Don’t get me wrong, I’m as cross as the next kitchen novice about the archiving of 11,000 recipes on the Food section of the BBC website. Where else am I going to find about 26 different ways of making risotto? Before the rather feeble climbdown this afternoon, it seemed like a decision based purely on spite. “Oh, this brilliant, already-paid-for, low maintenance thing that provides an invaluable service to potentially millions of people? We’re getting rid of it”. It’s like something a low-level Dickens baddie would come up with, if Dickens baddies worked at the BBC (you can make your own jokes there; I’m not doing it all).
Outrage spread like wildfire across social media this morning, when the decision was announced. Unlike 87% of Twitter outrage, though, this was justified. The petition calling for a reversal of the decision gained 100,000 names within a few hours, and this backlash did at least prompt a sort-of response: “as much as possible” of the BBC Food content will be relocated to BBC Good Food. So that’s OK then.
Except it’s not, because Good Food is a far inferior site in terms of lay-out and navigation and general user-friendliness, and what on earth was wrong with the Food bit of the BBC site anyway? The official line is – because isn’t it always? – to do with saving money, but I’d imagine paying some unlucky web administrator to sit there and archive the recipes would cost more than, you know, LEAVING THEM ALONE. I’m not sure this is how the internet works, mind, so I’m willing to be corrected.
However. Yes, there’s always a however, isn’t there? While I love how quickly everyone signed that petition, and did so in such numbers that it actually got a response within hours, I do have to ask – where is that outrage every time a library closes? Where’s the swiftness, the sheer numbers, the “they can’t get away with this!” thought process? When the housing benefits for under-25s were cut – where was the energy then? When a nearly-destitute person has their benefits sanctioned for an arbitrary, bollocks reason – why are we not quite as angered? We are angry about these things – I know we are – but perhaps not enough. Not yet.
I know the answer to the above questions – the closure of one library in one town doesn’t affect the people of a town 100 miles away. If you’re not under 25, and are not worried about housing, maybe it doesn’t matter than a 22-year-old now can’t get the help they need. When one person you don’t know loses out on some money, your life doesn’t change. It’s easy to sign a petition that calls for the preserving of a simple, low-effort thing that loads of people quite like. Not that we should dismiss the easy victories; they still count, of course they do.
A few weeks ago, I was discussing the doctors’ contract dispute with a friend who currently lives in Australia. “When I read about it,” he said, “I couldn’t believe Westminster wasn’t burning. Aren’t people militant about keeping the NHS?”
I thought we were. I’m not sure when the tipping point’s going to come, though, if it hasn’t come yet. How much more nonsense do we swallow, in the frankly rather foggy name of “austerity”? How many more generations get priced out of the housing market before we go, “hang on a minute, that’s really Not On”? How many more jobs get downgraded to “low-skilled” with pay to match? How much more of London becomes merely a playground for only the stonkingly rich – a ‘Hameau de la Reine’ of a city?
If we can demand – and get – a sort-of climbdown in the space of a few hours, with just some people and some computers, we can demand change elsewhere. It’s just wanting it badly enough.