Rod Liddle

The delicious cant of the Guardian is such a treat on a Saturday morning

It’s heaven to pour a fair-trade coffee and snigger at the letters page, with its epic self-regard and its outrage

14 February 2015

9:00 AM

14 February 2015

9:00 AM

One of the highlights of my week comes on a Saturday morning, when I make myself a cup of fair-trade coffee and settle down to read the letters page of the Guardian. My wife usually joins me — it’s a sort of date thing, romantic in its own way — and we sit there cackling, our cares and woes forgotten for a while. Sometimes it is the smug little commendations of some earnest article that has uncovered the suffering of an hitherto unreported minority of the population — that stuff is quite funny. But then all newspapers print letters from readers telling them how good they are. Much more fun — and fecund — are the gripes, the expressions of outrage and fury, the voluptuous revelling in acquired victimhood, the absolute intolerance of views which run counter to their own. That’s where we get our real laughs.

For example, the Guardian magazine has long since ceased using attractive young models for its fashion stuff, in an attempt to be politically correct. But still the moans will come in about how much the clothes cost and, really, should you be writing about fashion when Cameron and his fascist junta are busy murdering innocent benefit claimants? That’s a weekly gripe. God forbid anyone interviewed in the pages of that publication uses language which could be deemed offensive to the LGBQT community; there will be a howling at the moon.

And so we sit and snigger at the epic self-regard, the desperate yearning to be transgressed, the nursery-school Stalinism, all on display. You wonder how the hell you could write for this publication — you must have to watch every word for a possible slip. The injudicious use of a word like ‘-grandmother’, for example (banned by the Guardian style guide. She’s just a woman, you sexist bastard). It must be murder — more of which later.

I mentioned the pleasure we get from reading these bien-pensant middle-class idiocies to a friend of mine — and he revealed that he does the same thing. He buys the Guardian once a week, just to laugh at the letters. It struck me that quite soon the people who buy the Guardian to laugh at its readers will be the only readers — and then where will we be? The paper’s circulation has dipped below 200,000 recently, a huge reduction, and it is easily outsold by the Independent’s ‘I’ edition.

Either the staff will have to make up fatuous gripes and moans to fill the letters page or we’ll have to start making them up ourselves and sending them in. A bit like Craig Brown’s very funny Bel Little-john column, a satire of a particularly cretin-ous feminist hack, back when the paper had a sense of humour. He couldn’t get away with that now. Well, I suppose he could, but nobody would think that it was funny. They’d just take it all at face value. Yeah, right on, Bel. Stick it to da man.

I’ve become so worried about the Guardian’s declining readership that I am considering spending 500 quid to become a ‘Guardian founding member’ in order to prop it up a while longer and maybe pay for the outgoing editor, Alan Rusbridger, to have some more piano lessons. There was a plea for people to cough up from the reliably hilarious and high-born Polly Toynbee just this week. It was almost as funny as the letters page.

Why does the Guardian feel the need to squeeze even more cash from its readers than the daily price of the paper itself? Here’s Polly: ‘The Guardian’s life has always been precarious because we don’t have an owner or a corporation propping us up. We don’t have a press baron or oligarch ordering us to take their political or commercial line. We swim alone in a dangerous world of media sharks, our independence precious and unique. Our free and progressive voice matters not just for our own sake, but for the politics and diversity of a society currently dominated by the views of a few media owners with similar views to each other.’

What magnificent cant. It’s the readership that props up a newspaper — owners and corporations tend to be unsentimental entities, no? Later in her panhandling essay, Toynbee suggests that the Guardian is to be valued because its journalists do not have ‘one eye looking over their shoulder’ at their proprietor’s whims. Leave for a moment the spectacle of someone looking with one eye over their shoulder, or how you might ‘see’ a whim — writing was never one of Polly’s strengths, if we’re honest — the suggestion that the other daily newspapers are hamstrung by the political concerns of their owners is deceitful or deluded, one of the two.

