Saturday, November 15, 2008

Manics mate makes a holy show of himself

Remember Patrick Jones, brother of Nicky Wire and former Manics collaborator? He was worried you wouldn't, as it turns out, so has taken to trying to promote his new book Darkness is Where the Stars Are by sending copies to extremist Christian, Right-Wing and Muslim groups with a nudge that, ooh, he'd love to know what they thought of the poems that attack their deep-rooted beliefs.

Some think he was hoping to provide a common enemy that would see the likes of Combat 18, strident Muslims and Christian Voice uniting in the face of their common enemy, realising they have more in common than that which divides them, kissing each other and then rushing off to have a gay wedding in any place where they've not campaigned it out of existence.

Others think that Jones might have been working with a Far East betting syndicate, creating a market in bets on which bunch would react first. This seems unlikely, though: Combat 18 would have had to have found someone to read them to them which would have slowed down their riposte.

If it was some sort of gamble, those who got the tickets with Christian Voice on have won. Even they, though, seemed to spot they were being played:

Stephen Green, of Christian Voice, said he believed Mr Jones had deliberately "whipped up" feelings about the book.

"We got this stuff on e-mail from Patrick Jones and another e-mail from someone else telling us about his book signing," he said.

"His e-mails contained some of his prose and there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that he wanted to cause a frenzy."

It's perhaps not surprising that Christian Voice - an organisation whose understanding of the last couple of thousand years of culture is that it's some sort unspoken threat to their families - can't tell the difference between 'prose' and 'poetry in pretty much the same way they can't tell the difference between 'a different opinion' and 'an insult to their beliefs'.

However, even though they spotted that Jones was just trying to whip up some controversy to help stretch the promotional budget for his book, they just couldn't help themselves:
[A] campaign by activists Christian Voice [...] called the book "obscene and blasphemous".

It called on the chain to remove copies from stores, which Waterstone's refused to do.

However, Waterstones did cancel the planned launch event for the poems. Jones was delighted. Sorry, did I say delighted? No, no. Outraged:
He insisted he did not want to create any protests, but rather to spark a debate about the issues in his poems, which include religion and domestic violence against men.

"I sent a few poems to many different organisations on 2 November and I said 'Please find a few poems. I would appreciate your feedback'," he said.

"I was hoping that maybe they would come out and have a debate. That's within my rights to do that.

"Even if they had come out to protest, that doesn't mean Waterstone's should give up [on the launch]. That's freedom of expression.

"My book didn't set out to be provocative at all. I had support from people when I went to a book reading in Cwmaman last night. I'm really proud of my book."

You'll note that Jones, for a poet, is slightly loose with his language. Waterstones are not removing the right to freedom of expression from the perpetually-wounded groups; all it is choosing to do is not provide a focus for a firestorm which Jones has provoked.

The really strange this is: Jones claims all he was trying to do was provoke a debate - not, in itself, a bad thing. And yet at first, he denied that he'd sent the emails out. Maybe he'd forgotten about this debate he was desperate to get going.