographical or spiritual, and are changed by their experiences. In scientific papers, the results often give us no clue to the back story – the reason why the researchers were studying this system or that, and the tale of chances and mistakes and serendipity that led them to that point. The only readable parts tend to be the introduction, in which literature is summarized (a classic case of telling but not showing) and the discussion (in which the new result is integrated into what is already known).

When I sit down to read a manuscript, the question in my head – what I think about, when I think about manuscripts – is how the sheaf of paper in my hands, or the dots on my screen, will change the way I see the world, in some fundamental way. So much the better if I can see how the world was changed for the researchers in the course of making their own discoveries.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Uzan the Man

Dan Uzan, aged 37, stood 6'9"and was a talented basketball player. He also happened to be Jewish and, like any Jewish community member might, was standing outside his synagogue in Copenhagen when he was shot dead by a the same Muslim nutcase who'd just opened fire on a seminar on free speech. As in the Charlie Hebdo massacres, no cross-eyed dribblingly insane self-respecting jihadist feels the job is complete without popping off a few Yids for good measure.

Now, I am almost 53, barely scrape 6'0", and if I had ever played basketball, which I haven't, I wouldn't any more. Yet, like Dan Uzan, I have stood guard duty outside my shul more times than I can count, as have many of my friends, some of whom are even older and shorter than I am. As far as I am aware, Dan Uzan was not a security guard, somehow distinct from the congregation, but a part of the congregation itself. Some press reports might have you believe otherwise: it seems to be a matter of surprise for non-Jewish journalists and churchgoers that security outside synagogues (and Jewish schools and community centres) is a recognised and regular part of community activity.

Synagogues have rotas for security like churches have rotas for changing the flowers.

Inside the synagogue Mr Uzan was guarding, a young girl was engaged in that rite-of-passage called the Bat-Mitzvah. This is the female equivalent of the Bar-Mitzvah and is in liturgical terms exactly the same. It's a moment long prepared for, and she would have been reciting a Torah portion in front of the congregation as the first act in her life as an adult member of her community. It's a special time. Crox Minor and Crox Minima have both had their Bnei Mitzvot and we treasure the memories. Yet for the girl in Copenhagen the joy was shattered forever by a one-man Islamic pogrom.

Dan Uzan could easily have been me. Or he could have been one of my friends standing guard while I was inside being the proud father.

I will not, therefore, offer any excuses for the fact that I take the latest outrage personally. I say Je Suis Juif because I am one - a Jew - I don't have a choice. It's not some trendy hashtag I can pick up, or drop, when it suits me. I feel the insults of Charlie Hebdo and Copenhagen and Toulouse and Brussels and Sarcelles and innumerable other incidents of naked Jew-hatred personally.

This is why I loathe the false sentiment of the metropolitan chatterati who spew saccharine platitudes about antisemitism on Holocaust Memorial Day before resuming their non-Jewish lives. To me, Holocaust Memorial Day is as insulting to me as a minstrel show must be to black people.

This is why Keith Kahn-Harris, in the Grauniad, says that if (and when) British Jews are attacked, that the rest of the world should see it as it is - an attack on Jews simply for being Jews - and not hijack the event for their own agenda, whether it's about Israel, or the status of Islam, or freedom of speech. At least the Grauniad is balanced, sort of. Mr Kahn-Harris' article counterpoints that of Andrew Brown which strongly implies that Islamist fury in Denmark is somehow a product of Denmark's 'civic religion' (which means that Jews should expect to be shot at, if only as collateral damage) and Hugh Muir who says that free speech is okay, so long as we don't antagonise anyone.

For the sake of the public peace, Brown and Muir appear to imply, it might be better if us Jews kept well out of the way, or, better still, disappeared completely. (Not that this helps - they'll still be getting at us after we're dead and buried.)

Well, Mr Muir, as the Charlie Hebdo and Copenhagen killers (and so many others) went out of their way to kill Jews, simply for being Jews, one can only suspect that being Jewish in itself a provocative act, and if a few crazed Islamists want to murder a few on their way home from some other killing spree, rather as one might stop for a bag of chips on the way home from the pub, then that's all right then. In your view, Mr Muir, Dan Uzan had it coming, and so shall I, when the time comes.

