How enforced ‘respect’ misses the point

As Armistice Day draws to a close for another year, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts on what the day means to me and on the increasingly sensitive subject of how the fallen should be respected.

Most people will be familiar with the excruciating pressure that television presenters and public figures are put under to honour their forebears in the ‘right way’ without cheapening the message by starting too early. One had only to witness the usually unflappable Gary Lineker desperately scrambling to clutch his poppy to his chest after it fell off during Match of the Day to realise that perhaps we’re starting to miss the point. After all, Lineker really can’t be blamed; he foresaw all too well the scathing tabloid condemnations that lay in wait for a respected presenter who, even through no fault of his own, failed to show ‘enough’ respect for Britain’s war dead.

But this uneasy pressure to be seen to be showing enough respect in the right way isn’t just restricted to our TV studios and public offices, it permeates all the way down to our streets and workplaces. Every year there emerges yet another ‘fuming cashier banned from wearing the poppy by shameful supermarket bosses’ or ‘war veterans livid at being refused permission to sell poppies in private retail outlet’. Those who choose to pay their respects to the war dead in a certain way get angry at those who don’t subscribe to their way, until the latter is invariably ‘shamed’ into a ‘climb-down’. In my own office, my meeting was abruptly hushed into silence at 11am and my attempts to quietly continue scrawling a few notes were met with disapproving ‘shush!’s and the frantic tapping of poppies and watches.

Is this really what we mean by respecting those who have gone before us? Does this tense, nervy atmosphere laced with a fear of being seen to be lacking in gratitude capture the Armistice day message we want to convey? I believe not. For me, honouring those tragic men and women who lost their lives in one of history’s greatest atrocities does not necessarily mean wearing a certain artifact or doing a certain thing at an agreed time. I don’t wear a poppy, but I have nothing against those who do. That’s their choice entirely. I feel like I respect Britain’s war dead by doing simple things like exercising my right to free speech or just by taking the time to learn about their lives through history books or elderly relatives. I appreciate the sentiment of collective observances like wearing a poppy or observing a silence, but when joining in with them becomes less of a privilege and more of a chore then the outcome actually runs counter to that which is intended.  On a day which is meant to be all about respect, why can’t we simply respect the rights of individuals to honour their ancestors in whichever way feels right for them? After all, such freedom of expression is surely what those men and women laid down their lives to ensure.

See also: Liberal Conspiracy on Remembrance Day and pacifism and Enemies of Reason on not wearing a poppy.

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People who know me will know that I’m deeply interested in the religion/atheism debate. I haven’t blogged about it much before, largely out of fear that once I get started I’ll likely never stop. Anyway, I’m not going to pen a lengthy polemic or anything just now, but instead I wanted to share something that I feel highlights a lot of people’s misgivings with regard to religion in a quite brilliant way. I’ve read widely on theistic matters, but I’ve found few more insightful and hilarious critiques of religious absurdity than the following strip from the superb Viz magazine (click on the image to enlarge):

Brilliant stuff.

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Declining standards

I feel sorry for kids sometimes. When it comes to education, no matter what level you’re studying at and regardless of your achievements, young people can rest assured that it all counts for nothing as exams are too easy and standards are too low. As a publication which likes to view young people as somewhere between cancer and blacks on the Fear & Loathing O’Meter, the Daily Mail takes particular delight in pushing this narrative.

Why, only in the last few months we’ve been offered all of the following as evidence that educational standards are plummeting and that ‘By gum! They were tough but maybe 1950s schoolteachers had it right after all!’:

“Yea, yea” I hear you cry, “more tedious grumbling from that miserable lot who could probably even find a way to complain about something as harmless as Disney films given half the chance!” (you may joke, but to see how the Mail blames Disney for the demise of the two-parent family, click here). But wait! Maybe we’re being too harsh. It seems that the Daily Mail has a genuine reason to be concerned about declining standards: it simply can’t find literate staff to tell us how to avoid catching dangerous diseases like cancer and ethnic in a coherent, legible manner! Take this little snippet from today’s article reporting on a year old YouTube video:

Ok, so the last mistake is due to the fact that the reporter just cut and pasted the band’s ‘quotes’ from their website, but still! This article got through at least one reporter, a spell checker and an editor without anybody realising that ‘they want to to hurls the 62 pianos’ doesn’t make a blind bit of sense.

