While every media outlet in the UK is covering the aftermath of the case involving nine men convicted for a range of sex crimes that took place over a number of years in the town of Heywood, at the bear pit that is Telegraph Blogs, they have a problem. While a number of pundits are pontificating in their customarily judgmental manner about race and religion, the debate remains closed.
And debate is what blogs are all about: a blog that does not allow comments is not really a blog at all, but a notice board, a one-way bully pulpit, nothing better than the supposed Dead Tree Press and TV news bulletins. Why this should be is not difficult for those of us who know the Telegraph Blogs comments sewer of old to figure out: this part of the Tel has a problem.
In fact, the whole of the Tel has a problem with race and racism, as I noted at the time of the Kia Abdullah ruckus. Ms Abdullah had made a comment on Twitter that would not normally have attracted any attention, except that she had added her (very occasional) contribution to the Guardian’s Comment is Free on her Twitter Bio. This was then raked over in Telegraph Blogs.
If Ms Abdullah was monumentally stupid in putting the Guardian in her Twitter Bio – there are many in the Twittersphere who spend a disproportionate amount of time looking to kick the paper on the flimsiest of premises – that did not justify the comments, many of which were totally out of order. You can see extracts from those comments in my posts HERE and HERE.
So it has been no surprise at all to see the Telegraph’s normally inclusive attitude to comments – including on the original news part of the site – being ditched, as the site administrators know full well that much of what has been contributed in the past has been racist, Islamophobic and generally threatening. Hence no comments were allowed on Nigel Bunyan’s article from Tuesday.
This then extended to the mainstream comment part of the Telegraph site, so Allison Pearson’s contribution yesterday also has no comments beneath it. But surely the blogs would be exempt? Not this time: there is no opportunity to reply to the likes of Ed “Case” West, who blames it all on the mythical “Liberal Left”, the Guardian, Sunny Hundal, and the BBC.
Even worse, but characteristically so, is Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked (which is what any rational editor would do to his copy), who rambles on about “cowardly” public debate, and of course Muslims. But for both O’Neill and West, readers are told that “Comments are closed”. The Tel reports on what its pundits call a Muslim problem, while showing that it has, er, a Muslim problem.
So the comments sewer isn’t being cleaned out. It’s just not being opened.
I normally like Zelo Street and take it with the same pinch of salt that I do with many of the writers of the Telegraph Blogs, some of whom are fine journalists. I thought Ed West's piece was a well argued, moral stance on the issue and I thoroughly agree with him. Why not write a rebuttal to his piece and not just a few paragraphs saying a long list of writers are just wrong?
Fair point on the comments though. There was some horrible stuff there but it's cowardly to remove them altogether.
I think you should consider Tom's blog on the toilet wall (http://soc.li/woyk0Hg) and his response when challenged on the closed commnents:
"You do not have the inalienable right to have your views published by the Telegraph."
And you have to consider that unlike some papers the DT's moderation policy is reactive rather than proactive. The mods, due to legal reasons, do not roam the blogs looking for things to moderate. Legally the DT would be culpable for everything posted on their site of they were proactive and as such would probably be a lot harsher than they are now.
The editors recognise what will happen if they open up comments, and not wanting to over work their moderators and annoy half the modern world they've closed comments. They've done it before on fractious issues. This is nothing new.
It's also probably fair to say that if they hadn't closed comments then you, or someone like you, would be complaining about that right now.
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