Aside: this attitude seems rather odd from a leftish newspaper in which feminists assert (and quite rightly) that women do not ask to be raped simply because they wear provocative clothing, or might be too drunk to object. Yet nobody shrieks loudly in my defence were I to assert my right to wear my Magen David (Star of David) outside my clothes rather than hide it away for fear of - what was it? - oh yes, inflaming the passions of those who might wish to assault me.

But I digress.

Actually, I'd like to ask a question.

We are told that most Muslims are peace-loving. But the fact remains that all the murderous loons we hear about these days are Muslims, and profess to be acting because of their faith, and yet we are told that the propensity to shoot Jews (for simply existing) and other people (for drawing cartoons) is the action of a deluded few, who have gotten the wrong end of the stick, theologically speaking.

No amount of casuistry can finesse such acts as political, or to do with Israel, or because the shooter is deprived, or is the child of immigrants, or is marginalised in society, or whatever. In the Middle-East, Muslims are busy slaughtering Christians (probably because all the Jews have left), and, most of all, one another, in the grisliest of ways and in enormous numbers.

My Jewish ancestors, yea, even before Israel was invented, were immigrants, deprived, marginalised, discriminated against and so on and so forth in like fashion, and despite the fact that the Old Testament is full of awfulness - murder, rape, the treatment of women as no better than cattle, even divine sanction of genocide (hey, who'd be an Amalekite nowadays?) - there was no tendency in Jewish communities in Europe or anywhere else to go out and kill people for not being Jewish. They just got on with life and did their best to integrate into the societies in which they found themselves.

Here's my question:

Where does this murderous impulse in Islam come from?

I have asked this question many times but have never yet received a satisfactory answer. I do not see that asking such a question is provocative, or even - to use the modish term - 'Islamophobic'. If people claiming to be following the precepts of Islam are out to get me, one sunny Saturday morning outside my synagogue, I feel I have a right to know, and that I am entitled to be direct. After all, as I said, it's personal.

POSTSCRIPT: I have two other questions, actually. If you don't mind.

The first is this. Why don't posts on antisemitism get any notice at all from the right-on-social justice warriors who shout loudly about other causes such as feminism and the rights of all and sundry? The only feminists who tend to comment are Jewish feminists.

The second is as follows. I am as English as warm beer and cricket on the village green on Sunday afternoons. I was raised on Marmite, The Archers and Gardener's Question Time. I pay my taxes, adhere to the law and don't go round shooting people and desecrating headstones. England is my home and my country and I love it. So why is it me who is being told I don't belong here, for the public good? Why are people such as Muir and Brown and other appeasers making excuses for these Islamic loonies, whose instincts seem so violently un-English? Why aren't they being told to leave?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Great War Remembered, Eggcetera

'The Night Watch, Oeufs-en-Cocotte Salient, 1917': another tableau by the Cromer Poultry Great War Re-Enactment Society.

But I digress.

You know Spring is almost Sprung when the days are lengthening noticeably and the Ladies start laying again. Actually, the weather has been so mild this year that they have been laying since Christmas. Here is the result of a few days' accumulation.

As I was collecting this morning, my iPod struck up Bach's Magnificat in E-flat major BWV243a, the movement 'Et Eggsultavit Spritus Meus'. Spooky.

Later on was was delivering some of our Eggcess to some of our neigbours. I am the Egg Man. We are the Egg Men. Goo-Goo-Ga-Joob.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Heartening Development

As both of you will no doubt recall, I had come across a Facebook page promoting the Blood Libel, which no amount of complaint - either by me, or my many friends on social media - could get removed.

This issue had slipped down to #846 in my To-Do List, notwithstanding inasmuch as which, yesterday, I had cause to read the All-Party Inquiry into Antisemitism, a report by Britain's parliamentarians into the state of antisemitism in Britain, particularly during the Gaza crisis last year.

The report says many things, and makes a number of recommendations. It points to well-known lacunae such as the fact that many NGOs and supposedly anti-racist organisations turn a blind eye to antisemitism, and that antisemitism is a particular problem on campuses.

Same old, same old.

But it also told me things I didn't know, such as the failure of the judiciary to consider antisemitism as a specific kind of hatred. And the fact that most incidents of antisemitic hatred, such as criminal damage and abuse, were committed by young white men probably of the Dave Spart persuasion going to and from pro-Gaza demonstrations. Anyway, you can read it here, and I might well blog about it in more detail (I haven't finished reading it yet.)

