Sunday, November 3, 2013

Climb Magazine...Safe as Milk.





John Redhead:'He's not the Messiah,he's a very naughty boy' according to Climb's Dave Pickford. 

Orthodoxy means not thinking--not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.  ....George Orwell

"May I kindly suggest that you move to either Pakistan or Afghanistan, both countries in which you will find a great many bearded and wonderfully masculine gentlemen who will be deeply sympathetic to your views......Oh, but watch out whilst you're there. I gather that some of them don't much care for artists, either." ........ When you eventually make your journey to Afghanistan to meet your new friends in the Taliban high command - a group of gentlemen uniquely distinguished by their hatred of sport and their benighted view of women - I am certain you will be very well received, provided you don't show them any of your paintings.  British climbers do not care either for your verbiage or for the abhorrent views underlying it, John. They never have, and they never will.'

Climb joint editor Dave Pickford email to John Redhead

The story so far.... Well known climber/artist John Redhead expands on an article published on Footless Crow which questioned the motivation driving some female climbers and pours derision on the soul-less commercial dynamic driving sports climbing. Climb magazine indicate they will use it then get cold feet and kick the controversial article into the long grass. Not surprisingly, the author who is not renowned for being a wilting violet, responds with acerbic tweets  and emails to the commissioning editor, Dave Pickford, someone who is, according to Redhead ‘ clearly a slave to the recent twisted aberrations in feminism.‘ Continuing his dispatch by declaring .....’He (DP) hasn't a whiff of the soul that I know to be at the heart and essence of true climbing for an individual - man or woman! 

Meanwhile the aforementioned Climb editor continues in a surprisingly intemperate fashion himself by declaring

"Because a magazine should represent the community in which it is involved, we report on the activities of women climbers in Britain and around the world. We also feature interviews with leading female climbers and mountaineers. Because of this, many women climbers read the magazine. And I am certain that the majority of them would find your line 'muscled women athletes are not at all feminine' offensive and misogynistic, as I do. 

Fortunately, Britain is a tolerant country. I have been climbing for over twenty years, and no British climber I know is sympathetic with your repellent view of female athletes, with your nineteenth century attitude towards women generally, and with your ill-informed disgust of competition climbing.’


Ironically, Climb magazine had recently listed John Redhead’s ‘and one for the crow’ as one of the most influential climbing books of all time.



I don’t know Dave Pickford personally but I’ve always thought that he and Ian Parnell seem to be making a good fist of keeping Climb magazine ticking over in these difficult times for traditional media. God knows, I find it hard enough to get one article a week out so I can imagine how hard it must be to get a monthly magazine on the streets these days. Especially one covering the multi-faceted world of modern mountaineering. However, I think Dave Pickford has been a bit daft here. In fact his response to John Redhead is almost Richard Littlejohn-esque in its tone. As for his claiming to speak on behalf of ‘British Climbers’ well what can I say?  He certainly doesn’t speak for me...how about you?

Now I have to admit that it’s difficult to be totally objective here because in recent years I’ve got to know John well enough for him to assume ‘mate’ status. I’ve been delighted to put out his writings on Footless Crow. An exercise which has been mutually beneficial for all parties concerned. In truth, there will be few outlets in the traditional media for John’s left field work. Certainly the conservative outdoor media are not interested in essays which don’t fall within their narrow, commercially defined parameters. 


 Recent front cover of Climb Magazine


The bigger picture outside of this little local difficulty is, for me, the aforementioned conservatism at the heart of UK climbing. The commercial  agenda which drives  outdoor publishing acts as a dead hand on creativity. Publications these days live in terror that the sponsors will pull the plug on advertising revenue should they put out a controversial or politically incorrect article. However, there is also a socio/cultural undercurrent to all this. Climb, like most outdoor publications shares a ‘Guardianist’ approach to issues like feminism, ecology, racism etc. That’s fine as far as it goes but there comes a point when political correctness assumes an authoritarian tone when dealing with views which fall outside of the considered norm. Witness the Guardian’s Draconian approach to moderation on their ironically titled ‘Comment is Free’ range of articles. The irony being that the Tory Telegraph is much more liberal in its moderation of right to reply articles and than the left of centre Guardian. As someone who has always supported freedom of speech and a right to reply, I find politically correct censorship as bad as authoritarian censorship. In fact it’s probably worse in that those with liberal/progressive views should know better!

To get back to the offending article in question. John Redhead is certainly no misogynist. I think a lot of the time his celebratory approach to sexuality, the explicitness which appears in his painting and writing and his ribald language unnerves and confuses people who don’t know him. I’ve read the offending article and I certainly didn’t find it in any way offensive; just typical Redhead thinking outside of the box. As for Climb magazine, well, to be honest, I haven’t read a copy in years but then I don’t really read any paper publication these days apart from books. At least the current trend for self publishing and online media breaks the stultifying stranglehold of the conservative commercial media and bypasses the farcical censorship of work, using political correctness as a blunt instrument to batter creativity into submission.
John Appleby 

16 comments:

  1. Hi John, not sure how one is to react to this piece if unable to read the article that provoked the divergent viewpoints.From the implications I would suggest that maybe women might be better placed to give editorial advice on whether readers would be happy to pay for the article - is this censorship or just pragmatism? Can't tell without seeing the article.

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  2. "Comment will be visible after approval?" what happened to the "liberal moderation"?!

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  3. Quite obviously, the author of any article speaks for himself and for no one else. Any chance of getting a copy of the "offending" article published on here if Climb won't publish it?

