The Guardian today reported on a particularly futile example of righteous nonsense.
Author and journalist Lynn Barber has withdrawn from a literary festival after the local council refused to include a photograph of her smoking in its brochure for the event.
Barber ... was due to appear at Richmond's Book Now festival in November to discuss her memoir, An Education which tells of the destructive affair she began as a teenager with an older man who picked her up at a bus stop. Her publisher Penguin had supplied a black and white photograph of Barber for inclusion in the festival's brochure, embroidered scarf around her neck, head thrown back, cigarette in mouth.
But Richmond council deemed that using a picture of an author smoking went against its responsibility to encourage "good health habits", and asked Barber to provide another. She declined and pulled out of the festival, saying that she had "always wanted to be a Smoking Martyr and obviously this is my opportunity".
"If a pic of me smoking is such a threat to the good burghers of Richmond, imagine what my presence would do," she said this morning.
Is this literary event sponsored by Pfizer or something? Was Barber popping along to south London in order to participate in a round table discussion of the merits of abstinent living?
No. She was to be talking about a book. Are Richmond corner shops going to be inundated with new customers, gasping for a Marlboro Light, the moment they see Barber's picture in a literary festival brochure? Well, what do you think? Without Richmond council making such a big deal about this, most would probably not even have heard of her (more's the pity), let alone reach for the event literature. Those tempted to hear her speak will already be aware of her personal foibles, much as they will be familiar with Martin Amis's predilection of being photographed enjoying a smoke himself.
"I've been told that we can't use that photo because Lynn is smoking in it - the situation is a little bit ridiculous, as elsewhere we've got Martin Amis pictured with a lighter in his hand," said Nathan Hamilton, a freelance programmer for the Richmond literary festival who had been putting the brochure together.
More than just a bit ridiculous, I'd say, but kudos to Nathan for pointing out the idiocy of this bunch of self-righteous clowns - I'm sure they'll be looking at ways to cancel his future workload on the back of such a display of calm common sense. An ability to see through overweening bullshit is not one which righteous tosswits generally find admirable.
A Richmond council spokesman said: "We don't like to use images of people smoking in our promotional material. As a local authority we are responsible for encouraging good health habits in the area, and to be seen to be endorsing smoking, no matter how unintentional, doesn't complement this. We asked Miss Barber for an alternative picture but she declined and has withdrawn from the festival, which is a shame given her standing as an author and journalist."
Oh, they noticed her standing then? The respect she has carved out for herself with brilliant writing (without enforced funding from us, like the provincial Richmond tax sponges, I might add), ably assisted by her experiences of a bohemian existence? You know, the lifestyle that they are attempting to snuff out entirely?
Hamilton said he hoped Barber's decision not to appear at the festival wouldn't "precipitate a bunch of other writerly smokers loyal to the cause to withdraw in solidarity". "I mean, if every writer who smoked and drank pulled out of a literary festival, that would probably rule out most writers; you wouldn't be left with much of a literary festival," he said.
Personally, I hope differently. It would be bloody marvellous if others told Richmond they can stick their 18th book festival where the sun don't shine**. A good start would be an e-mail to Martin Amis.
Mine will be on its way tonight, simply because these people are truly appalling. The kind of cockgobblers who insist on the very best that life can offer, but only if they can pretend that practices with which they disagree hadn't happened in the making of it. Like wanting to eat organic rhubarb but without the horse shit which was used to grow it. Cunts.
Presumably, Richmond council will want to extend this maternal method of local government still further. After all, one can't have road sweepers clearing up roadkill and vomit while smoking in council garb, eh? In their wibbly-wobbly world, that would be the council endorsing smoking, would it not?
Best not allow council staff to be seen in any pub either. And if they dare to buy their lunchtime food from McDonalds, instant sacking no doubt.
Who are these fucknuckles anyway? Oh my. They are those oh so Liberal Democrats. Why are we not in the least surprised?
** Why not also show appreciation for her stand by throwing some money in Barber's direction. Her latest book can be bought here.