There’s been an unfortunate confusion of categories in conversations about posts made to vaporise on the Guardian‘s books blog. For one group of blogging comrades, it’s all about GU banning particular bloggers.
At the risk of boring careful readers of earlier posts witless, by repetition, . . . the problem I’m most disturbed by is rather larger. It has to do with the Guardian’s refusal to explain or discuss its reasons for censoring this post of mine — supporting Margaret Drabble’s criticism of the excessive commercialisation of book publishing, and objecting to secretive deletions of earlier complaints on the same theme. I’ve explained some of my reasons here.
A message to bloggers from a Guardian Community Moderator on October 27 could be partly responsible for the confusion. It didn’t so much as mention my many requests, on the books blog site, for enlightenment about censoring policy. It only stated that the blogging privileges of banned bloggers couldn’t be reinstated — and attempted to make a case for limiting ‘off-topic’ discussions between bloggers that, in practice, are always perfectly okay except when critical of heavy-handed moderation.
This isn’t to say that I have no sympathy for our banned comrades. Or that I agree with the Guardian’s reasons for and methods of locking people out of the site. More than once, I’ve joined other bloggers in protesting about these policies and suggesting that they need reconsideration.
What our separate objections do have in common is (i) the surreptitious and unacknowledged deletion of posts by GU; (ii) the Guardian’s refusal to discuss the evolution of censorship and moderation of the books blog with bloggers, whose posts are the lifeblood of that site.
Trying to stifle criticism of an ever-slicker and more mercantile book publishing business by conflating it with policing bloggers’ behaviour – and crushing all forms of disagreement under the same indiscriminate censor’s boot – seems to have an unfortunate parallel.
Isn’t it rather like the subject of so many recent Guardian blogs and editorials warning us that with the excuse of protecting us from terrorists, the government is vastly over-extending surveillance and stripping us of every last shred of privacy?
Yes that’s a bit of a stretch, on the surface. But in each case, controlling the unusual behaviour of particular individuals (murderous militants, as opposed to nonconformist literary bloggers) is being used as an excuse to deprive entire populations (the British people in one case; a blogging community in the other) of what our Enlightenment culture deems basic rights.. . . Incidentally, I can’t help but wonder whether the Guardian’s curious treatment of Jo Glanville’s article about Western software companies doing the actual work of censorship for repressive governments might have had something to do with this part of John Ozimek’s blog, to which I’ve linked in the last paragraph:
Recently, the home office informed me that “the government has been working … to develop filtering software [to protect] against illegal material that promotes or encourages terrorism”.
. . . Yes I do see that this isn’t the sort of thing we escapist books bloggers discuss ordinarily. I’m keen to move on to more lighthearted conversations on, for instance, Chris Power‘s charming reverie about getting real straw between his teeth. All I’m asking for, for the moment, is proof that the Guardian is going to stop behaving like book publishing’s drooling poodle, apparently not caring a whit about that industry’s wrecking of literary standards and culture.