George Osborne’s idiotic little handwriting analysis stunt, which tried to prove that Gordon Brown showed flawed judgement, was well reported in the press earlier in the week (click here for the Times coverage of the story)/ I would also recommend these posts on the subject by two of my favourite bloggers, Tom Freeman and Snowflake .
Ben Goldacre’s Guardian column, Bad Science, is always worth reading. This week’s column is inspired by Osborne’s stupid stunt. Click on the link above to read the full article.
What does it mean when the shadow chancellor of the exchequer is using graphology to attack Gordon Brown? Just to backtrack: Gordon and George squabbled, Gordon threw papers across the George scooped them up, saw handwritten notes, and sent them off to a graphologist to find out all about the secret inner Gordon.
Now you don't need me to tell you that graphology is quack nonsense on a par with astrology or tarot. "The writer is not shy. The writer shows unreliable and poor judgment. The writer was not in control of their emotions and instincts at the time of writing. There are signs that the writer is someone who does not like to give a clear-cut image of himself. There are signs that the writer can be evasive." And so on. Like astrology, or psychic readings, or tarot, graphology can produce fun talking points, by randomly throwing personality variables on to the table for discussion, even if it has minimal convincing empirical support for its claims. And like astrology, it has face validity, of a limited kind.
But what does it mean when the shadow chancellor of the exchequer uses the science of graphology to attack Gordon Brown: is the political right? The post-Marxist social theorist Theodore Adorno, whom I quote only because it amuses me to quote a post-Marxist social theorist, wrote at length about the psychodynamic links between astrology and fascism, about the need for rightwing ideologists, and especially their followers, to have simple, clear, authoritative narratives, rigid systems, patterns, and structures that make sense of the world.
….."sciences" such as graphology are about elevating our intuitions, an attempt to use "science" to bolster our prejudices with some kind of objectivity, to render them in biomedical terms. George, let's not forget, is no stranger to medicalising his foes, to deploying scientific notions in warfare - a man who has previously suggested Gordon Brown is "autistic", a term that many patients may be surprised to see used pejoratively.
George Osborne Graphology