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Boaty McBoatface and the False Promise of Democracy

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British democracy has survived all sorts of things: the unraveling of the British Empire, independence movements in Ireland and Scotland, Prime Minister’s Questions. But never before has it confronted Boaty McBoatface.

The boat, which is really a ship, acquired new significance this week, when a British official suggested he wouldn’t respect the results of an online government poll in which more than 124,000 people voted to christen the country’s new $300-million research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.” The name received three times more votes than the runner-up entry. The people of the Internet had spoken emphatically, and they’d spoken like a five-year-old.

Alas, Science Minister Jo Johnson was not amused. “The new royal research ship will be sailing into the world’s iciest waters to address global challenges that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, including global warming, the melting of polar ice, and rising sea levels,” he reminded Boaty McBoatfacites. “That’s why we want a name that lasts longer than a social-media news cycle and reflects the serious nature of the science it will be doing.” (As my colleague David Graham has noted, it’s a bit rich to hear such sober talk from a government that has in the past named ships Buttercup and Cockchafer.)

Read more at TheAtlantic.com…

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