Comment is anything but “free” at the Guardian
The Comment is Free (CiF) section in the Guardian (a UK newspaper) had its fifth anniversary last month.
Although allegedly a pro-feminist paper, its online forum has kept up a steady flow of misogyny, bitterness and contempt of women, so much so that more and more women avoid the site entirely.
Men with grievances, like an angry (but anonymous) mob, vent their rage by invading the comment threads of feminist articles, imposing their own rights agenda and declaring women’s equality a battle won.
They flood articles on sexual violence with ‘blame the victim’ rape myths and stories of false allegations, with wildly inflated statistics.
Take a recent editorial on the police investigation of serial rapist, Delroy Grant, who had targeted elderly women in south east London for 17 years.
The men’s rights activists responded in droves, with a stunning display of hostility towards victims (some of whom were in their 80s and 90s). Instead of dealing with these misogynistic and deeply offensive comments, CiF allowed them to dominate the thread.
The editorial team must be aware of the power of their online platform, and their trusted name, and how damaging it is when set to promote an agenda which is discriminatory and founded upon misleading facts and lies. So, why is it doing it?
Here is the Reader’s Editor, Chris Elliott:
“ Natalie Hanman, who edits Cif, has worked hard to encourage women to battle through any perceived misogyny on the site to bring about a site that more women want to visit. I think she believes it is important to get into the debate, no matter how tough, to create a different atmosphere.
The Guardian has excellent moderators who work hard to ensure posters stay within our community guidelines and in time if women will stick with it that atmosphere will change.”
Five years of experience would suggest these assertions have no application to reality whatsoever. Most women do not stick with it, they go. Those who stay have made no impact on a firmly entrenched culture.
The editor must know the misogyny on CiF is anything but “perceived”, yet she continues to ask women to accept abuse, aggression, condescension and a massive waste of their time and effort with absolutely no purpose in mind.
It is the Charge of the Light Brigade, ‘Into the Valley of Death rode the six’.
A short stroll through Comment is Free is enough to show the ineffectiveness of this so-called “moderation”,:
“Women are generally evil. At least men are only violent“
“ [women,] a less powerful and protected class of second class human beings.”
Hundreds of women have complained about Comment is Free since it opened its doors. So why does the Guardian continue to blind itself to reality, even after losing so many women readers.
The only plausible explanation is that the paper is not the least bit concerned about marginalising women or infringing their rights. The only issue of importance seems to be traffic, which is spectacular.
Its 2.4 million daily browsers are topped only by the Daily Mail, whose audience it seems to share.
Is the Guardian’s remarkable popularity a product of the excellence of its online publishing or the popular prejudice, feminist-bashing, trash-talking and brawling of Comment is Free?
The editor’s futile call to battle “no matter how tough” suddenly makes sense, the tougher the better presumably.
In the same way, the more incendiary feminist writers are protected ‘above the line’ and fire up the heat ‘below the line’ to pull in the crowds. Women commenters are then attacked in those threads for a style of feminism which often they do not share, while the writers mostly steer clear.
The Guardian earned £30 million in advertising revenue last year, which is a long way from breaking even. Hopefully, the loss of revenue occasioned by driving women from the site will prompt it to reconsider.
A recent article revealed that women rule the internet with their social networking and shopping-based consumer power.
We can only hope that the powers that be at the Guardian read it and start to realise that excluding women and their associated revenue potential by populating their site with misogynists is not a winning long term business plan (even if they don’t care about the politics).
I wish I was wrong in my analysis of what’s happening at the Guardian but I can’t think of any other interpretation.
I’d be happy to talk to them in person, but despite repeated efforts to meet with both Chris Elliott and Natalie Hanman, I’m still waiting for them to name the day.