I have worked for publications owned by Conrad Black, the Guardian’s arch-Satan Rupert Murdoch, and the Barclay brothers. I have also worked for Polly’s pristine conduit — and I can tell you that when it comes to political interference in copy, the only place I’ve had even the remotest problem, in 15 years, was the Guardian. Not a huge problem, I admit — they stopped me using the word ‘monkey’ to describe someone who was behaving like a monkey, jabbering, being mischievous. They said it was racist. I said well, OK, but the man I’m talking about is white. They said yes, but people might think he’s black. The following week I described someone as being a wolv-erine — they cut that out too. They said a wolverine was a kind of ape and was therefore racist. I said no, a wolverine is a sort of large, ferocious weasel. And they said yes, but someone might think that it’s a kind of ape, and therefore racist.

Small beer, for sure — but the point holds. Only the Guardian. I’ve never had any kind of problem with any of the scumbag oligarchs, tycoons, fascist corporations — despite dissing Sky, sniggering in print about Barbara Amiel, suggesting people should vote Labour, demanding increases to the minimum wage, opposing the war in Iraq, criticising our trade links with China and referring to the Barclays as ‘the Ribbentrop twins’ the week they took over this magazine — hell, I could go on. Never any political interference at any point from all those bad guys. Only the Guardian.

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  • Rik

    Be fair the fascist left will always defend to the death your right to think and say exactly what they tell you,and nothing else on pain of social death,career suicide and arrest and imprisonment.

    • Gwangi

      Spot on!

  • MikeF

    “progressive” – a word the left love to use to describe themselves and their beliefs. They seem oblivious to its origins back in the 1930s as a favoured self-description of the quite literally Stalinist – and all too often just as literally murderous – communist movement. But maybe ‘seem’ is the operative word there and the reality is that they recognise and welcome the association – their dogmatism and intolerance suggest they do. The real irony, though, is that ‘progressive’ politics actually contradict the notion of progress. Instead they simply assert and seek to enforce one single inflexible and unchanging ‘correct’ view on just about everything. They are not about progress but stasis.

    • Damaris Tighe

      You’re right, ‘progressive’ was the coded description the old Communist movement used for themselves. It comes from the same stable as the laughable ‘peace movement’, the coded description for those on the Soviet side of the Cold War.

      • Bob-B

        Then there is the People’s Assembly against Austerity promoted by Guardian journalist Owen Jones. The term People’s Assembly comes straight from Stalinism:

        “The term People’s Parliaments or People’s Assemblies was used in 1940 for puppet legislatures put together after rigged show elections in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to legitimize the occupation by the Soviet Union.”

        “Immediately after entering Poland’s territory, the Soviet army helped to set up “provisional administrations” in the cities and “peasant committees” in the villages in order to organize one-list elections to the People’s Assembly of Western Ukraine.”

        • Damaris Tighe

          All Orwellian rubbish. See the word ‘People’s’ or ‘Democratic’ in the context of the far left & you can be assured it means the exact opposite.

      • MikeF

        Hi Damaris – tried to reply to your cry of despair under the article about the Denmark atrocites and twice it seems to have been ‘evaporated’. All I said was don’t despair – increasing numbers of people may now begin to see the light or words to that effect. Let’s see if this survives.

        • Damaris Tighe

          I saw it Mike & gave a mute upvote!

          • MikeF

            Hi Damaris – Thanks for some reason it didn’t show up on my screen and I thought I was maybe being overly ‘moderated’. Oh and the Orwellian term I was trying to recall was, of course, ‘vapourised’ – remember it is what happens to dissidents in 1984. But, as I said, don’t despair.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Similar to Telemachus’s chilling term ‘eliminated’ which he used to describe the murder of the Russian royal family. Totalitarians still have a shred of conscience which makes them sanitise murder with these cold terms.

          • Tox66

            Do you think so? I think they couldn’t care less and are proud of their treachery and murderous depravity but expedience has taught them to hide their true feelings.

  • Cymrugel

    Much gloating in the comments here, but I think the decline of the Grain is tragic. We are not well served for newspapers as it is and the fall of the last left wing quality daily is not a good thing to anyone who values free speech.

    I started reading the thing back in the 1970s and it really was a ground breaking crusading newspaper.

    Nowadays its just a lifestyle mag for well off London types and a platform for crank groups to rant and rave. It is completely detached from its roots and regards ordinary British white people with undisguised contempt. The world outside London might as well not exist.

    I wonder what my old hero James Cameron would have made of it? Not much I think.

