Jonathan Jones

I first noticed this Guardian columnist thanks to his article about the Union Jack. I didn’t mind his calling it “really quite ugly” and the US one “beautiful”. Many of us say something or other is “beautiful” or “ugly” when what we really mean is that we do or do not like it. But I was bemused by the rationale: The former is criticised for “its cluttered burst of both right-angled and diagonal radiating lines”, while the stars and bars of the latter “are soothing and reassuring to look at”. If those stars are not cluttered I don’t know what is. Not to mention the factual inaccuracies, like claiming “no ghosts of the past or compromised histories influenced the design of [the US flag which] needed to be totally new, to symbolise new constitutions, new beginnings”. Except that the very first flag with the stripes featured the Union Jack instead of the stars.

Then I came across his article about Wikipedia. He smirks that Wikipedia “merely borrows information, recycles it and plays with it”. Yes, that’s why it is, for all its shortcomings, so good. It doesn’t claim to know the Truth. Science, according to Mr Jones, does. Let’s hope, for his peace of mind, that he hasn’t read his own newspaper’s report that an “international team of experts repeated 100 experiments published in top psychology journals and found that they could reproduce only 36% of original findings”. Not to mention the claim that “if I want to know something worth knowing about black holes, I will try to read a book by a leading physicist, not absorb some third-hand factoids from Wikipedia”. I’ve read similar claims before. They make me wonder whether the people making them would actually be able to understand the kind of books these top specialists publish.

But the last straw was an article about Terry Pratchett. In the first paragraph the author utters “I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to. Life’s too short”, later expanding that “life really is too short to waste on ordinary potboilers”, revealing he has really never read one. Because one may or may not like the Discworld series, but if one read at least a couple of the books, one knows that, fantasy or not, they are more relevant to real-life humanity and society than those of a “true titan of the novel” Gabriel García Márquez. In fact, the article tells us nothing about Pratchett, but something about Mr Jones: despite the outward appearance of somebody controversial for controversy’s sake, deep inside is just an ordinary snob.

So I’ll probably read nothing more by him. To use his own words, “everyone reads trash sometimes”, but “life’s too short” and I’ve read enough of his. And unlike Mr Jones with Pratchett, I know what I’m talking about.



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