The Guardian‘s Comment is free section continues to surprise me. Specifically, this evening, after Andy Coulson’s apparently masterful performance (though sturdyblog would beg to disagree most forcefully), we discover that whilst Roy Greenslade can say exactly what he likes about the matter, normal readers of the paper – who might care to freely leave their own comments – have had the lawyerly battalions imposing their will a priori. Check out the screenshot below and you’ll see the following words:
• For legal reasons, this article will not be opened to comments
Not even a moderator in sight, it would appear. Clearly, Comment was free before #Leveson hit our screens – but not so clearly afterwards (though some, of course, would argue it had never been as free as was claimed).
Is this, then, how censorship of social media really begins? With those you’d least expect to kowtow to the establishment? Under the guise of a lawyerly decorum, we randomly pick and choose when, where and whether our legions of page impression-generating readers can interact in public or not.
Mind you, it may be that I haven’t been paying too much attention to all of this. It may be that they’ve been doing it for quite a while now. It may be that all newspapers, from the Daily Mail to the Guardian itself, like to create a veneer of freedom and interactivity whilst – deep down and in their amoral innards – they are essentially looking to sustain a simple and coherent business model of advertiser and political interests.
Curious, at the very least, is all I can say, that one of the articles which shuts down the free interchange of comments on a matter of serious public issue should be one which praises a man who used to be at the centre of Cameron’s government – a man who clearly played an important role in Cameron getting quite as far as he did in his process of detoxifying the Tory Party brand, and therefore in his process of getting into power.
Now I’m not for a moment suggesting Greenslade himself is writing out of bad faith – nor offering up to the straitjacketed reader what might be interpreted as an outrageously political slant on the matter. Rather, all I’m inclined to point out is that social media stuff as run and marshalled by mainstream media won’t always find itself able to deliver the freedoms it claims so wholesomely to support.
This article and the decision taken on preventing reader comments being one such case in point.
And if a first as I suggest might be the case, then a sad example of even more creeping establishment censorship.