Censorship at The Guardian (part 2)

Am I dreaming or did the Guardian really post a hair-raising blog on internet censorship at 5 pm GMT yesterday, then whip the article off its Comment-is-free front page and into its archives less than nine hours later?

And could that be because this newspaper realised that its own bloggers would see a curious connection between the subject of the blog and its own recent behaviour?

The big business of net censorship
Clamping down on free speech on the internet has been a lucrative enterprise for software manufacturers
Comments (10)

o Jo Glanville
o guardian.co.uk, Monday November 17 2008 17.00 GMT
o Article history

One Cif blogger, MarchOnRome, said, ‘It’s instructive that one of the few times the Guardian has anything bad to say about censoring the internet is when they think someone might be making a profit out of it.’

But that’s the old Guardian s/he’s thinking of. To the new version of this newspaper, it’s apparently – and how I hope I’m mistaken – okay to restrict free speech as long as the job’s being done by a company, . . . for instance, a newspaper, rather than by a government.

As this very perch on WordPress noted at the weekend, quoting George Steiner,

The censorship which profit imposes on the media is as destructive, perhaps more so than that of political despotism.

. . . Some of us have also noticed a curious omission in the latest redesign of the Guardian‘s books blog. Articles about the publishing business are no longer listed as a category of archive on the blog’s home page – as in the earlier version of the site, introduced in the spring. Why not? Few of these articles have been critical of the industry, but bloggers’ comments on them are often incendiary.

Does any of this tell us about the Guardian’s future vision of itself? Does it perhaps mean to serve mainly as chief events-organiser for the Hay festival, the publishing industry’s annual self-promotion jamboree, much loathed by the newspaper’s own bloggers?



Filed under Book publishing, Censorship, The Guardian

22 responses to “Censorship at The Guardian (part 2)

  1. no wordnerd you did not imagine the finger-wagging order from above that we should not even refer to Mr. Swords let alone complain/support/argue about him. I was going to reply in the Rap thread but found your link.

    More bizarrely they removed that one but have kept some of the more hair raising comments by others for all to see.

    My feelings on the whole thing are up there to be agree or disagreed with but I think in this instance the GU modbots are making a rod for their own backs.

  2. wordnerd7

    Very good to see you here, @alarming. 🙂 !

    Your post made me go in and put a link for the piece I was referring to (‘Am I dreaming?’) in bold type. . . and I don’t understand why that link isn’t live. I’m trying to make using it a one-click affair with this second paste-in: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/17/censorship-internet?commentpage=1 . . . It’s for a hair-raising article about who’s actually doing the snipping for countries that control what their people can and can’t see on the net.

    I’m trying to make this blog of mine a home for any post — yours or anyone else’s — that seems to have been given the boot unfairly (for instance, because it _isn’t_ a vicious and abusive personal attack on anyone.) Of course that will mean saving a copy of any comment that seems liable to be chopped by a fanatical mod. If you have such a copy, you can always just post it into a comment box in the SALVAGE OPERATION here (see top of home page). . . And then perhaps we can all discuss it.

    … About Des, since banning him obviously doesn’t work — as you say, ‘the GU modbots are making a rod for their own backs,’ not just in this instance, imho — why doesn’t GU just create a special long post pen like my LONGUEURS (again, see top of home page)? That way, with a brief post from him as a notice, those of us seeing what Des has to say can always go and look, and no one in GU officialdom can complain about his contributions blocking the flow of the debate.

    The real problem is, none of the eds have come out to discuss the evolution of their censoring policy with us — since Sarah Crown did last year.

  3. wordnerd7

    ‘those of us seeing what Des . . .’

    I meant, those of us who like seeing what Des has to say . . .

  4. WN7 after my bruising encounter at the hands of one particular contributor on the Rap rap ( some of which is still up there ) I must confess that I am curious as to what he’s done to so displease the powers that be.

    I suspect its now the persistent ( and temporarily successful )attempts to post comments but I wonder what it was originally? I’m not expecting you to answer BTW!!!!!

    But it’s one thing having the GU “don’t ever do that again” comment in the first place but to then cut it seems odd. You’d think they’d leave it there as a warning. Just as farmers used to nail up dead animals on their gateposts ” to let the others know”.

  5. I think once Obama takes office and things start changing, the GU might loosen up.

    My own reading of this is that in the UK, it’s ok to say what you like, as long as it doesn’t expose the blatant inequality of the monarchy.

