Why is The Guardian censoring debate about press reform and ignoring the Lord Chief Justice’s endorsement of citizen journalism?

Britain’s Lord Chief Justice, Lord (earlier, Sir Igor) Judge, whose endorsement of citizen journalism in a speech on 19 October was not reported by the press

Readers who would first like to see the unimpeachably polite comments deleted by the Guardian’s moderators on 30 October – reproduced exactly as published on its site** before they were censored – can scroll down further on this page. The deletions fall into four classes:

● Comments directing readers to the post on this site titled, ‘Wanted: a brave newspaper for an experiment in which readers become stakeholders,’ and to a paper published by the Oxford Internet Institute,  ‘The Keiretsu-Cooperative: a Model for Post-Gutenberg Publishing,’ downloadable at no charge, here on the Social Science Research Network site.

● Comments pointing to a post on this site showing how the ‘business model’ the press runs on today can radically distort the truth: ‘How competition for advertising in print media let Steve Jobs warp history and steal the credit for the computer revolution.’

● Comments highlighting an addition to this site titled, ‘Will the calls for press reform during Britain’s Hackgate lead to action — or business as usual?’  It starts by quoting the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, about the need to diversify media ownership.

● Comments linked to an article on this site showing how Switzerland makes super-democracy work well: ‘Extreme democracy is not an impossible dream if you copy Switzerland, not California.’ In its first paragraph, this blog entry mentions that the Swiss experience could be a good guide for an experiment in restructuring newspaper ownership.

The Leveson enquiry convened by David Cameron’s government to investigate the British phone hacking scandal and ‘the culture, practices and ethics of the press’  will make recommendations about whether the 4th Estate should be trusted to regulate itself.

Can the public be expected to trust self-regulation when a leading newspaper is going out of its way to obstruct debate about media ownership, and the question of whether the media should be restructured to include non-traditional disseminators of information?

Could this restriction of free expression be related to the omission from press reports of any mention of a clear and ringing  endorsement of ‘citizen journalism’ – and the rest of the 5th Estate – by Britain’s top judge, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord (Igor) Judge, in a speech on press regulation in mid-October? So few newspapers reported the speech at all that I learnt about it from a Twitter feed.

The Guardian, like The Sun, only mentioned what he said about the importance of a free press in a brief news item, leaving readers to find their own way to his careful qualification of that remark in a transcript of the whole speech posted on its site. It failed to draw its readers’ attention to a point he emphasised at the start of his lecture. It was about the tendency of the press to wilfully misread a famous statement in 1762 by the reformer and political activist, John Wilkes, as restricting the right to uncensored expression to the privileged minority that the 4th Estate represents. Justice Judge began by quoting Wilkes, then explained what the agitator meant:

“The liberty of the press is the birthright of a Briton, and is justly esteemed the firmest bulwark of the liberties of this country”. 

We embrace that statement. The significance of what John Wilkes said was not, as those connected with the media sometimes suggest, that the statement is upholding the liberty of the press. That is undoubtedly a direct consequence of what John Wilkes said, but in reality on close examination what he was saying was much more profound. He was asserting that the liberty of the press is the birthright of every citizen, that is, the community as a whole. It is birthright of the citizen that the press should be independent. It is therefore not a right of one section of the community, not just a sectional right. It is the right of the community as a whole. It is, if you like, our right, the right of every citizen.

I cannot believe that The Guardian thinks its moderators should be deleting proposals for a mere experiment in co-owning part of a newspaper site with reader-citizens. But I had no reply after I tweeted the paper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, an alert about the removal of a comment containing a link to my piece about the pernicious effects of advertising on the presentation of the truth. Earlier messages asking the newspaper’s moderation team for an explanation for the cuts also received no answer. This is puzzling. The editor has been giving speeches about ‘the mutualization’ of his newspaper, announcing that ‘our readers have become part of what we do. . . lending a hand with research and ideas, bringing us up short when we get things wrong.’ 

Cheryll Barron

** As we live in an age of digital forgery, I have saved not just the deleted comments by postgutenberg but the threads on which they were posted, and would willingly present them for authentication to any democratically licensed official body. Correspondence to: postgutenberg@gmail.com

THE CENSORED COMMENTS

Here is a sample of the comments by postgutenberg that were deleted by the Guardian on 30 October. Most of the censored contributions were left undisturbed for several days or weeks until I posted the first of these pointers to this site – after which there was a grand retrospective purge:

(1)

Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson – review

Peter Conrad 

‘postgutenberg

30 October 2011 11:39PM

This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards. Replies may also be deleted. For more detail see our FAQs.’

What the censored comment said:

postgutenberg

30 October 2011 11:39PM

Read this and you can make up your own mind:

How competition for advertising in print media let Steve Jobs warp history and steal the credit for the computer revolution

http://post-gutenberg.com/2011/10/25/how-competition-for-advertising-in-print-media-let-steve-jobs-warp-history-and-steal-the-credit-for-the-computer-revolution/


(2)

A register of journalists’ interests would help readers to spot astroturfing

George Monbiot http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/29/voluntary-register-journalists-interests-astroturfing

‘postgutenberg‘s comment 29 September 2011 9:34PM

This comment has been removed by a moderator.’

What the censored comment said:

postgutenberg

29 September 2011 9:34PM

An interesting idea, but you can share the same tiny media cubicle, and never discover who your workmate knows, or what his or her true interests are. So if there were such a register, would people tell the truth?