A Mail journalist (possibly Janet Street-Porter) hard at work

Clearly, this puts Mr Dacre in an awkward position. His readers are going to notice the hypocrisy of his paper complaining about declining standards if it’s coming out with lines like ‘Britain childrens is learning stupid’. And he can’t hire these ‘skilled immigrants’ because they might try to ‘shank’ him or poison him with halal meat.

I can see only one solution: Britain opens its first school for Daily Mail journalists. The school could teach not only spelling and basic literacy, but could also offer additional classes in balanced interpretation of statistics and appropriate use of the words ‘fury’ and ‘outrage’, as well as holding special remedial fact-checking sessions for Mr Littlejohn. Perhaps a school nurse might even be persuaded to take a look at Melanie Phillips. It may be drastic, but this seems to be the only way to save Britain’s best-loved chip wrapper from falling victim to the declining standards which threaten us all.

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Celebrity dross of the week

Fans of X-Factor judge Dannii ‘the-one-in-between-Cheryl-and-Louis’ Minogue were anxiously awaiting news of her condition after the star apparently cheated death in a ‘terrible’ ‘plane landing horror’ during which she ‘feared for her life’. The Australian press and celebrity news sites have scrambled to report the ordeal:


The Australian

Adelaide Now/Daily Telegraph (Aus)

Here are the chilling details (aerophobic readers are advised to look away now):

Dannii Minogue was reportedly left shaken when a plane carrying her and son Ethan, had difficulty landing.

According to The Metro, the X Factor judge and her baby were flying to Cairns in Australia to film the Judges’ Houses stage of the show.

A friend of Dannii’s told the paper: “We had the most terrible landing. We were coming down to land and suddenly shot straight back up again.”

The source added: “There was too much cloud and the pilot could not see the runway. It was all very scary.”

Thankfully, the plane landed safely and Dannii is now back in her X Factor role for the first time since returning from maternity leave.

The story was bought to my attention by a pilot friend of mine, who was scratching his head as to how a missed approach, which is a fairly standard procedure in aviation, is now considered headline news. It’s not of course, until you throw in the special ingredient of a Z-list celebrity who just so happens to currently be featuring in a new series of a popular TV show.

Keep an eye out for this scoop being picked up on by the usual suspects in the UK over the next few days…

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Pastor’s Qur’an bonfire goes out with a whimper

Over in the States Christian fruitcake Pastor Terry Jones has finally backed down over his plans to hold ‘International Burn a Qur’an Day’ on the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Quite how a rabble of rednecks and a couple of dogs having a bonfire in a field somewhere in the backwaters of Gainesville ever came to be described as an ‘International’ event remains to be answered, but the point is that Mr Jones has finally deduced what took the rest of us all of 5 seconds and has realised that this was a bad idea.

There will of course be the usual groans of ‘us backing down to militant Islam’, but that’s to be expected I suppose. Most intelligent people will have no problem understanding that this pointless act was never about The West standing up to Islam, but was rather a shameless ploy by an insignificant fundamentalist to get a bit of publicity for his miniscule church and associated business interests.

Mr Jones has never had a problem with courting controversy. His Dove World Outreach Centre represents pretty much everything people dislike about religion. Homophobia? Check. Exploitation? Check. Intolerance of other religions? Check. If we were playing Bigot’s Bingo, Jones’ nasty little church would score a full house, and so it’s no surprise that Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe this year described them as “an embarrassment to the community”. Jones’ miserable exploits include selling t-shirts and mugs emblazoned with his subtle slogan ‘Islam is of the devil’ and describing evangelism as more important than education.

You may also have noticed that he’s got a book out. Or to put it another way, it’s been pretty much impossible to follow this story without seeing him glaring sternly at the camera whilst holding up a copy of his imaginatively titled Islam is of the Devil (just in case you didn’t get the message the first time around). The Qur’an may be at the centre of this story, but I’ll wager there’s only one book that Terry Jones has ever been interested in raising publicity for. And that’s exactly what he’s been getting by the lorry-load.

