Thursday, 6 May 2010

The row rumbles on...

"Earwig go again," as John Lennon once said to another member of the Beatles. I've been slow to respond to the latest debate as I was stuck in Scotland yesterday as a result of volcanic ash, but here goes...
I'm sorry, Pete, but it just won't do to say you were not attacking CAMRA as a whole. The title to your piece was "CAMRA's noxious culture of entitlement". That, de facto, is an attack on the whole organisation. The implication is clear: CAMRA officially creates a climate in which its members believe they should be given preferential treatment in pubs.
Now you're saying, "Oh, I didn't mean that -- I'm not attacking the whole of CAMRA." That's Daily Mail-style journalism, the "broad brush approach" that condemns all members of a group. We're all too aware of this: the Mail repeatedly runs stories that prove Britain is about to topple into the alcoholic abyss because a few idiots get battered in a few town centres on Saturday nights. We know it's not representative, it's a distortion of the truth, but a lot of people believe it.
It's equally untrue that CAMRA members as a whole behave in the manner of the train spotters in the Sheffield station tap -- if they were CAMRA members.
Let me make it clear: I don't think CAMRA is a perfect organisation. No such organisation exists. As a devoted atheist I don't, as one contributor suggests, want to turn CAMRA in to a religious experience. The lavatory at the Three Ravens Brewery in Melbourne, Australia, is wall papered with back issues of Viz magazine and its strip about CAMRA. I laughed so much I thought I'd have a seizure. Everybody I know in CAMRA thinks the strip is hilarious. But it's humour and so it's an exaggeration, just as the old Private Eye parody of all CAMRA members having 10-ton beer guts, beards and sandals is also a distortion.
Back to the Burton dinner, which I can speak about with some authority, as I was there. The picture painted by Pete is just not true. Now he says he wasn't including me in his criticism and he appears to also be absolving John Arguile. That doesn't leave many CAMRA members left. Keith Spencer wasn't at my end of the table and he was not involved in the amiable banter with Steve Wellington. I can assure you that if Steve had been heckled,ridiculed and forced out in to the rain I would have used what little authority I have to stop it. I deplore such behaviour but...IT DIDN'T HAPPEN. I repeat that Steve returned to the dinner with a broad grin on his face, carrying three bottles of P2 and was greeted as a hero. It was also in good fun, juvenile fun perhaps, but not malicious.
A few years ago, Pete and I fell out when he wrote several times that CAMRA wasn't interested in how beer tastes. This was palpable nonsense: every year at the Great British Beer Festival, several beer writers conduct a series of tutored beer tastings. Jeff Evans and I do the same thing every year at the BBC Food Show. At a World of Beer event last year, I invited Pete join me in a beer tasting I was conducting. So Pete has dropped that attack but can't stop having a go at the CAMRA body politic.
I need to get back to serious work and hope we can bury this issue. But you will see from the home page that beer-pages is offering a link to a Hall & Woodhouse discount for beer or wine in its pubs. Hope this doesn't generate an article attacking "beer-pages noxious culture of entitlement".
Happy drinking!

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