If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 24 October 2011

Why I No Longer Read The Guardian

I was brought up with the Manchester Guardian, and it was my daily read for a long time. Generally, it was well put-together, well-informed and had enough humour to leaven the more earnest parts of its content. And in Araucaria, Rufus, Bunthorne and Shed it had the most imaginative and intriguing crossword setters of any newspaper. The crozzy alone was worth the purchase price. That was in the days when I still thought of myself as left-of-centre, before the centre moved sharply leftwards and I remained on my little island of well-meaning fluffiness and kindness to animals. I stopped reading it when I realised that the tone of the whole paper had become hectoring, sneering and intolerant - you must agree with this, you must think that - and that it had long changed from the days of C P Scott, when it was Liberal in the sense of, well, proper liberal rather than left-liberal. It is worth remembering that the paper hated Aneurin Bevan, called for Attlee's Labour government to be voted out, and opposed the creation of the NHS because, it argued, universal healthcare would lead to a blunting of natural selection and an increase in the number of deformed and feckless people. Hmmm. The paper also notably blamed the protestors for the massacre on Bloody Sunday - something unthinkable for the Guardian today.

I read The Times for a while - not bad, less dull than I remembered - and occasionally the Telegraph - still dull - but then I pretty much stopped reading newspapers altogether. I now get my news from the TV and a reading of a huge variety of online sources, including both left and right and non-aligned, and I feel I am vastly better informed and much more discriminating than before.

I was reminded of why I stopped reading it when I saw this article in the online edition. Not the article itself, which seems fair and informative, but the comments that follow. The article concerns a poll, which found that 70% of people support a referendum on our membership of the EU, and 49% of them favour a withdrawal, compared to 40% who would vote to stay.

Conservative rebels pushing for an in-or-out referendum on Europe are riding the tide of public opinion, according to a Guardian/ICM poll.

Some 70% of voters want a vote on Britain's EU membership, and by a substantial nine-point margin respondents say they would vote for UK withdrawal.

Forty-nine per cent would vote to get Britain out of Europe, against just 40% who prefer to stay in.

Good journalism - factual, informative and balanced. But the comments - sheesh! All the nasty, arrogant, sneering shits in Islington must have been drafted in to write them. Here's a sample:

Mr Lumpy: God help us all if the unwashed get a vote on something important!

Needs no comment: if you disagree with me you are uneducated - no, unwashed - and therefore your opinion can be discounted. I thought it was only the toffs who sneered about the 'unwashed'. Perhaps left-wing toffs still do.

Baggieofko: Will all those who wish us to leave explain what pieces of legislation they will have to introduce to replace the European legislation they profess to hate? And explain precisely how trading with Europe on Europe's terms is made better when you're not even at the table to decide what those terms are.

Interesting thought, that if we leave Europe we will have to dream up new legislation to replace the old. No question that we could, like, just not replace it at all? And how Soviet to equate trading in a market with 'terms' and agreements - as if no-one will buy anything from anyone else unless the 'terms' have been agreed in an office somewhere.
Finite187: And thank god, that's why we have representative democracy.
Like the lower case 'g' - very edgy and non-conformist. Translation: we vote in MPs to make decisions for us because we are too stupid to think for ourselves. If it weren't for MPs, people might actually vote for doing things the way they want, and that wouldn't do, not at all.
Doswillrule agrees: The reason we elect politicians is that most people don't know what's best for them. Referendums fulfil a lovely ideal but are completely and utterly illogical.
An explanation as to why referenda are illogical would have helped here, as it isn't immediately obvious from the context, but of course that would have required some thinking.
Organicprankster: I wonder how many among that 49% could accurately describe the mechanisms and institutions of the EU.
I wonder how many among the 40% who want to stay in could do that. Probably very few. No-one understands the mechanisms of the EU. That's the whole point, and the EU works very hard to keep it so.
Strummered: EU referendum: poll shows 49% would vote for UK withdrawal. Another unofficial poll also suggests these same people have difficulties tying their shoelaces.

Pointless ad hominem insult, and not even funny.

dv420uk: So that means that the other 51% would vote for remaining in the EU.

Hasn't read beyond the headline.

Strummered, again: I despair, these same people egged on by jingoist tabloid nonsense and Tory Eurosceptic buffoons will have no idea of the abject repercussions.

People who disagree with me just blindly follow the papers and don't understand the real issues. I, and people who agree with me, are enlightened and can see the whole thing clearly. It's a good job we are in charge.

Theunknowing: Fools.

Succinct. And revealing.