On the face of it, this may seem like a pretty big story: American act of religious incitement threatens to blow apart US-Islamic relations and endanger the lives of thousands. But strip away all the hyperbole and rhetoric and what have you actually got? A crackpot fundamentalist with barely enough followers to fill a broom cupboard and a book to sell. How the hell was Terry Jones’ profile this ever allowed to snowball to the extent that you can’t turn on a TV anywhere in the world at the moment without seeing his pitiful face? How did this narrow-minded pariah, who had apparently been expelled from his previous church, end up in a situation where everybody knows his name and where, as of a few minutes ago, it was the 35th most searched for term on Google worldwide? Step forward the global press.

It can be all to easy to simply blame the press sometimes, and there can be an element of ‘shooting the messenger’ about it. But was this story really important enough to warrant the extraordinary amount of coverage it has received? Are the opinions of 50-odd bible-thumpers really of such critical importance that the whole world has to be able to keep up with their idiotic schemes across 24-hour news channels and the printed press? Even the local Gainesville Sun was only giving minor coverage to the story a whole month after ‘International Burn a Qur’an Day’ was announced, warning then that over-reporting would “[give] church officials the attention they’re after”.

Reaction to Pastor Jones' plans

This seems a classic case of the media creating news and then gleefully reporting on it. As the amount of coverage proliferated, it was only a matter of time before images hit the extremist hotbeds of Afghanistan and Indonesia. Once the predictable images of burning American flags were broadcast this suddenly morphed into a story about America vs the Muslim World; Christianity vs Islam; Freedom of Speech vs Censorship. Against the backdrop of the tensions over the planned Islamic Cultural Centre near Ground Zero, this minor story of one man’s religious intolerance became a global tale of warring powers and ideologies, with the press clamouring to capture it all unfolding.

And so, with Pastor Jones’ bonfire becoming a damp squib, this tiresome little man can retire from the limelight having successfully instigated the publicity drive of his dreams whilst the media can spend the next few days living off the remains of the feast they helped create. As for the rest of us, we’re left picking up the mess of religious and racial tension that the above two’s little party has generated.

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You can’t help but think that Morrissey is subhuman

In what has come as a surprise to pretty much nobody, jaded rocker Morrissey drew fresh allegations of racism at the weekend by claiming that the Chinese are a ‘subspecies’. His comments, made in an interview with Simon Armitage in The Guardian, came as he criticised China’s dubious animal rights record. Here’s what he said:

“Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can’t help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies.”

It’s not difficult to see what’s wrong with that statement. It’s perfectly principled to bring into question some of China’s practices with regard to animal welfare, as increasing numbers of Chinese have been doing (see here, here, here and here). But to tar a whole race with such a vile term as ‘subspecies’ because of the actions of some goes beyond the pale, and places Morrissey’s comments firmly in racism territory. There really is no defending these types of comments, which are the latest in a string of accusations of racism that have been made against the ageing rocker.

Those who would seek to defend his comments (some of whom can be found, predictably, on hate sites such as Stormfront and Mail Online) by citing some of the terrible cases of animal cruelty that occur in Chinese zoos and circuses entirely miss the relevance of a term like ‘subspecies’. This slur doesn’t just refer to Chinese zoo keepers, circus owners or even the government, but rather to the entire Chinese race. There really should be no place for this type of thinking in modern Britain, particularly from an individual in such a position of influence, and you shouldn’t need me to point out why. Morrissey would do well to consider the findings of a 2005 International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) poll which found that 90% of Chinese and Asians believed ‘we have a moral duty to minimise [animal] suffering’.

Context is crucial when commenting on China. Our position in the UK of being a small, fairly homogenous country equips us pretty poorly to understand some of the issues facing Modern China. The vastness and diversity of China really makes it incredibly difficult to fit it into our tidy conceptions of what constitutes a ‘country’. China is more comparable to the whole of Europe than it is to the UK or France or Spain. It’s composite regions and provinces have a fractured history or unification and division, and although Mandarin is acknowledged as the national language, regions each have their own diverse and mutually incomprehensible dialects. Add to this the fact that China is home to a staggering 20% of the entire planet’s population and you begin to see why sweeping generic statements about the Chinese are pretty much impossible to make.

China is also changing. Fast. If you drive out of Shanghai you can travel 50 miles east and 150 years back in time. It really is that radical. Whilst the trendy cosmopolitan types of Shanghai and Beijing splash their cash in trendy bars and bistros, some 740 million of their fellow countrymen in the rural areas scrape by on a shoestring, and the urban-rural income gap continues to widen. Animal rights are of course of critical importance, but unfortunately they remain something of a luxury which affluence affords. We should be wary of being too judgemental considering that the average annual salary across China stands at close to just 15% of the UK average.

