Monday, November 25, 2013

Climbers...like being savaged by a dead sheep





UKC-ers gather for one of their picnics

A couple of weeks ago I posted a mischievous piece surrounding Climb magazines' spiking of a John Redhead article, which included extracts of the joint editor’s increasingly heated email correspondence directed at the author. Not surprisingly, the story pretty quickly broke out of the blogosphere and became a hot topic on the climbing forums. An area of discussion and debate which ironically, is remarkably free from intelligent discussion and debate!

Rather, controversial topics on a forum like UKC, usually evolve into something straight out Arthur Miller’s  The Crucible. Little wonder that most serious climbers and writers avoid it like the plague these days.  Apart from the story itself, the original blog piece had a political point which was the media’s application of strict political correctness to censor freedom of expression. Quite naturally, this element was totally ignored as the mainly anonymous contributors directed their bile at the writer and subject. As someone who used to post regularly on the UKC forum, I was quite used to being the quarry of the UK herd –although perhaps flock would be a more accurate collective term- and it certainly didn't phase me. I don't think JR would lose much sleep being criticized by some of these pious,po-faced prigs either.


By Friday, as I guessed would eventually be the case, John’s controversial article was published on Footless Crow. If it sounds like the whole thing was contrived between us to gain maximum publicity for all parties concerned then I can assure you that it wasn’t. Although after saying that, a site like Footless Crow is always going to be the more likely destination for left field works that don’t fit into the glossies’ commercial agenda. 'the last refuge of the scoundrel' you might call it. By now the article was drawing a lot of heated debate and as expected, a lot this debate was being generated through forums like UKC and UK Bouldering. The consensus to the article from what I would describe as ‘Climbing’s Creative Element’  was overwhelmingly positive. By contrast, the majority of UKC sheep hated it. UKB  contributors on the whole were much more grounded and objective about the article. 

Perhaps if contributors to forums had to use their real names instead of hiding behind anonymity we might get a more objective debate instead of the usual toxic, febrile sound and fury that is generated when individuals,concepts and ideas don’t conform to the accepted orthodoxy of the flock.


I’m pleased to say though-And I'm thinking of hits generated here- that we haven’t heard the end of the story just yet. . One of Redhead’s ethical points concerning the purity of subsequent ascents of The Indian Face has generated a response from one or two activists who have first hand experience of the route and been involved in proceedings. Later this week on Footless Crow, a Tolkein-esque riposte to ‘The Mad Monk of Yr Wyddfa’. Be there or be square as they say in Cliff Richard films.

* Since posting I understand that this has been linked on UKC. I wondered why it was getting so much traffic! I guess I should prepare to be knocked off a few Christmas card lists then :)

john appleby 

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