But I digress.

In a section on social meeja the report did mention that Facebook had been very helpful, to which my response was, well, hmm. However, the report did indicate an easy method for the reporting of hate crime - just fill in an online form, and there you are. You can do that here, and no, you don't have to be Jewish (or Muslim, or Transgender, or Disabled, or whatever). Anybody can report what they think is a hate crime.

So, I decided to report that offending Facebook Page. After all, what had I to lose? I'd got nowhere with Facebook, and even if my report of a hate crime fell on equally deaf ears - well, at least I'd have tried.

I shouldn't have worried. Within hours of my filing the report, a community support officer was round at my house, yea, even at the same computer at which I write this, gathering information about Facebook, the Blood Libel, the nature of Jewishness and so on and so forth. This gave me a great deal of comfort. In fact, more comfort than I can express.

The British Police is highly sensitised to hate crime. They take any complaint very seriously. Even if you feel the incident you wish to report mightn't be that important, that you might be wasting police time - report it.

You will get a sympathetic hearing, and at least the feeling that you are not alone. That people are on your side - people with the power to act.

That Somebody Is Actually Doing Something.

I feel that a weight has been removed from my heart - I feel better and happier than I have in weeks.

UPDATE 11 February: The Community Support Office just called me to say the incident has been formally recorded as a hate crime. So, watch out, Facebook.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dad's Taxis No Longer?

Hey, let's have some good news for a change, and here it is - the number of fatalities on Britain's roads was 3,409 in 2000, but 1,713 in 2013. The carnage has halved in just thirteen years. I should not like to speculate on the reasons why, though I suspect that they are a constellation of small things, such as better policing, road design, car design and safety campaigns.

This won't come as any consolation to anyone with a relative who has died as a result of a road accident, especially as road transport still represents a very bloody way of getting from A to B. To add some perspective, the number of people killed on railway level crossings in the UK in 2013-14 was ... seven. In the air, 2012 was the safest year ever to be an air passenger, with 362 fatalities (down from 403 the previous year), and that wasn't in Britain, but worldwide.

It's not much comfort to me, either, as I pick my way through the foggy Norfolk murk of an evening or early morning, just me and Caroline, my trusty 1995 Volvo saloon, with 178,000 miles on the clock, trying to ignore the Boy Racer or White Van Man tailgating me at speed, all the while trying not to hit the ill-lit cyclists in front, made even less visible when set against the ill-adjusted headlights of the cars whizzing towards me in the other carriageway.

I'm doing more of this now that Crox Minor and Crox Minima are teens and require Dad's Taxis to take them to destinations ever further from home, and although I love Caroline, yea, with a Fierce and Jealous love, because although many of her non-essential bits and pieces no longer work, she is exceedingly well made withal, notwithstanding inasmuch as which she was completely bought and paid for many years ago (with the advance I got for a book called Deep Time, if you must know), I wish she had some of the more refined ... er ... refinements of modern cars. A built-in satnav, maybe. Proximity sensors, so I wouldn't be able to hit anything else. One of those automated parking gizmos (because I am very poor at parking, especially as Caroline is an old-fashioned car with a long bonnet and boot.)

In fact, I wouldn't mind at all if Caroline drove herself. After all, she already knows the way to most of the destinations to which we drive together. To be honest, I don't like driving very much - I'd rather just lie back and have a nap while Caroline (who, I'm sure, is much more sensible than me) did what she does best, perhaps waking me at our destination with a nice cup of tea. Even better - I could program her to take the kids wherever they wanted to go, or send her to collect them, and I needn't even leave home!

Hence my interest in the article by my colleague Mitch Waldrop on driverless cars. These should be around on our streets in the next decade or so - much in the same way that electric vehicles are now. Four US states including the District of Columbia have passed laws to allow driverless cars on their roads. One of the others is California, where Google's driverless car program is clocking up hundreds of thousands of test miles, logging how driverless cars will cope with less and less probable scenarios, such as coming across sofas or plastic bags in the middle of roads, and, who knows, what strategy to adopt when meeting a girrafe on a unicycle.

