Monday, November 22, 2010

Philip Pullman commits polytoynbeeism in public

Last month we caught Stuart Jeffries and Armando Iannucci committing polytoynbeeism. Between them they argued that anyone who wished to see public spending cuts must be a supporter of the Tea Party agenda.

In today's Guardian the children's writer Philip Pullman did much the same thing. In an article on cuts to the library service he is quoted as saying:
"Those who think that every expert can be replaced by a cheerful volunteer who can step in and do a complex task for nothing but a cup of tea are those who fundamentally want to see every single public service sold off, closed down, abolished."
I am a great supporter of public libraries. That is despite the fact that I hardly ever borrow from them these days. Still, there have been times in my life (when I was a child and when I was young and poor) when I was very glad to do so, and there may be times like that again. So I am instinctively against any cuts to public libraries.

But two things in what Pullman is quoted as saying really will not do.

The first is the notion that, when it comes to books, anyone who is not a professional librarian is a cheerful volunteer who dispenses cups to tea. What, on this analysis, does he make of the explosion in readers' groups and local literary festivals? You would expect any professional writer to find these developments immensely encouraging. If Pullman really believes what he told the Guardian, he must find them embarrassing.

The second is the implication that if you are prepared to support cuts in the library service then you must "want to see every single public service sold off, closed down, abolished". You have only to type that out to see that it is nonsense. What about someone who wants to see more spending on the NHS or education, but believes public libraries have had their day. On Pullman's analysis he or she should not even exist.

Much of the Guardian now consists of polytoynbeeism. Anyone who suggests it might be necessary or desirable to move on from the policies pursued by the last Labour government must be a crazed right-winger.

As someone who has read the paper for all his adult life, I find this profoundly depressing.


Steve Cooke said...

I spotted your mistake - it's there in the last sentance: 'As someone who has read the paper for all his adult life...'.

I stopped regularly reading the Guardian after they sacked Mark Steel and then Jeremy Hardy for not being sufficiently fawning toward Tony Blair. I don't think they ever improved (save for that 1-2 week period where they flirted with supporting the Lib Dems).

Contented Lib Dem said...

Great article. Spot on.

dreamingspire said...

I gave up the Guardian when Victor Keegan was faded out. He used to write brilliant leaders, but was turned down for the top job in favour of a much younger man who has presided over the decline.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. I still find myself reading it online though as I think its website it very good. It is a shame what they are putting in it is misleading and very leading.

So which paper do you think is better? I am tending towards the Independent.