    New Labour were supposedly going to address this, the party of Kier Hardy, but then it got dropped, and now both of them are mute about the role of monrachs in society. It would be very easy to rectify this by retiring the royalty to private citizens, maybe even go in business with them as they are a massive tourist business, but as it stands, i have a theory thet the gobble dee gook lingo which proliferated after Labour got in, is due to not having an honest debate about this.

    i mean, how can any intelligent person believe that people going by the name Your Highness, doesn’t have an effect on how the rest of the citizens think of themselves. And the GU, when i hit ollamh in September, the 10,000 hours of writing practice paying off and me becoming an expert in poetry, at first they left my posts on as there had clearly been some ascension of quality; but then they would take them down a day or two later, depending on what i wrote subsequently, clearly indicating they didn’t know how to treat them. Basically this writing when it appeared a few months back, was a first as i have reconnected to the three extemporised methods of composition which a poet took on in their eighth year in the old bard system. One which is like Columbo pulling all the evidence together in the final scene, extemporising and ending up with a piece that is a proving text of something or other.

    And when they came up with the spiel about *monitoring users behaviour* after they have posted *problematic content* it made me laugh. For *problematic content* read *the truth* and the language used is so depersonal and meaningless, i mean everyone’s moaning about PC lingo, but everyone uses it, why?

    Because they have an elephant in the room in the shape of an absolute monarchy, people born to the role, the most unfair it gets, and yet then Brown goes on about what a fair and equitable country it is. They keep people in place with bits of nomenclature. Note, Dame Carol Duffy, one day Sir Motion, because the poetic culture there reflects the state. Rather than enobling from within like Heaney does, needing no one else but yourself, the poets look to get affirmed off others, and there is a big gang of back slappers who control who is a poet and who not.

    But i have Americsa, the Poetry Foundation and Levinia Greenlaw is the token brit, and i have been putting stuff there which the brits cannot control, and no one in America is gonna be arsed about slagging kings and queens off like they are on the Guardian.

  6. wordnerd7

    And here’s the man himself, . . . Greetings, Des! were your ears glowing red hot? 😉

    === Rather than enobling from within like Heaney does, needing no one else but yourself, the poets look to get affirmed off others, and there is a big gang of back slappers who control who is a poet and who not. ===

    I’m absolutely sure you’re right about that, as about so much else, even though some people with firmly closed minds naturally find that impossible to appreciate. . . But at least here in the relative freedom of the net, we can see exactly what you mean — for ourselves.

    There are indeed people with the poets’ equivalent of a Good Housekeeping seal of approval — from the ‘big gang’ — whose work is put up for us, who completely fail to impress. . . Think of the one whose name @carolru put in lights (no need to be more specific and gratify a monstrous ego by discussing that person more specifically). . . . If you remember, most of us agreed with your opinion of the piece of work — were _deeply_ unimpressed, even bloggers who don’t ordinarily agree on much else. . . So the world has improved a little, I think, in diminishing the power or in-groups. I can’t wait to see more progress on this front.


    === to then cut it seems odd. You’d think they’d leave it there as a warning. Just as farmers used to nail up dead animals on their gateposts ” to let the others know”. ===

    . . . [helpless snuffling] . . . Yes, and I know that I and several others have ad very similar thoughts. How are people supposed to know what’s unacceptable if we don’t see the offending posts before they are cut — and have nowhere to look for them after that?

    === after my bruising encounter at the hands of one particular contributor on the Rap rap ===

    I’d say my ultra-thin skin used to be one of my three most outstanding characteristics. But in blogging, I just can’t bring myself to care at all about rude remarks — for one thing, because I’m only a screen name to everyone else. For another, because I know that the people I do care about — and even lots who don’t — have built up a picture of me over the months that wouldn’t be changed overnight by a spiteful or angry slam from someone else. Also, the petty, abusive and vitriolic just look ugly to the rest of us – and there’s often a permanent record of what they say on this net, which is not true of most real-life conversations.

    . . . I’ve had a steady, unwavering respect for the person with the screen name you’re using here, and recognise the often very funny voice as belonging to the same person behind @ETAYLOR. . . Just one difference, . . only @Alarming seems enviably well read in French. 😉 . . . so far. . . and astonishingly well-informed about French culture.