We must also consider that public opinion doesn’t carry quite the same weight in China as it does in the UK. I know from first-hand experience that Chinese people harbour numerous concerns regarding animal welfare, and they hardly deserve to be branded as inherently inferior for an inability to have their concerns picked up on by their country’s political system. The likes of Morrissey probably think they are helping bring the issues into the public consciousness with controversial comments like these, but I believe that they are in fact somewhat counter-productive as they produce a siege mentality amongst the Chinese, who are after all the people his comments are trying to affect. Take some of the retaliatory comments that have been posted on Chinese message boards over the weekend (Chinese – English translations my own):

“English people are all beasts, how many Africans have you killed? Chinese people don’t argue with the English, just wait until the time comes when all the English beasts will be boiled.”

“So you English are superior? You don’t eat beef? You don’t eat fish? Are cows and fish not animals? And vegetables have life too. Does your vegetarian food not include vegetables? What about rice and bread? How do you think that’s made if not with seeds from living things? Get real and stop trying to be smart.”

“Why do foreign countries feel the need to keep criticising us?”

“English people are like pigs and dogs. A contemptible nation.”

These puerile, reactionary responses were pretty typical of most comments, and it’s a shame that idiotic insults like Morrissey’s simply spawn more of the same in return. But what do we expect when the man says things like ‘the Chinese are a subspecies’? Not only were his remarks blatantly racist and grossly unfair to most Chinese, they seem to have had the effect of alienating the very people who international animal rights campaigners must rely on to drive any shift in China’s animal welfare practices. However noble his intentions with regard to animal welfare, it seems Morrissey couldn’t have got it more wrong on this one.

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When is a joke not a joke?

I’m back on the Daily Mail today. I know I’ve been on at them a fair bit over the last couple of days, and I acknowledge that taking on the Daily Mail and its commenters is sometimes the intellectual equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, but I’ve been tired lately so kindly indulge me. Actually, it is important to tackle these issues if, like me, you agree with Angry Mob’s concept of tabloid stories’ influence being analogous to passive smoking. The old idea that if a lie is repeated often enough it become accepted as truth is basically applicable here. This is why I felt the need to take the Mail to task over its portrayal of China and Chinese culture in an earlier article.

Anyway, today I’m not so interested in what the Mail is saying as much as what its readers are. There are a fair few images in this post so bear with me, but I think its necessary to illustrate what I believe is a tellingly hypocritical mindset amongst many Mail readers. So here’s the article that originally caught my attention today:

Basically, the article fairly objectively outlines the recent tweets of Sri Lankan-born council worker Rehana Mohamed, in which she joked in poor taste about the abuse of foreign domestic workers, saying such things as ‘Damn right they should get up and make what you want. That’s their job.’ and  ‘We never let out female servants for their own safety.’ Controversial for sure, although most will struggle to understand how the sarcastic comments of a complete nobody have wound up being discussed in the national press. Mail readers are clear though that this is no laughing matter. Here are the top-rated comments from the article:

And woe-betide those who think this is ‘just a joke’. Here are some of the worst-rated:

Clearly here is a woman to whom no mercy must be shown, despite the fact she has apologised for the way in which her comments have been construed. Mail readers have made it clear that remarks like hers are unacceptable in this day and age, and it is not good enough to attempt to excuse them by suggesting that she may have meant them in jest. This may well be a perfectly principled viewpoint. Except that Ms Mohamed is not the first ‘public figure’ to have made controversial comments in poor taste.  Consider the Mail’s previous coverage of the racist comments of Carol Thatcher, who referred to a black tennis player as a ‘golliwog’, and Anton Du Beke, who described a Strictly Come Dancing contestant as having the appearance of a ‘Paki’. Once again, commenters tried to defend both by claiming that their remarks were made in jest, but this time the ratings were awarded rather differently. Here are the best-rated comments from the Thatcher golliwog story:

And the worst-rated:

Here we see readers sympathetically insisting that people sometimes make silly jokes at inappropriate times, but that they should have the freedom to offend without it costing them their job.

