George Walford: Mount Everest

REFORMERS and revolutionaries, demanding that people should think for themselves, tend to claim that they are increasingly coming to do so. The evidence goes against this belief, the latest item appearing in reports of a survey undertaken for the new “Sky” television system. This has very few subscribers and the fact itself operates as a disincentive; much of the pleasure television gives comes from being able to discuss it with others who have watched the same programmes (OBSERVER 21 May 89). Watching television is still a social rather than an individual activity, even though carried out in domestic privacy.

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RICHARD Ingrams complains that Rupert Murdoch, having degraded journalism, is about to lower television standards. Without stopping to ask whether a former editor of PRIVATE EYE is entitled to complain about anybody degrading anything, we point out that in his pursuit of profit Murdoch is adapting the output of his newspapers and television stations to suit widespread tastes. Nobody (except a few professionals) is compelled either to read his newspapers or to watch his television; they have alternatives – IC or the SOCIALIST STANDARD for example. If Murdoch manages to maintain mass audiences then what he supplies is meeting a mass demand. Whether every mass demand ought to be met is a different question, and a difficult one to answer in the negative without risking a charge of elitism.

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Over the past two centuries, and especially during the past hundred years, humanism, freethought, socialism, communism and anarchism have all increased their followings. If tempted to think that because these movements have grown therefore they will go on growing until most people support one or another of them, beware the Mount Everest fallacy.

Up to 1953 nobody had climbed Mount Everest, but now quite a lot of people have done so. Some have climbed it without oxygen, Reinhold Messner has done it without oxygen, singlehanded, and any day now we shall hear that somebody has gone up walking backwards and playing a concertina. It does not follow that there will come a time when most people have climbed the mountain.

To regard the fact, that some people have done something, as evidence that eventually most will do it is to fall into a logical fallacy. It just doesn’t follow.

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JOURNALS of country life face an even tougher problem than the town ones when it comes to greenery – or should it be greeniam9 Whichever side they take they are going to lose some circulation; but COUNTRY LIVING has come closer than most to finding a solution. The August issue presents a piece by Robin Page (who does not hunt, shoot or fish) arguing that grouse-shooting deserves to be encouraged since the preserved moors act as a reservoir for wildlife.

That’s the subscriptions of the conservationists, the shooters and the landlords secured; now it only remains to fit in, somehow, the farmers and the Forestry Commission.

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CRY God for Maggie, England and Saint George! (Trog, OBSERVER, 16 July 89)

from Ideological Commentary 41, September 1989.