It was the feeling of grubbiness at being in the same company as these self-righteous twats that made me stop reading the paper. But there's some common sense as well, though:

Koolio: I suspect a lot of people are rightly expressing anger and frustration over Europe and it's this that needs to be tackled. Note this is valid across Europe, even in France and Germany many voters are exasperated by policies implemented over which they have had almost no say. Widespread reform of the EU can be pro-European, it is not the exclusive property of skeptics.

Thank goodness someone has mentioned that many of the French and Germans are getting very disillusioned with the EU, although perhaps not as publicly (yet) as the UK.

KaiserCelente: Direct democracy - let the people vote. If we did this more often would we have bailed out the banks? Would we have gone to war in Iraq/Afghanistan/Libya? All i know is had the people have been given the vote on all these important issues, in my opinion this country would be in far far better shape than the Sh*t hole it is right now.

I think there is enough collective intellect in the population to always provide a better indication of the best thing to do through a vote than a handful of spoilt toffs in governemnt who are bought and paid for by banks and corporations.

Can't disagree with that.

As a coda, I have to mention a cartoon I saw in the paper many years ago. I've tried hard to find it online without success, so you will have to make do with a verbal description. It sums up the Guardian mindset superbly.

A man is running down the street, money falling out of his pockets, pursued by an attacker wielding a knife. Two men are watching it happen. One says to the other:

"Of course, to the enlightened observer, they are both crying for help."


  1. "universal healthcare would lead to a blunting of natural selection and an increase in the number of deformed and feckless people" Hmmmm indeed.

    As a child I sometimes read my parents Daily Express, the Giles cartoons were funny. Most of my teen years were spent with the Guardian until I tired of disagreeing with its content and drifted towards the Daily Telegraph which used to be a serious newspaper.

    "Jongoist" Don't think I've seen that lefty hate cliche for about twenty years, are they really still using it?

  2. The reason we elect politicians is that most people don't know what's best for them.

    There are two ways to understand that sentence.

  3. One reason for the biased nature of the Guardian's comments sections is that views not in keeping with official Guardian policy tend to get "moderated" (i.e. censored). This happens far more frequently on the Guardian comments section than in the comments sections of other newspapers.

  4. " Mr Lumpy: God help us all if the unwashed get a vote on something important!"

    I took that as sarcasm, a mild parody of the mindset exhibited by dear leader and the Guardian.

  5. This surely says more about people who spend their time commenting in Newspaper webisites, than the Newspaper itself? Probably representative of 1% of the readership . These days I read the Saturday Daily Telegraph motoring section, and the Independent. The letters section of the Knutsford Guardian always provides facist insight into potholes in Mobberley etc etc

  6. Banned - I haven't heard 'jingoistic' for a long time, either. It reminds me of sixth-form magazines and CND marches, way back.

    WoaR - you are imputing a sense of irony to doswillrule, which may be a little over-generous.

    Ralph - you are correct. I have had a few comments moderated out from CiF and the BBC's Have Your Say, when I was nowhere near breaching house rules. It's pathetic when an organ like the Groan can't allow a dissenting viewpoint - or at least, too many dissenting viewpoints. I suspect they allow a few in but keep the numbers low to bolster their fantasy that the world thinks the same way as they do.

    Ross - you may be right, but see 'sense of irony' comment above.

    Nikos - I take your point about representation, but as a long-standing but non-current Grauniad reader, I know that the tone of many of the comments is repeated (although less bluntly and with more intelligence) in many of the comment pieces, and more vaguely in the editorial stance.

    With Rusbridger earning a third of a million a year yet bleating about fat cat Tories, and with GMG using tax havens while complaining about Tory tax avoidance, the Graun is just a bunch of hypocritical fuckwits. Reason alone not to read it these days.

  7. I know this will smack of indignation, but do you really think that each one of those opinions perfectly encapsulates a person? My opinions on referendums and the EU reach somewhat wider than a two-line dictum, but that's the nature of online comments.

    And I absolutely stand by the notion that referendums are a terrible idea. No-one, myself and the bloody Guardian readership included, should have a direct say on matters which effect elements of our law and economy that we can barely comprehend, let alone the issues we think we know something about.

  8. Doswillrule, good to see you here! I certainly don't think that each somment encapsulates a person, but if you make a public comment that's all we have to go on.

    I can't agree with your second comment, you will not be surprised to hear. I'm not arguing for referenda on every little decision, but for the major decisions, affecting matters of national importance, I believe that the people should have their say. A cross in a box once every five years, choosing between the lesser of two evils, isn't enough. I'm not as pessimistic as you are about the wisdom of crowds. Generally, people are sensible and will come to the right decision. Is there anything about our current crop of politicians that makes you think they are better qualified? And even if people make the wrong choice occasionally (and who would decide what's wrong?), it's better than the disengagment resulting from all the major decisions being taken by an elite that seems never to listen to the people they are supposed to represent.


Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

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