    • Jingleballix

      I do like the Graun for sport – particularly the late Frank Keating, the cricket writers and they do have decent rugby writers too…….it also has some good arts pieces (when they stop the PC slant).

      Other than that……’s a cess pit of can’t, hypocrisy and awful self-pity.

      Over the past 6-7yrs, their stance on ‘greedy bankers’ and tax avoiding big wigs is the absolute nadir of serious journalism……..a few years back, GMG was making massive losses and cut over 100 jobs – but Carolyn McCall, Rusbridger and the board took home huge bonuses, on top of massive salaries.

      So bad were the losses that they had to sell Autotrader – which was a highly lucrative deal. Then they manipulated the Scott Trust and made the sale massively ‘tax efficient’………in other words, they AVOIDED TAX on the whole deal.

      I detest such dishonesty and double standards.

      To be asking for £500 now really is beyond the pale.

      • Pacificweather

        ‘absolute nadir of serious journalism’

        No more so than The Times or Telegraph. Is it the Internet that has killed quality print journalism or has quality print journalism committed suicide.

        • Jingleballix

          DT needs advertising revenue……..has to ‘jazz itself up’.

          It really has gone down hill.

          Speccie, Breitbart London and Commentator are better for politics.

          Ironically, for ‘news’, the Guardian is remarkably quick off the mark with stories…….better than DT.

        • Phil T Tipp

          Verdict: assisted suicide.

          The ‘profession’ stopped self-policing and the cream no longer rises to the top, sub-editors have been deep-sixed, proper research is too expensive and time-consuming, the new breed of hacks can’t spell, nor construct a sentence or a cogent article and the papers do not seem to care.

          In fairness, the rise of the web helped nudge the decline along – all the best, most insightful, incisive and outspoken journalism today, is to be found on the internet.

    • Jambo25

      The b.ggers banned from commentating on CiF after I called a load of old Femo tosh, a load of old Femo tosh. Its prissy and brain dead and sinking more and more into self parody.

      • Cymrugel

        I was banned too.

        I eventually realised that there are certain subjects you must follow the party line on – immigration, islam, sexuality and religion.

        If you think immigration might need to be reduced, islam might be presenting problems, question whether transgender people really are the sex they want to be, rather than the one they were born as or do not dismiss religion as rubbish, you will first be deleted, then banned.

        That’s’ why increasingly its a platform for people who all basically agree with each other to varying degrees. There is no real argument..

        One slightly worruying discovery was that when I set up another account from a different email I was banned before I had even said anything. This seems to indicate that they are monitoring which PC you are accessing the site from.

        I wonder how that fits in with their support for whistleblowers and free speech?

        • Jambo25

          I got dumped for objecting to an article which characterised the UK as a ‘rape culture’ society. What the hell would that be. I didn’t bother trying to get another account as I simply refuse to contribute to a site which is so simple minded and childish.

          • Cymrugel

            My main worry was that they were able to identify me and lock me out. Seems strange that they have the ability to trace individual computers to specific peoepl, use it to censor them yet shout loudly about freedom of speech and the dangers of state surveillances.

          • Jambo25

            I’m no expert but I believe each computer has a unique address and the Guardian might well be able to trace it.

          • Cymrugel

            That being so I wonder at their support for the likes of Asange.

          • Jambo25

            They supported Assange up to the point where it looked like imposing a cost on the Guardian and its individual journos then they dumped him. Then, later, it became apparent that he was a flakey egomaniac.

          • gerontius redux

            They block you by your IP address. The Spectator does the same.
            I evade the Spectator block by using my Virtual Private Network. Alternatively use the Tor network, which is free.

          • uberwest

            If you clear your cookies out regularly, it might well be that they are tracking your IP address. If you leave your adsl modem / router switched off overnight you’ll probably get a new IP address when you switch it back on.

            You can find out what your IP address is here

          • Damaris Tighe

            Well the Spectator went one step further & banned an article which characterised Islam as a ‘r*pe culture’ society. So across the print media from left to right it seems you can say, but not object to, that the British have a r*pe culture but not say that any ethno-religious subgroup has a r*pe culture.

          • Jambo25

            I cannot say I’m particularly surprised.

          • davidshort10

            The Speccie as a small magazine with a small office could be targeted a la Charlie Hebdo, I suppose.