Same with Anton’s ‘Paki’ remark. Once again, comments attempting to justify it are given the thumbs up, whilst those pointing out its inappropriateness get the thumbs down:

So why the double standards here? Why are the likes of Thatcher and Du Beke, whose comments of a racist nature are arguably much worse that Mohamed’s (especially considering the respective influence that these two have as ‘celebrities’), in need of some understanding whereas Ms Mohamed is to be executed at dawn? Those familiar with the traditional narratives fed to Mail readers will be able to hazard a guess or two. Could be because Ms Mohamed is foreign-born. Could be because she works in the much-maligned public sector. Or could be because her name sounds a little bit ‘Muslim‘. You can click on the three previous links to see how all of these traits are shown in a negative light time and again by the Mail and the tabloid press in general. With this in mind, should we really be surprised when Mail readers leap to the defence of two white British racists whilst a Sri Lankan-born council worker’s tasteless humour has them reaching for the pitchforks and torches? No. Should we be angry about the sheer bigoted hypocrisy and the media publications which fuel it? You bet we should.

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If God exists, then why are there Daily Mail commenters?

If there’s one thing bound to draw the pious and righteous away from their Bible study groups and into the mainstream, it’s a cosmology article in the Daily Mail. True to form, today’s article detailing Stephen Hawking’s new book, and more specifically his belief that postulating a Creator to explain the Universe’s beginnings is unnecessary, has attracted the usual mob of delusional, bible-thumping eccentrics.

Now don’t get me wrong, I support freedom of religion even though I don’t accept the idea of a personal God myself. And I don’t claim with 100% certainty that there is no God; although I think it’s highly improbable, to say ‘there is no God’ is to make fundamentalist claims. But why do certain religious sections of society have to persist in this relentless war against science? It’s a losing battle, science and religion are talking two different languages and as such there can be no argument between them. Smart religious people learnt long ago that the way forward is to incorporate the latest scientific findings into their belief systems. It’s hopeless to continue plugging your ears and denying what emerges from the scientific world, and it’s churlish to just dismiss the brightest, most eminent physicists as quacks.

But that’s exactly what happens time again when the finest inquiring minds advance their latest theories, and Hawking has not been spared the same treatment. Once again, down in the dank depths of the comments box, they’re queueing up around the block to criticise his genius, all insisting that they know better than the multiple award-winning physicist.

For example, Dave cares not for scientific accolades, and is keen to make it clear that the arrogant Mr Hawking and his followers need bringing down a peg or two:

Note the brazen disregard for the traditional ‘rules’ of spelling. Clearly, here is a man who makes his own path in life, and who won’t bow down to the accepted conventions of science or literacy.

Meanwhile, Jeff Morton has figured out where scientists have been going wrong all these years: they keep thinking clever thoughts with them brain thingamajiggies!:

Yeah, right on Jeff! Way to tell that fusty old Professor of Foolishness and his silly old ‘brain’, whatever that is.

Across the pond, Art is feeling in a sympathetic mood:

Poor, poor chap indeed. “What’s that you say Mr Hawking? M-theory? Oh, you and your wonderful imagination! Now come on Mr Hawking, have a sit down and a nice cup of tea, Countdown will be on in a mo.”

Unfortunately for Mr Hawking, Sandra isn’t feeling quite so sympathetic:

Yea… let’s leave it there shall we?

Hearteningly, each of the above comments, which range from the deranged to the downright disgusting (not mentioning any names Sandra), have been plonked firmly in the ‘red’ by fellow commenters. Not that that will deter them. Their delusions have placed them far beyond the reach of reason. All we can hope is that as brilliant minds like Stephen Hawking lead us ever closer towards the exciting frontier of knowledge, his detractors, like the antiquated ideas which underpin their criticism of him, will gradually fall away and leave us in peace.

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Daily Mail can’t count or see

We’re back over at the Daily Mail today, just in time to catch this juicy bit of celebrity news:

6 + 6 = 6

Wow, 6 toes! And, judging by that picture, all on the same foot! What are the odds? How does she balance? Oh, wait, not quite:

Even beautiful Hollywood actresses have their imperfections.

Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo was out and about in Los Feliz, California yesterday and her open toe sandals showed off her rather unique feet.

The 40-year-old actress appears to have a little extra than the regular person when it comes to the toe department – with six toes on either foot.

So she has twelve toes, six on each foot. That makes more sense I guess. But still, bit creepy isn’t it? Can’t wait to see the gruesome pictures!