Driverless cars are being tried out here in the U. of K. in various pilot projects ['pilot'? Shurely Shome Mishtake - Ed.] Here are some driverless vehicles clustered together in Greenwich, London, in a picture kindly supplied by my friend A. J. of London, who assures me that they were all static when he took the picture. [So why aren't they any different from any old parked car, hmmm? Ed. (again).]
Some driverless vehicles in Greenwich, recently. (picture by A. J. of London)
The big thing is safety. If you think that 1,713 road deaths in a year is a lot in the UK, the annual tally of traffic fatalities worldwide is around 1,240,000. Which makes air travel seem all the safer, except that we have the technology, now, to cut that number by rather more than a million, given that nine out of ten road accidents are due to driver error.

As William Gibson once said, the future is already here - it's just not been widely implemented.

Yes, people, the technology of driverless cars is here. We already have GPS, so we know where we are at all times, and what's just coming up. We already have the technology for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) radio, allowing vehicles to communicate with one another to regulate their mutual distances, warn of upcoming hazards, and so on; as well as the technology for roadside transponders which will instruct vehicles of hazards and enforce speed restrictions.

The question, as always, is the human factor. Governments will have to regulate the use of driverless cars, as well as provide a great deal of infrastructure. People will have to be able to afford them (perhaps the first adopters will be fleets rather than private individuals.) The promised benefits in overall fuel efficiency will come only when a large number of cars are driverless. And you can just imagine the field-day that some newspapers will have when a malfunctioning robot car kills its first human being, setting at naught the fact that most road deaths are caused by people, not malfunctioning machinery.

It will take time. For all the benefits of driverless cars (and, quite honestly, I can see few demerits, unless you are Jeremy Clarkson) they will take a lot of getting used to. Maybe early models will be required to have a mannequin sat in the driving seat to reassure passers-by (remember the Johnny Cabs in the Arnold Schwarzenegger version of Total Recall?)
Arnold Schwarzenegger and a passenger, recently. 
… just as today's eerily silent electric cars are nowadays encouraged to emit a reassuring but completely unnecessary engine noise.

My mind is cast back to this ancient cartoon from the earliest days of motoring, published in Punch in around 1904. A man in a car looks back at the poor sap he's just knocked down.

The caption reads:
MOTOR FIEND: Why don't you get out of the way?
VICTIM: What! Are you coming back?
'Motor Fiend'. Hah. I love it.

Friday, February 6, 2015

No PC, No Comment

I am male, white, heterosexual, middle-class and middle-aged.

So, obviously, my views don't count. And if I say anything at all I am obviously a sexist, racist, homophobic pig. Even if it's 'Oh, we've run out of milk, I'll just nip to the shop, shall I?'

But poor me, I can't help being sexist and a potential rapist just waiting to happen! It's my DNA, Officer Krupke! Everything I say or do will be an expression of white, male, heterosexual privilege.

But what's this? To make matters worse I am also Jewish and a Zionist. So I will have, if you look closely, horns and a tail.

I also smell funny, which prevents people getting too close to check up on the whole horns/tail combo.

I am part of a conspiracy to rule the world. It's true, I am. We Jews didn't work so hard in school and infiltrate the professions, banking, the law, science and medicine for nothing, you know, and despite your efforts to keep us out of elite colleges (no Affirmative Action for us Jews, we succeed on merit) we have won a disproportionate number of Nobel Prizes, which is obviously unfair, and shows that we are up to no good.

I kill and eat Christian and Muslim children for breakfast and use their blood to make matzot, not that anyone has ever seen me do this, after all, we Jews are terribly clever, and then there's the conspiracy, remember. But it must be true, it's on Facebook.

And, being a Zionist I am of course personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of Palestinian children in Gaza. Even if they aren't Palestinian, and didn't come from Gaza, it's my fault. It's on the BBC, so it must be right.

Antisemitism? Well, we Jews do love a good moan. We're awfully sensitive, you know, in the same way that all black people are wonderful dancers; all Scots are ginger and eat deep-fried Mars Bars; and all Chinese people are inscrutable and crafty. We're making it all up to gain sympathy, but it doesn't count, because I have 'white privilege', and what with Israel and Palestine and the whole conspiracy goy-eating business, I obviously deserve it.

Is it any wonder that I don't care for Political Correctness?