          • peter holland

            and yet here you are

          • Jambo25

            I struggle to see the point of that comment.

        • Don’t forget ‘Climate Change’.

        • licjjs

          In the ‘Guardian’s defence, I have to say that the ‘Telegraph’ reported this week that the number of muslim children in the UK had doubled in ten years, but there was no commenting facility under the article – a very bad habit the ‘Telegraph’ has developed where islam is involved. I then mentioned this exponential increase of muslim children in a comment under another article re immigration. The comment was removed as was another when I tried again and then another person said that a comment s/he had submitted had met the same fate. In the ‘Guardian’ on the other hand, I disagreed with someone who was pushing for more muslims in the armed forces, citing the lack of integration of muslims in our society and my comment received a fair number of approving ticks. I don’t think it is all as black and white as you make out.

        • Bill_der_Berg

          The Guardian’s talkboard, Guardian Unlimited Talk (GUT) was forever banning people. It was a minor inconvenience. The banned ones only had to re-register under a new user name, using a new e-mail address.

          GUT closed a few years ago, but has been reincarnated as Not the Talk, and is operated by some former members.

          • Lydia Robinson

            It’s called Just the talk these days. After they expelled so many people from their new board, they decided to change the name and link it to Google in a lame effort to “attract new users.” Of course, nobody is the slightest bit interested in joining an incestuous clique where they will be followed around being harangued about who “they used to be on GUT” or mobbed by the canaille for expressing opinions which don’t accord with the lefties. Anyone new joining usually flees after a couple of days.

          • Bill_der_Berg

            Things have been quieter there since a bunch of them went off in a huff to start their own talkboard, led by a disgruntled militant feminist.

      • davidshort10

        I’ve been banned many times under different identities for criticising the paper’s writers or pointing out hypocrisy. The most awful people in the world.

        • Jambo25

          I don’t know if they’re the most awful but they are certainly amongst the most hypocritical.

      • Jingleballix

        I got banned for calling Toynbee a liar and a hypocrite – didn’t even use any nasty words, just pointed out her selective fact-checking, and recycling of articles.

        God! How I loathe that woman……and Seamus Milne…..whilst Zoe Williams is just plain nuts.

        • Jambo25

          You probably used the word ‘Toynbee’. That’s like saying ‘Sandman’ 3 times. Horrible things will happen

      • They banned me when I objected to an article about how Gwineth Paltrow recommended that women ‘steam their v a g inas’. I simply asked why it was that so many women had so little grasp of common sense science that they could be conned by stuff like this, and why any advert on TV aimed at selling women cosmetics or age reducing potions was fronted by a twenty five year old cutie wearing thick black framed glasses and a white coat. That was enough. Banned and no appeal possible.

        • Jambo25

          You must realise that in Guardianland women are superior beings, far advanced on men, unless they happen to be US Republicans, British Tories, Nicola Sturgeon (Or, indeed, any female SNP ers.) in which case they are probably neo-Nazis. In addition its a paper which is violently anti tax avoidance and has its tax affairs dealt with in the Cayman Islands. Its violently pro free speech but deletes comments and bans people from its web site site more than any other national publication.

    • I think that the decline of the Independent into a sub-epsilon version of the Morning Star is even sadder.

    • davidshort10

      Couldn’t agree more. In earlier days, you didn’t have to be a Trustafarian public school mad lefty to read it. It reflected the opinions and interests of a broad left of centre readership. People who would look down their noses at certain hypocritical columnists who send their children to private schools.

    • Cornelius Bonkers

      Of course, e.g., the famous Thornberry text from Purfleet/Grays/Dagenham/Barking etc., the “racists” are exclusively white, poorly educated, shafted, old, confused, ignored, insulted and dumped. To be honest, I think Rod is being a bit too ironic and too self-indulgent here. The very existence of The Guardian, its contributors, and readers (including those who read with a frisson of postmodern irony) is an affront to and an assault on the 30 million people it despises…A bit over the top here Rod?

  • Teacher

    You don’t even need to buy a paper to enjoy laughing at the ‘Guardian’ as you can do it free online. The comments sections are pretty funny too although many of the fellow commenters are. like me, refugees from the real world who sully the threads with sense and ridicule. One thing I have noticed, however, is that whenever Polly Toynbee writes there is never an opportunity for commenters to offer their views on her words of leftwing wisdom, a fascinating omission.