Oh, is that it? Yea, I guess it kinda looks like she’s got extra toes if I squint a bit, especially in the second photo. Looks like it may just be the lining of her sandal though. Can’t be sure. Are there not any other photos of her feet anywhere for us to compare?

Ah, only five toes on that foot. But maybe the other one still has…

…oh, I see. So definitely only ten toes in total. Thank goodness this non-story was properly checked out before some irresponsible oaf embarrassed the poor girl by running it in a national newspaper or something! Oh, hang on a minute….

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Beware the Book Snob!

I love books. They’re often overlooked when the ‘Greatest Inventions in History’ lists are compiled, and have to sit there quietly at the back clapping as the likes of The Wheel and The Internet and even (in one list at least) Mascara win all the plaudits. But I can’t think of many more revolutionary, important and enduringly useful inventions in the history of mankind. Sure, there’s nothing particularly intricate or ingenious about the book’s basic design; it’s essentially just several sheets of paper fastened together and stuck between two protective covers. But when ideas and opinions are transcribed onto the humble sheets, the book’s glorious potential is unleashed. And it’s nothing short of breathtaking.

The book is a window to our world, effortlessly transporting us across continents and cultures and acquainting us with people we would otherwise never have come across. It’s also a window to an Other world, with novelists and science-fiction writers conjuring up whole civilisations and universes which had previously only been glimpsed upon by the farthest corners of our imagination. And the book is a time machine too, preserving the thoughts and moods of some of history’s most eminent figures that we all may be privy to them whenever and wherever we choose. The book does all this and more, and so it’s no surprise that to me and many others, it’s viewed as something close to sacrosanct. But in affording the book such a high degree of reverence, have I inadvertently sought to limit it’s remarkable universal appeal? Have I become a frightful Book Snob? And should I care?

The trouble is, I have a very clear idea of what a book looks like, and it’s something like this:

And I have a very clear idea of what a book should not look like, and it’s something like this*:

It works with people too. Book people:

Not book people:

Looking at the three images above, part of me actually wants to cry and bemoan the tragic and needless sacrifice of all those beautiful trees. Part of me wants to take a lit match to every single ‘book’ before they can pollute the literary waters any further. Part of me wants to round up all of the desperate and destitute genuine authors, march round to Katie Price’s Fairyland Castle and bludgeon her round the head with her own ghost-written wad of post-crap toilet paper.

Why should the likes of Jordan’s written-by-proxy throwaway ‘novels’ consistently trample their way to the top of the charts? Why should the literary greats be relegated to some dark corner of a Waterstones store at Christmas to make way for the usual shower of autobiographies from daytime TV and soft pornography’s finest? Why should serious readers have their bookstores periodically invaded by screaming hordes falling over each other for the chance to have Kerry Katona sneeze on them at the dreaded celebrity book signing?

But hold up there. ‘Why should serious readers have their bookstores invaded’? ‘Their bookstores‘?! The unadulterated snobbery of such arguments is inexcusable. Books aren’t for one type of people anymore than clothes are, that’s part of their enduring appeal. If I was actually being forced to read every word of Paul O’Grady’s At My Mother’s Knee that would be one thing but, aside from the minor inconveniences outlined above, little Shanessa Pollard’s desire to follow Sapphire Jones’ latest salacious escapades has no real impact on my desire to tackle Aristotle’s inquiry into the political systems.

Actually, that’s not quite true. It’s better than that. This ‘chav-literature’ may not win many Man Booker Prizes, but it sure does sell, and in doing so generates a whole stack of cash for the publishers and booksellers. This can then be used to subsidise less overtly commercial endeavours like helping up-and-coming literary talent and keeping great works of literature available and affordable to those who require them. On the face of it, Jordan may not have a lot in common with a highly regarded young novelist, but the future commercial success of the latter’s work is undeniably linked to the present success of the former’s. The Book Snob sees the waves of ‘non-book people’ flooding the literary pool as a threat. It isn’t; it’s merely expanding the pool to reach a whole new set of readers. And as more money and support flows into the ever-larger literary pool, all kinds of books and literature reap the benefits.

So I’m not going to be a Book Snob. I’m going to say ‘Cheers!’ to Jordan and ‘Salut!’ to Kerry. They can keep doing their thing so I can keep doing mine.

* incidentally, for a rather hilarious critique of Brand’s ‘My Booky Wook’ click here.

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