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  4. Regardless of my article (which will find itself in the world soon enough, probably here) and regardless of its timely and sincere message, I seem to have stumbled and opened up an old personal wound, above and beyond the content of my article. Okay, I criticise Climb Magazine's style and corporate ethos, but then I am accused of misogyny and sexism...why and for what! This is not pragmatism! Dialogue is necessary. But, what really concerns me is that David Pickford, leaking an open wound, and Climb Magazine have no thought for their Muslim readership.'

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  5. "May I kindly suggest that you move to either Pakistan or Afghanistan, both countries in which you will find a great many bearded and wonderfully masculine gentlemen who will be deeply sympathetic to your views......Oh, but watch out whilst you're there. I gather that some of them don't much care for artists, either." ........ When you eventually make your journey to Afghanistan to meet your new friends in the Taliban high command - a group of gentlemen uniquely distinguished by their hatred of sport and their benighted view of women - I am certain you will be very well received, provided you don't show them any of your paintings. British climbers do not care either for your verbiage or for the abhorrent views underlying it, John. They never have, and they never will.'" by Dave Pickford

    That is fucking disgusting. I suppose that as I'm British, a climber and I actually wrote for the climbing mags at one time, that would constitute my being a "British climber" and for me, John Redhead is a legend. Who are you to tell me that a legend is what you consider to be inconsequential? I've never even heard of you. Dave who? You should be ashamed of yourself, Dave-whoever-you-are, for writing an email like that to *anyone*. No wonder Climb is struggling financially if its editor has time to write long, personal, snidey attacks to its would-be contributors with, let's not forget, a horribly racist undertone to them. "Because a magazine should represent the community in which it is involved, we report on the activities of women climbers in Britain and around the world. We also feature interviews with leading female climbers and mountaineers. Because of this, many women climbers read the magazine. And I am certain that the majority of them would find your line 'muscled women athletes are not at all feminine' offensive and misogynistic, as I do."

    Hold on a minute. I'm a woman climber and a feminist and I don't find anything John says in the slightest bit misogynist, on the contrary John has always shown a deep respect for women. This is the climbing press once again treating John Redhead with the same sneering condescension they've been showing him for years. The climbing press are like a bunch of squealing, cowardly girls in face of a bona-fide rock-god. Pathetic.

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  6. I think it's ironic that you use the term "political correctness" as a criticism no less than three times in an article disparaging of the tone of one Richard Littlejohn.

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  7. Pls can we read the article mentioned, or the article "published on Footless Crow which questioned the motivation driving some female climbers and pours derision on the soul-less commercial dynamic driving sports climbing..." I can't see how to form an opinion on this without it.....

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  8. Ok, I may be wrong but it looks as though the erm lively(!) discussion on www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=568131 has been pulled by the OP or the site moderators. Brilliant. I love people deciding what's good for me!
    Googled:
    UKC Forums - Climb's attack on John Redhead
    Bizarre attack on John Redhead by Climb's David Pickford. Somehow I don't see Redhead fitting in with 'The Taliban High Command' myself.Bit arrogant of DP ...
    www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=568131
    and now it's disappeared, just as it was getting interesting!

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  9. Well; it would be interesting to read the original article to see what on earth all the fuss is about. Isn't it just as well some people prefer their partners a little on the plump side? If everyone placed a high value on prime health and a well-toned body we would be in for a rapid population decline. Of course editors should aim to be inclusive to their readership, and they have a duty to protect writers from themselves, so an editor is correct to decline the article or at least delete the offensive line if that is what his judgement dictates. However, he loses the moral high ground by being rude about it. Arguments are never augmented by the application of unpleasant words. And as far as the provocative sounding debate about motivation for climbing is concerned; well bring it on. Are there not as many motivations for climbing as there are individuals who do it? All equally easily reducible to absurdity by a sharp wit.

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  10. so...UKC pulled the forum because Climb Magazine advertise on it! Basically, this is what my article is all about...being free to re-wild the soul. UKC and David Pickford are ignorant slaves to the corporate system and their backs are against the wall! I apologise that my article 'A Plea' is not yet out for open discussion. Ce n'est pas ma faute. Soon!

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  11. John, the UKC forum thing is still there. Predictably, it doesn't make for very interesting reading...mostly ill informed and barely literate nonsense. UKC should pull it on the grounds of a high "yawn" factor. I look forward to reading your article; I have high hopes of it being totally at odds with anything I'll read in a commercial publication. Rope below!

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  12. So it's not the Perillos dragons one? I'd been given the impression it was. Don't get me started on the corporate system. Pah!

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  13. I've met this Redhead fellow. He's a scoundrel.

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  14. perhaps pickford is just poking around for reaction... and publicity! but, then more likely not because his publication is, indeed a lumpen industry brochure. and must set course with the flow of sterile marketing drizzle. i care what redhead has to say, because he's interesting, unlike most of 'climb'. that whole taliban xenophobia bit seems a bit hypocritical of pickford's 'modern' concerns for offended liberals. let's see the article. i'll read some bukowski to warm up!

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  15. Always admired John's style, if not some his route names . DP is a fine climber (at least, he has done some hard climbs). Not keen on Climb which seems to have lost precisely what John stands for - a touch of humour, a whiff of anarchy. The Mag is all clean, sharp, hard - needs to lighten up a bit, be provocative - in fact it needs, er, John.

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  16. Can you put the article up on To Hatch a Crow? At least people can comment freely on here. A forum thread discussing this on the publicly visible UKC RockTalk got moved to the members only Pub Chat bit for some reason http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=568131. It's had nearly 6,000 views so it's clearly of interest to people.

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