    Hmm . . . this is almost long enough for pasting into Longueurs . . .

  7. 3p4

    damm i hate posts that get eaten by inadvertant clicks,,ok nerdy you getting your knickers in a twist

    first the dont talk to des post was bullshit,,communtiy was spelt wrong and it didnt have any little badge of officialdom,,of course it got removed,,it was wind up,,

    next i wrote an eloquent smack upside your conspiracy head but the ether ate it and i cant be
    moved to repeat it verbatim,,suffice it to say that nothing unusual happened to the censorship thread,,well nothing bad,,in fact it was unusually good,,see the steve bell cartoon ,,and all the little prime time icons underneath,,guess what the ipod leads to ??i have seen so many many many many many comments about threads suffering political rendition when it was just the punter getting lost,,
    my first post elaborated on the mechanisms by which this happens,,maybe another time i will be moved to repeat it all,,

  8. 3p4

    its not a steve bell cartoon its martin,,just to be clear,,and its not an ipod its a wonky screen laptop

  9. BaronCharlus

    Hi all,

    No time to read this in enough depth to give decent comment but wanted to say, ‘Hera’, I never got to read your response to our tiff before they whipped it away. It began with the bardic tradition, v-interesting, a point about lack of bad language being absent from the renaissance stage which I contest (a law against abuses was passed in, I think, 1606 – check the folio and quarto Othellos against each other, I’m pretty sure several swears – even if we wouldn’t recognise them as such – were removed, “s’lid” for example). But didn’t get any further. Will be back later.

  10. wordnerd7


    My post, Censorship at The Guardian (part 2) is not about Des or some discussion about community moderation on the hip-hop thread that I mostly missed . . . It’s about the premature archiving of Jo Glanville’s important and fascinating post on Cif. . . You must have been reading me too fast. Read my post, again, please — if at all interested — and follow the link.

    @alarming also thought that today’s addition to my blog was about Des — and I’ve corrected him, upthread, as you’ll see.

    @BaronCharlus, . . . very pleased to see you here. Sorry I’ve only just been able to get the computer after a gap of several hours, to release your post from the comment-approval cell. Subsequent posts won’t need my sanction.

  11. wordnerd7

    That should have been,

    ‘I’ve only just been able to get TO the computer after a gap of several hours, to release your post from the comment-approval cell.’

    . . . a trivial mistake, but @BaronCharlus, you’ve made me realise that I should explain here what I’ve already said in ABOUT, even though you and most people undoubtedly know about the procedure. . . . The first comment by any new visitor to this site is kept as a guest of WordPress (all the clean water you can drink and I’m assured that the crusts are fine day-old baguettes 😉 . . . until approved by the so-called ‘blog owner’.

    And you are now free to chat to Hera/Des/. . . whenever you like.

  12. 3p4

    i suggest you read me closer wordy,,egg on face etc

    icon beneath cartoon,,direct line to ALL the censorship media control threads,,jo glanville is second on the list

  13. 3p4

    then whip the article off its Comment-is-free front page and into its archives less than nine hours later?”””

    so they could put it in a prime location where the link hangs around for as long as you want,,where the link is highlited,,with popup descriptors,,right in the middle of the page,,right under the cartoon,,

    very well hidden,,hows the wedgie ?

  14. The censorship has seemed rather tame to me wordnerd. But I take your word for it. I suppose it’s the intangibles like free speech and intelligent open discussion that make a place worth visiting. I think they should let everything hang out occasionally. And don’t you get the feeling that the moderators are very young and ill informed in some cases. I sense yawning cultural gaps. I imagine them to be tail wagging – somewhat unscrupulous – young wannabe journalists climbing imaginary greasy poles.

  15. 3p4

    You must have been reading me too fast””

    “”i have seen so many many many many many comments about threads suffering political rendition when it was just the punter getting lost,,””

    just tell me the cheque is in the mail,,

  16. wordnerd7

    === where the link is highlited,,with popup descriptors,,right in the middle of the page,,right under the cartoon,, ===

    Yes, _now_, dear 3p4. There are clever people on that paper, and they surely read my criticisms on their own site and moved Jo Glanville out of obscurity and under the cartoon on Cif’s home page. Hurrah and three cheers for blogger power! . . .

