Friday, February 3, 2017

When is censorship not censorship? Well, it would seem it’s when the saintly Guardian does the censoring. And want to pour the perfect glass of water? The Guardian tells you how

The Guardian, often described as ‘a newspaper’ and ‘the conscience of the nation’ has many faces, not all of them admirable. I am a fan of its serious journalism - Christ, ‘fan’ does trivialise it enormously and I don’t intend to, but I’m sure you know what I mean - and believe the Guardian does a job that, to my mind at least, other British papers do too little. Yes, that is a broad claim, and the other national newspapers pursue serious journalism after a fashion.

For example, the Daily Telegraph exposed the expenses scandal among many of our MPs and the Daily Mail exposed the some of the crap going on in the charity industry. But the Guardian stands out because it is not primarily a profit-making enterprise, unlike its three immediate rivals, the The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, all three of whom have several axes to grind. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Guardian doesn’t, but those axes are not - as far as I can tell - ground according to demands of the proprietor’s other interest.

The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail are all profit-driven, but we’re assured the Guardian isn’t. Well, in fact, we can accept that assurance in good faith because if it were profit-driven, whoever is driving the profit deserves a boot up his - or, this being the Guardian, possibly her - arse. The Guardian is slowly but very surely going down the pan

It is owned and run by the Scott Trust Ltd. the successor to the original Scott Trust. That the new owners are a limited company rather than a trust would seem to be irrelevant but something is going amiss. The Guardian doesn’t itself make a profit, but that didn’t matter because the media group of which it is a part did. But then just over two years ago, the media group sold its stake in a company which owns the very profitable Autotrader magazine. That did bring in a short-term £600 million, but it also ended a very useful income stream.

Just over six years ago, the group sold of all its regional papers, including the Manchester Evening News, again to raise money because it is slowly going bust.

Last year, it made a £173 million loss and the paper has now taken to holding out a begging bowl, asking readers to become ‘supporters’. Would it be too silly to suggest that it instead turned its mind to producing a newspaper more people want to buy

and made sure its online presence turned a profit? That solution doesn’t yet seemed to have occurred to the Guardian. Maybe its me and my cynical tendencies, but there seems to be something ineffably self-regarding in not just the paper touting for financial support but in those willing to cough up a fiver to ensure the future of ‘liberal thinking’ or however they want to phrase it

All of this is bad news, especially as Britain needs a paper like the Guardian to balance out what is otherwise a national press heavily biased towards the right of centre. But on other matters the Guardian does piss me off enormously, and one of the things which pisses me off is what I regard as a certain rampant hypocrisy

It is generally assumed that the Guardian holds a liberal position on censorship. Here, for example (link now inserted, it was not before), is a piece entitled Censorship is inseparable from surveillance. Broadly, if I understand it, the Guardian’s position is ‘the least censorship, the better’ and that it is up to individuals what they choose to see, read and watch or not. Well, if I am right and that is what the paper believes, it is a sad case of ‘one rule for us, another for you entirely’.

A few days ago, the paper ran a piece along the lines of ‘would you want to know whether you partner had a bisexual history’. You can find it here. The emphasis is on sexual health and so thinking about it now, I assume the question is aimed at women rather than men, because Aids and other STDs are more likely to be passed on by a bisexual man to a woman, than to a man by a woman who had previously been tipping the velvet. Certainly, a woman can infect a guy with Aids and other STDs but they will first have been acquired from a previous male lover not a female (as far as I know - I’m willing to be set straight on whether Aids and STDs can be acquired through lesbian sex)

I am something of a Guardian comment queen and enjoy adding my two ha’porth worth to man topics. And when I came across the piece, I decided to add a comment confessing something which I had long kept private: that the thought of male on male sex makes me feel rather queasy. I just don’t like the idea. I can’t remember my exact words, but it ran like something along these lines:

‘Reading piece such as this [the article in question] always make me feel a little bit guilty. I have a gay brother to whom I am close and several gay friends and colleagues but when we are together their sexuality or anything related to it is pretty much the last thing which is one our minds. Yet the idea of sex between two men turns me off and makes me feel queasy. Yet the idea of sex between two women doesn’t. I have a female friend who feels the opposite. She is turned off by the idea of sex between two women but doesn’t at all care bout sex between men’

Pretty straightforward I thought, if not admirably liberal in a way the Guardian might like - the ‘feeling guilty’ looks the part. When I leave comments, I tend to return to them a few minutes later to see whether they have elicited a response from

other readers. And I was astonished to find ‘the moderators’ had deleted it. Apparently it ‘didn’t abide’ by the Guardian’s ‘community standards’. Now I can certainly understand how comments which are downright offensive could be deleted, but my views seemed and seem so innocuous. What on earth could be offensive about those

I responded leaving another comment asking for whoever was in charge of the moderators to review my deleted comment to see what might have been unacceptable about it. That, too, was deleted

So there you have it: the Guardian which doesn’t believe in censorship isn’t above censorship when it suits

It would seem the Guardian has something of a bee in its bonnet about folk who swing both ways. Just now, going onto the Guardian website to track down that particular article by entering the word ‘bisexual’ in its search facility, I came across quite a few pieces. There’s this one from December 2016 claiming more and more people are bisexual, though I rather think it’s just that more and more people are prepared to admit it. Then there’s this one from which actually claims that half of all young folk in Britain say they swing both ways, a claim I rather take with large pinch of salt

Possibly the reason for this Guardian interest is that it feels as a ‘progressive’ newspaper it should be pushing the boundaries. And I am bound to say the such pushing the boundaries is absolutely necessary if one wants to bring in any changes one regards as for the better. But on the matter of censorship the saintly Guardian does lose several brownie point

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Another rather quirky aspect of the paper, though a very revealing one, is an occasional series it carries on ‘How to make the perfect...’ Here are two examples


Then there is my contribution

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Writing this has reminded me of a story told to me by a friend of another friend who was offered a job on The Independent before it was just a memory. The ‘Indy’ has always struck me as rather self-regarding, a paper chosen by those for whom the Guardian was a tad to ‘lefty’. My friend’s friend was a reporter on The Times and was headhunted by The Independent and invited for interview. It went well. Finally, he was offered a job. ‘But you haven’t told me how much you would be paying me,’ he said. They told him. ‘But that’s about £4,000 less than I’m getting now,’ he told them. ‘Ah,’ they said, ‘but you would be working for The Independent.’ He turned them down.

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