Sunday, September 18, 2011

Censorship among the Great and Good: there ain’t nothing quite like a hypocrite, and the saintly Guardian leads the way. There is, it seems, one rule for them and quite another for us. And no one quite does ‘sandwich short of a picnic’ quite like our Lib Dem friends

Today I was subjected to an appalling and quite breathtaking piece of hypocrisy perpetuated by the saintly Guardian, the self-appointed defender of free speech and all things right and just. But let me simply provide the facts and a couple of screenshots, and you can make up your own mind.

This morning, while still in bed, I had been surfing the papers and came across the story of Alexander Lebedev, the media entrepreneur, owner of The Independent and London Evening Standard. Several readers had already left comments, one of which read: Oh yes, silly me, it’s the neo-Con love of money over everything else.

I responded to it. I wrote, although I am in no position to quote myself verbatim as my comment was subsequently removed by a moderator, that the comment was rather simplistic and par for the course of too many comments left on the Guardian website, but that, to be fair, ‘comments left on the Telegraph website were equally simplistic’. I added that such comments reflected the low standard of political discourse in Britain.

And that, dear reader, was that. No obscenity, no libel, nothing. But minutes later a Guardian moderator decided to remove my comment on the grounds that it did not ‘abide by ‘community standards’.

I responded to the deletion, which had thoroughly surprised me because the only element at all possibly objectionable might - just might - have been the suggestion that some contributions to the Guardian comment facility were ‘simplistic’. Being very bemused by the deletion, I added four more comments over the next few minutes. And that, I thought, was that.

Yet, returning to the website about 45 minutes later - and on a different laptop (on a works laptop as I had been working), I discovered that not only were my subsequent comments missing, but that my entries had been removed wholesale so that there was no trace whatsoever of my four comments. In other words although the first comment was deleted, my entry remained with the explanation that the comment itself had been deleted. But the story was very different with my subsequent comments: every trace had been removed so that a reader would not even know that comments had been made which had subsequently been deleted. Furthermore, I was also informed that any further comments I made would be pre-moderated - which is rather a neat way of informing me that they would be censored.

The very odd thing was that all I had done in those subsequent comments was to point out the irony that the Guardian, which prides itself on upholding principles like the freedom of speech, repressed any comments which suggested it itself might be guilty of unwarranted censorship.

So that you can judge for yourself, here are snapshots of the original posts and below each snapshot is the text as I am sure you will not be able to make out very clearly what I had written. I was able to take these snapshots, because the particular page on my personal laptop had not been refreshed, my comments were still to be seen i.e. this was the state of the page before my comments and any hint that they had once existed were removed. Here are the screenshots and below each is the text as you might not be able to make out what is written. My transcript includes literals as it was copied and pasted from the original Guardian web page.

First there was
11.06am
(The initial comment I regarded as simplistic): Oh yes, silly me, it’s the neo-Con love of money over everything else.
Then
11.26am
My response, which was subsequently deleted because, apparently, in did not ‘abide by community standards’.

A little while later, after I found my comment had been deleted
11.40am
I’ve had a very innocuous - very innocuous - comment removed by a moderator because I criticised a reader’s comment as ‘simplistic’ and pointed out that similar comments on the Telegraph website are all too often equally simplistic. And that was it. So much for the Guardian’s doughty defence of free speech. The explanation was that my comment contravened ‘community standards’ which implies what I said was somehow offensive. It was nothing of the kind.
What are the chances that the Guradian’s defenders of free speech will also remove this contribution?
(which, as it turns out, they did, although the reader would remain oblivious of this).

11.41am
Incidentally, ‘replies may also be deleted’ is the very dubious icing on the cake.

11.43am
It would seem even mild criticism of the Guardian and/or its readers ‘contravenes community standards. Must try much harder, lads and lasses. Defending freedom is just a little more difficult than that.

And finally my rather forlorn request to the moderator to clarify the matter:
11.53am
Moderator: Would it be too much to ask that you re-instate the comment of mine you deleted and let readers themselves judge whether of not it was acceptable. I ask because two readers have already recommended my follow-up comments, which would seem to imply that the censorship of my initial comments was, at best, over-enthusiastic.
I also criticised comments made on the Telegraph website as ‘simplistic’ and said they and comments here marked a pretty low point in ‘political discourse’. How on earth can any of that be offensive and from which sensitive Guardian readers (of which I am one) must be protected.
Can’t they make up their own minds? Isn’t making up your own mind and being given the freedom to do so an essential principle of a democratic attitude to the world? In your case, apparently not always. It would seem, going on your response that we are free to think and speak as you please.