    • Lydia Robinson

      “who sully the threads with sense and ridicule” That will get you booted off pretty quickly.

      • Teacher

        Well, yes indeed. I sometimes get some ‘interesting’ replies.

    • Pacificweather

      The Internet has revealed the truth that journalists are not better informed better writers that must be paid high salaries for their talent. How would it be if the public followed Polly Toynbee for the posts below the line not for her words of wisdom? The same realisation has affected the other newspapers. It may look like a policy to control libel but no one is fooled.

      • Teacher

        How true! I have to say that I do read the comments with as much interest as the articles themselves. There is often a most illuminating contrariety between a publication’s view and that of the readership. However, I do have to admit that the journalists benefit from the gatekeeping of the editorial grammar police while the commenters often write in atrocious English.

  • Dogsnob

    Delicious what? Your spelling is getting worse.

  • BaldEagle176

    Somebody should explain to Cymrugel that before sending his next comment to The Grauniad he should switch off his router for a minute or two, then switch it on again. Hey Presto, he will have a new ISP unknown to The Grauniad.

  • David S
  • Tim Evans

    The newspaper is pious and priggish enough. But just check out the online version where every thin-skinned Marxist gabbles offensive drivel if anyone is dishonourable enough to disagree with him/her.
    The only writer worth reading is Marina Hyde…and the least Michael Hann.

  • Roly2

    If the public sector was required to advertise its jobs either across all the broadsheets or, more sensibly, on a government jobs website or freesheet, I doubt if the Grauniad would have much income at all. If the Tories win the election, this should be their second initiative, after sorting out the unfairness of the boundaries.

  • uberwest

    I thought it was the autotrader mag which was propping up the guardian

  • davidshort10

    Polly Toynbee doesn’t even know the background of her own newspaper. Its losses and the huge salaries it pays to is mainly public school senior people were funded by a sister publication, Auto Trader. AT has been sold off and as far as I understand it the Grauniad got a windfall as a result which went into the hundreds of millions.

  • davidshort10

    A source of money that dried up was the huge number of job ad pages in the Media section, and social service type job ads. I suppose a lot of media job ads dried up when the media started employing its own grown up children, including as unpaid interns.

  • wallhousewart

    The Guardian’s foreign journalists outright tell porkers. One or our local Toronto journalists was a frequent contributor, and after the last Canadian election, she wrote a virtual cappacino of fabrications. Not only myself, but several other Canadians called her out and wrote to the editor. She was made to rework her piece and remove the outright lies. Their North American climate change journalist does the same thing and any comments disagreeing with her are removed. They also have a black correspondent who attempts to gin up the racial situation in the US. He also gets angry if you disagree with him. He tried to insinuate one day that Lincoln was a Democrat and got really angry when I pointed out that the KKK were supported by the Democrats back in the day.

  • Lydia Robinson

    Read Daniel Pipes brilliant analysis of the three “isms” all of which are religiously subscribed to by the Guardian:

  • Gwangi

    Well, Rod, I’ve heard lots of men like a bit of delicious cant of a Saturday morning…

  • Linda Cross

    Linda Cross Boris Johnsons brother Jo johnson the Conservatives MP is married to the wonderfully named Guardian columnist Amelia Gentlemen .. So called right and left under the one roof .

  • grimm

    Where is the Spectator’s noted climate change enthusiast Nick Cohen in this discussion. As a writer for the Observer/Guardian axis he has shown some of the attitudes Rod Little ridicules in this article. For example: stubbornly insisting that “Climate Change Deniers” are equivalent to Holocaust Deniers and deserve that title as well as claiming that writers for the Daily Mail are well paid to write just what Lord Dacre wants them to write.

  • Loved this. Liddle is the funniest, most grumpy old git in print. Laughed the whole way through his piece. It is absolutely on the money too – in every respect.

  • Jack_H

    Wouldn’t not having a proprietor make them financially more stable as they wouldn’t be forced to be profitable?Don’t the paper’s problems stem from it being so boring?

  • Jim Crowther

    Interesting that Liddle’s only editorial interference was whilst writing in the Guardian, that so-called ‘liberal’ organ. Is anything as proscriptively fascist as any organ so in thrall to PC ?