The Early Days of a Better Nation

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gorby buys Indy

When the Independent was launched in 1986, I started buying it almost at once. After a decade or more of increasingly disgruntled loyalty to the Guardian, the Independent was a breath of fresh air. The politics weren't so very different - at least from where I stood, well to the left of either of them - but there was none of the piety. Everything was crisp: the typeface, the style, the liberalism. It was like the Guardian without the woolly hat.

I found lots to disagree with the Indy about over the years, but that was part of its appeal. After the paper adopted what became its (understandably unique) selling point, the single-issue pictorial front page (polar bear, penguin, starving child, heroin syringe, baby seal, smoking chimney, polar bear polar polar bear polar bear will you please just sod off and drown you smelly seal-chewing top predator where was I?) I still stuck with it. Even after Johann Hari revealed that for years he'd been popping anti-depressants that made him unable to see the downside of anything he thought was a good idea at the time (which explained, a little too late for a lot of dead brown people, his drum-banging for the attack on Iraq), I blinked back the red mist. When its hard-pressed science editor explained that nanoparticles are a problem because they're so small that they no longer obey the laws of physics, I spluttered Crunchy Oats over the page and turned to the next. I went on buying the paper every day, but I read it mainly for the columnists, which was just as well because there was less and less actual news in it.

It was one of the columnists who finally did it for me. Bruce Anderson, the (predictably ex-Trot) Tory the paper keeps on a string in the back yard, wrote a column defending torture, yelping excitedly over the ticking bomb scenario as if it were a new, fresh, insightful thought experiment and running with it all the way to torturing not only Mr Alarm-Clock but also - should that fail to get results - Mrs Alarm-Clock and all the little Alarm-Clocks.

At this point it became difficult to hold the breakfast down.

So, with some embarrassment, I crawled back to the Guardian, and you know what? It's good. It's so good I don't have time to read all the good bits. Still infuriating and smug, mind you, but at least it doesn't keep banging on about polar bears.

Now the Indy has been bought by a former KGB man, in close association with the former General Secretary of the CPSU. This means it might become interesting again, but for me it's too little, too late.

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I know exactly what you mean - they dont call him Brute Anderson for nothing.

Whata despicable comment about Hari. So people on antidepressants should be sacked as journalists?

No, I don't say that. Johann Hari himself said the meds had affected his judgement.

Anderson was what did it for me as well. That, and the page count dropping by half while the price went up (well, polar bear image rights don't come for free)...

Well Ken, you just clinched it for me. I have the Indy on my iphone twice, as an app and in my feeds. I have it on my desktop Mac. I have not looked at that rag for months, since I had a sneaking suspicion that it was headed in the direction which you describe. I could not justify it since my knowledge of British politics is not as good as it once was. Hence I did not know about the pro-torture emetics. Be assured that I'll delete the Indy from my electronics in several minutes.

I look at the Guardian almost every day, as does an ever-increasing crew of Americans. I hope the paper sticks to its guns and remains freely available online.

i just sort of read the pro-torture article. At least two things stand out. (1.) It's OK for those underdeveloped Pakistanis to use medieval torture techniques but not for the US and/or the UK. "We" are superior and know better ways, namely waterboarding. (2.) Anderson either forgets or does not know that collaboration on torture development has been a part of the "special relation" since the 1950's secret Montreal conference hosted by the Canadians (probably psychologist D.Hebb), with the US and UK sending delegates. It is probable that Tizard secretly headed the British bunch.
Trumpeting the advantages of torture in this way is not only a sick claim of Western moral and intellectual superiority, it belies the historical facts. By doing so it is able to remain silent about the panoply of torture techniques that are used by "us" every day. That's it, I'm deleting the Indy from my feeds. I did so from the Mac and the iphone's collection of apps an hour ago.

Don't get me wrong, George, there's still good stuff in the Independent. It's just no longer my choice as paid-for daily dead-tree press. I'll continue to make use of its free online material while it lasts.

Sure. But I just don't have the time, and much of the good stuff appears in the Guardian or, say, on Pro-torture stuff is one of my bottom-lines. Any medium and publicist that propagate the idea that it's useful are off limits to me.
I feel very strongly about this. It started when a former best friend, a philosopher, wrote a pro-torture piece in "Newsweek." That was in the Summer of 82. I stopped our ten-years long correspondence at once, and explained why. There was a second incident that involved another (ex)-friend's torture-inspiring piece in the "Washington Times," near the beginning of the Iraq War. That rag was then owned by Rev. Moon and wasn't taken very seriously, but my "friend" took the ideas seriously. I believe they had some influence in the creation of a general desensitisation to torture.

I imagine the list of Bruce Anderson's crimes is a long one, but the one I particularly remember was claiming that Jean Charles de Menezes was "the author of his own misfortune". Did he ever retract that one?

Didn't Private Eye make a series of very unpleasant allegations about his personal behaviour back in the mid 90s? IIRC, showing up incredibly drunk at a colleagues barbeque in a NSIT mood.

The Guardian is a corrupt, lying, government financed, racist propaganda sheet undeniably willing to tell absolutely any lie to promote racial genocide. The fact that it has done so to promote Hitler's policies inn Yugoslavia, proves that it is willing to do it. Can't say the "Inrdepednet" has been much better but it may become so under the ownership of someone of greater integrity & liberalsim than is general in the UK media.

I stopped reading the Indy about the time Roger Alton became editor (the two facts are related), after an editorial doing the "bash the single mums" thing. With that plus their continued indulgence of Anderson, who among much else seems to manage about one racial slur per column, Dominic "I love The Great Global Warming Swindle" Lawson, and Geoffrey "The RAAYS!!" Lean, no further.

I'd gladly pay for the Fisk, Cockburn, and Watkins Journal, but not for the Indy.

You're well entitled to your ideas about the safety of nano-particles, but you do realise they are invisible to the naked eye? In the first place mere humans have no mandate to be meddling in the worlds of the invisible and in the second place if you drop one you have very little chance of finding it again. There it is, really tiny & laying in wait on the linoleum for some poor unshod foot. And unlike those three prong British plugs, it remains invisible even with the light on! Didn't think of that did you?

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