    When I posted on the subject, it was indeed as I said. Absolutely _no_ mention of her post on the front page of Cif. And for some reason I doubt we’ll ever know, it was indeed removed from that table of contents some time between 5pm on November 17 and 1.15am on November 18. Strange indeed, since it had a perfectly respectable 10 comments before its suppression.

    _Thank__ you_ for letting me know about the restoration. Now, if only people would comment on her blog. . . There was nothing after my post, there, when I last looked about two hours ago.

  17. wordnerd7

    @ISA . . . did you change email addresses? I found your comment awaiting moderation with my last one — because I’d made a small mistake in spelling my email address.

    I’m not going to characterise the GU moderation and censorship one way or another — will only remark on what I see, case by case, and say what that _seems_ to imply, to me. . . As I’ve said, the deathly silence from GU towers — no discussion of or explanations for deletions — really does leave us to our own conclusions.

    . . . Terribly pleased to be linked to your site: the first such cross-connection I know of. There is something I’m trying to do in setting up my own so-called blogroll and someone at WP might have to tell me if I’m being too ambitious. . . I liked what you said the other day about looking forward to all bloggers having our own sites.

    Will be back soon at Donkeyshott (Quixote, yes? but then what is Xuitlacoche? I feel very dim indeed, for not being able to work it out. 😦 ) . . . Was there, by coincidence, just before I found you held up for moderation.

  18. Wordy, please, please (please) be “too” ambitious.

    I’m looking forward to listing other posters’ blogs too. Artpepper’s should be a humdinger. But Parisa’s too and there is such a lot of quality around at the moment, isn’t there.

    I like your section “longueur’s”. These may not be appropriate on the Guardian Towers blogs but this is the place for them, isn’t it?

    We all have such different concerns. Mine at the moment is life as obituary. Steve’s blog was great.

    Long live cross pollination.

  19. BaronCharlus

    Thanks for the welcome Wordn, and for releasing me into the wild. I wasn’t following the case you’re speaking of, so will have a more careful look. Isa’s comments on the mods seem quite wise, though.

    I also wondered what Xuitlacoche was/is.

  20. wordnerd7

    Ah, @Baron, there’s something quite delightful about playing host to both you and at least one ferocious opponent of the aristocrisy (no, of course that I’m not accusing you of an excess of hauteur — but, you know, that _name_ . . .: ) . . .

    I might agree with ISA too, once we’ve sorted out the confusion about exactly which actions of the moderators we’re discussing. You’ll see what I mean if you can stay awake all the way to the end of my latest post.

  21. wordnerd7

    Dear @Baron and @Des, I’ve enjoyed reading your conversation after some hours away from the machine.

    BC, thank you for reading that old censored post in Salvage Operation. I agree that it’s impossible to tell how much of their behaviour is or isn’t sinister; how much arrogant & high-handed, etc.

    About the adware. When I logged on to the books blog a few minutes ago, there were these companies (not as many as usual) trying to . . . ahem . . . _harvest_ my laptop for information:


    Like Des, I think we all know that the Guardian is a business, and that this newspaper’s holier-than-thou pose is just that – even if it _has_ fought some important battles flying an ‘Enlightenment Values’ standard.

    Since the books blog runs articles supposedly letting us in on intimate details of how the literary community works – eg., judges giving us blow-by-blow accounts of the work of choosing book prize winners; book marketing; bookselling, and so on – isn’t it odd that there’s never been an article about this information gathering software? Or on what the Guardian’s arrangement with these companies is? Exactly what information is being collected, and sold to whom, for what purpose?

    I spent two minutes trying to find out about googlesyndication.com and got this fascinating page:


    And at the bottom of that, there’s this link . . .

    • A case for adblock: “Hackers Use Banner Ads on Major Sites to Hijack Your PC”

  22. BaronCharlus


    For my many deep, peculiar sins, part of the way I’ve been making money recently is to read a lot of articles on internet security (so I really can’t bring myself to click that link of yours), so I do know that adware can be a rather grey area legally – at least one company spreading the stuff has been to court with Symantec or McAfee (I think) after they were flagged as phishing software by a firewall; this suggests that adware can still be classified – by security companies no less – as invasive. It hadn’t, in my innocence (I know, an innocent sinner, how Edenic) occurred to me that the GU would be flytipping tiny spies into my laptop but of course you’re right. On most of your comments above I now think you may have a point, especially since the blogs overhaul that links posts to adverstising. I’ll get me fig leaf.

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