But no such luck, and after posting that comment/plea to the moderator, I discovered that my recent comments had all been deleted as well as any trace that they had been made. And it’s worth bearing in mind that no so long ago the Guardian made a big song and dance about publishing the Wikileaks material in the interests of free speech. And now, what with the Metropolitan Police demanding that two of its journalists reveal their sources in the News of the World phone hacking scandal, the Guardian is one again girding its loins in the defence of ‘free speech’.

I regard the whole incident as quite bizarre and way over the top. Exactly what did the moderator or moderators involved object to? That some of the comments posted on its site were simplistic? That the Guardian might well be guilty of censorship? If the latter was objectionable, it is doubly ironic that the way it was dealt with was to censor it. Would anyone care to point out where I overstepped the line? Because I really do not know. Was I sexist, racist, did I use unacceptable profanity, was I blasphemous, had I perpeutated a libel. Well, no, not as far as I could see. All I had done was suggest that the Guardian was being hypocritical.

But it seems that at the end of the day there is one rule for the Guardian, and one for the rest of us. I do so loathe hypocrites. Bear that in mind the next to the good folk at the Guardian posture and beat the libertarian drum.

PS Incidentally, to add insult to injury I am now informed my comments ‘are being premoderated’. So when is censorship not censorship? Well, it would seem it is not censorship when the Guardian does the censoring. Initially, I was quite prepared to put the initial deletion down to an over-enthusiastic moderator. Now it is beginning to look as though the censorship if systemic and part and parcel of the Guardian’s modus operandi. Oh, I do so hate hypocrites.

. . .

Is it any wonder that the Liberal Democrats – Lib Dems to those of us in the know – are generally regarded, although obviously not by other Lib Dems, as bunny-hugging, allergy-prone figures of fun? And if that sounds like a loaded question, it is because it is a loaded question.

This time last year I came across a quote from a female Lib Dem at the party’s first since it formed the Coalition government with the hated, loathsome and, some say, utterly fascist Tories (who, by the way and I have it on good authority, regularly eat babies for breakfast).

I didn’t,’ this woman announced loudly, ‘vote Liberal Democrat to form the government.’ To be fair, one does know what she is driving at – had she added ‘in coalition with the Tories’ her outburst would have made some sense. (And you’ll already have noted, if you take any sort of interest in politics, that only the Lib Dems refer to themselves as ‘Liberal Democrats’. To the rest of us they are and always will be Lib Dems.)

But that kind of inane comment does seem to typify our liberal friends. And inanity seems to be par for the course. Within any group where power is to be had, so that includes the fascist Tories and looney Labour, there will be more than enough bitching, back-biting, intriguing and outright lying to see most honest and decent men through to Christmas 2015. This year the ‘sensation’ is a book by some chap called Jasper Gerard (who’s name rings a bell, although I can’t quite think why) which claims among other things that party leader Nick Clegg does all the housework at home, Chris Huhne harbours a secret ambition to turn professional Formula 1 driver and that Vince Cable is an MI5 plant keeping tabs on everyone else. Naturally, such claims must always be taken with a large pinch of salt, well, but . . .

Generally speaking, Lib Dems, the ordinary ones you meet in the street come in three flavours:

Those who can’t quite bring themselves to vote Tory (because the Tories are - I don’t know, you know - well, it’s like this, you see, scratch your average Tory and - well, to quite blunt, I’m not like that, you know, I mean at the end of the day one must, simply must, stick by what one believes in and the Tories, you know, well, you know …)

Those who can’t quite bring themselves to vote Labour (I really do agree with a lot of what they say, but, you know - I mean they might now have banned fox-hunting but they haven’t done anything about vivisection and animal rights, and we all know that it’s those dinosaur unions who are really running the show, what with their fat expense accounts, they’re as bad as all those fatcats they pretend to hate …)

Then there are men and woman like Mathew Wheeler (pictured below). I’m only assuming he’s a man (as in he’s a man rather than she’s a man) because generally speaking
Mathew is a man’s name although, again to be fair, you can’t really tell with the Lib Dems, who are much more open-minded on these matters than the rest of us. Now, I’m as liberal as the next chap (‘guy’), and if a man or woman wants to cover themselves in tattoos and look like a complete fucking idiot, well, by all means do so. But in cases like this, I really do think the chap’s local PC Plod should make an unannounced visit to his house and take the place apart for as long as it takes to incriminate him in something nasty. Then – this is the clever bit and I don’t doubt our Authorities will sooner or later adopt my strategy – he will be told: start supporting either Labour or the Tories (we really don’t mind which) or we shall lock you up forever and throw away the key. It might sound drastic, inhumane even, but believe me, it’s the only language such people understand. Coalition indeed! You knew there was something wrong with them as soon as they did well in the election and decided to do something sensible for a change.

Incidentally, Mathew Wheeler’s suit is a nice touch. What do you do if you have your body covered from head to toe in tattoos? Why, wear a suit, of course. Who says Lib Dems don’t have standards.

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