Secrecy is so often the essence of power.

What would prevent fake transparency in declaring your interests?

Addressing Whealie‘s point, what if the Guardian were to try out an experiment in which commenters become part-owners of a section of the online newspaper and helped to decide on policies, including moderation?

More details here: Wanted: a brave newspaper, for an experiment in which readers become stakeholders.

http://post-gutenberg.com/2011/09/05/wanted-a-brave-newspaper-for-an-experiment-in-which-readers-become-stakeholders/

(3)

Occupy Wall Street? These protests are not Tahrir Square but scenery

Simon Jenkins http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/20/occupy-wall-street-tahrir-scenery

postgutenberg‘s comment 20 October 2011 10:14PM

This comment has been removed by a moderator.’

What the censored comment said:

            postgutenberg

            20 October 2011 10:14PM

There are serious gaps in the transparency of modern democracy. Between elections, the traditional mediators between electors and those in power have withered. The “customary associations and little platoons” have dwindled.

Spot-on.

But surely the press is that great traditional mediator?

… the 4th Estate that is now supposed to be sharing power with the even more democratic 5th Estate? Yet to the restructuring of media that this calls for, Simon is furiously opposed … Scroll to the end and see the quotation of OpiumEater’s sharp post, here:

Will the calls for press reform during Britain’s Hackgate lead to action — or business as usual?

http://post-gutenberg.com/2011/09/19/will-the-calls-for-press-reform-during-hackgate-lead-to-action-or-business-as-usual/

Why?

And a writer who turned to fiction to show us exactly what needs to change – whose work could easily supply a list of precise demands for Occupy Everything – has been mis-classified as a vacuous Dan Brown-equivalent:

Stieg Larsson, 5th estate forerunner, marginalised as a media critic      

http://post-gutenberg.com/2011/09/05/stieg-larsson-5th-estate-forerunner-marginalised-media-critic/

postgutenberg [this correction of the censored comment was left in place]

20 October 2011 10:19PM

Sorry, that was supposed to say, why is Simon opposed to restructuring the media for the 5th Estate? — far more democratic than the 4th Estate because of the greater inclusiveness of the internet as a medium.

(4)

Capitalism has learned to create host organisms

Zygmunt Bauman

‘postgutenberg‘s comment 18 October 2011 11:14AM

This comment has been removed by a moderator.’

What the censored comment said:

postgutenberg

18 October 2011 11:14AM

Good analysis and fresh thinking — even if it is pessimistic.

That new art – made possible by the shift from the “society of producers” to the “society of consumers”, and from the meeting of capital and labour to the meeting of commodity and client as the principal source of “added value” – profit and accumulation consists mostly of the progressive commodification of life functions, market mediation in successive needs’ satisfaction and substituting desire for need in the role of the fly-wheel of the profit-aimed economy.

But couldn’t we use the internet to reverse that shift? It has given us so many tools to become producers ourselves – and to set up our own websites to sell what we make, anything from the materialist bits ‘n’ bobs that pass through E-Bay to paintings, texts, — even shares in creative enterprises of every kind, through so-called ‘crowd-sourcing’.

And what if the media were to lead the way — showing how to co-opt capitalism’s limitless energy and inventiveness through co-ownership? … effectively, a cross between socialism and capitalism?

Most of the new co-operative ventures tried in the 1970s failed, usually because decision-making was slow and cumbersome. But with the blazing speeds at which detailed information can be communicated and votes tallied with today’s media, new co-operative ventures wouldn’t be burdened with the same difficulties as the old ones.

Yes, there would be new problems – there are always problems – but why not experiment and see what happens?

Wanted: a brave newspaper for an experiment in which readers become stakeholders

http://post-gutenberg.com/2011/09/05/wanted-a-brave-newspaper-for-an-experiment-in-which-readers-become-stakeholders/

(5)

Europe’s defunct idealism is like Munich all over again

Simon Jenkins

‘postgutenberg‘s comment 19 October 2011 2:07AM

This comment has been removed by a moderator.’

What the censored comment said:

postgutenberg

19 October 2011 2:07AM

A rare treat — constructive new thinking, actually being implemented:………………..found a few minutes ago in a NYT column by Joe Nocera:

We Can All Become Job Creators

By JOE NOCERA

Howard Schultz. God bless him.

Here we are two months later, and Schultz [founder-president of Starbucks] is back with Big Idea No. 2. It is every bit as idealistic as his first big idea, but far more practical. Starbucks is going to create a mechanism that will allow us citizens to do what the government and the banks won’t: lend money to small businesses. This mechanism is scheduled to be rolled out on Nov. 1. This time, Schultz is not tilting at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/18/opinion/nocera-we-can-all-become-job-creators.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&pagewanted=printwindmills.

Wanted: a brave newspaper for an experiment in which readers become stakeholders

http://post-gutenberg.com/2011/09/05/wanted-a-brave-newspaper-for-an-experiment-in-which-readers-become-stakeholders/

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2 thoughts on “Why is The Guardian censoring debate about press reform and ignoring the Lord Chief Justice’s endorsement of citizen journalism?

  1. Pingback: Good Guardian, bad Guardian, and two more censored comments « post-Gutenberg

  2. Pingback: A reply to Richard Stacy: the keiretsu-cooperative is at the opposite pole from a ‘walled garden’ « post-Gutenberg

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