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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The brief era of freely commenting on British newspaper websites draws to a close

Bye bye, Telegraph comments. It was not always that nice knowing you but I shall miss you anyway. Er, I am right about Telegraph comments being abolished, aren’t I? Or have they disappeared for me alone due to my browser being full up or something?

For its part, the Guardian has drastically cut back on the number of articles open to comments, particularly in the section of the paper previously known as “Comment is Free”. The paper has run a dozen self-pitying articles by its columnists lamenting that their efforts to be “edgy”, “sassy” and “provocative” have worked and pleading for safe spaces where they can escape their readers. This piece by Joseph Reagle is a cut above the rest, but it is chiefly memorable for the most recommended reader comment by “Random Libertarian”. I am not this person, but feel I have a lot in common with them:

I’m not addressing this author in particular, but the whole Grauniad pushback against “abusive” comments.

Suggestion: Maybe you should stop writing abusive columns.

Don’t use a word deliberately chosen to portray climate-change skeptics as Nazis.

Don’t call people “rape apologists” when they question interpretations of statistics that show U.S. colleges to be more dangerous than war zones.

Don’t write stuff that assumes that all white people are racists, unless you can prove this to be true without Humpty Dumptying the meaning of the word.

Don’t write as if your political opponents are either eeeevil neoliberals or fat, pathetic dupes of the Murdoch media.

Try it. It might work

To comment on the Times requires passing a paywall, a moderator, and several years of your life.

The Daily Mail is the last, best hope for freedom to comment. But it gives you cancer.

23 comments to The brief era of freely commenting on British newspaper websites draws to a close

  • Cal

    I stopped reading comments on newspaper articles years ago, simply because there were too many, and they were mostly rubbish. Same reason I stopped reading comments on Guido years ago.

    Despite that, comments on newspapers are still a good thing, and they help hold the liars, propagandists and churnalists masquerading as journalists to account. Which is exactly why they are being phased out.

  • John Galt III

    Blogs and Websites like this one have far more interesting information than all the newspapers in the world combined.

    I trust virtually nothing the written and TV press say.

    The press is no better than Rude Pravo, Pravda, Der Sturmer and the Volkischer Beobachter were in their day.

  • thefrollickingmole

    But only arse cancer, and you can linger on for years with that one..

    Its kind of funny the number of people in that article at the Guardian are basically saying the same thing “I wasnt abusive, so why was it deleted”?
    They complain about a lack of reasoned or well thought out criticism, yet if you do spend time putting together a good critique disagreeing with or even providing facts/links to dispute an authors article you run at best a 50/50 chance of it being moderated away. So people instead resort to “drive by posting” because its not as frustrating.

    I sit on the bench occasionaly in my state as a Justice of the Peace, a lot of what I deal with, bail applications and restraining orders are incredibly racially or class oriented respectively.
    Thats my lived experience, its also backed up by decades of collected court and police figures.

    Yet pointing out Aboriginals (for a myriad of social and cultural reasons) are in jail because they commit more crimes more often (3% of the population 27% of the prison population) is an instant moderation.
    Similar pointing out women choose the men who abuse them, and choose to stay with them, and choose to excuse the thugs over and over again is the Voldemort of topics at the Guardian. All women are equal to men, except in relationships, somehow. Even pointing out the bloke with the SS runes on his neck, ACAB on his knuckles and called “biff the woman puncher” might be a sub-optimal life partner is verboten.

  • Veryretired

    Progressive ideology is a religious faith. Education and the various media disseminate the catechism, and numerous approved tenets constitute the declaration of committed belief.

    As in any theological establishment, heresy is one of the gravest sins, and must be prevented, if possible, or punished without mercy, if not.

    No one should be allowed to question, or challenge, the revealed truths about all things human, past, present, and future.

    Their brothers in spirit, in the Middle East, have resumed crucifixion. Our little darlings won’t be far behind.

  • Johnny Boy

    The Grauniad, for one, is just going to turn into a bland source of lefty click-bait, once they’ve killed off comments completely. Surely there’s no money in that? Not that trifling concerns such as profitability have much troubled the proprietors of that rag in the past 😉

  • The Guardian comment moderation policy was utterly capricious. Of course unlike Grauniad, I am a great supporter of private property rights and thus think “our house, our rules“… but nevertheless, as someone with a decade of comment moderation experience myself, I found their rules laughable, which is why we have a samizdata care category called “Deleted by the Guardian“). The notion they only delete “unreasonable comments” is patently absurd.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    On the argument that the category “Deleted by the Guardian” can, in addition to including specific examples of comments deleted by the Guardian, can logically also include posts about being deleted by the Guardian, and predicting that comments as a whole will probably soon be deleted from the Guardian, I am going to add that category to this post.

    And if the puissant and sagacious Elves decree that this argument for using that category endangers the fabric of reality by being too self-referential they, in their role as Guardians of the category “Deleted by the Guardian“, can delete it.


    I once was the first to comment on a Guardian article that claimed that some dramatic result of global warming was imminent. My entire comment consisted of quoting a sentence from the article and adding in my own voice the words “I disagree”. Deleted, without even a “This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards” to remember it by!

  • thefrollickingmole

    My entire comment consisted of quoting a sentence from the article and adding in my own voice the words “I disagree”. Deleted, without even a “This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards” to remember it by!

    I dont know why but this made me laugh like a drain.
    Dont you realize the psychic trauma you were inflicting on poor Tarquin Sheep-Botheringsmythe by disagreeing with him as bluntly as that?

  • The whole MSM is in a right 2 and 8. In different ways. The Times has disappeared up it’s own bottom, the Telegraph is a shadow of itself and the Guardian is verging towards self-parody. The Mail needs, urgently, to get sub-editors. Some of the articles are not even written in English.

  • Stuck-record

    Good. And good riddance. The ‘lecturing’ model of information is dead. But the corpse of ‘journalism’ is still twitching.

    Do not use any site that does not allow a full and frank exchange of views with it’s readers.

    More and more of us are deserting the MSM. People are realising the Emperor is misinformed, amateurish, or lying. Eventually it will bankrupt them. Good. The last-ditch defence will be moralistic calls for public funding of the media (a bail-out, if you will). The Guardian has already made such calls, and the BBC’s entire existence is one such.

  • Cal

    “The Times has disappeared up it’s own bottom”

    The Times? What’s that? Vaguely rings a bell, but I’m struggling to remember what it is.

  • Derek Buxton

    Ah, talk of the old days, when a decent Broadsheet like the Times and the Telegraph had a front page of advertisments. And the news and sports coverage were good too. I do not know what NickM is referring to as the former self of the Telegraph, since it lost the adverts it has been going downhill and finally reached the stage of being a joke. The latest on-line version is a sick joke and makes a good case for destroying all newsprint.

  • Mr Ed

    The Telegraph obituaries still have some good accounts of good chaps in them, but otherwise it is really just a less turgid Times but more interested in sex than money, whereas my impression is that the Times is the other way around, following its sister paper’s ludicrous and common ‘Rich List’.

    When the Telegraph had the late Michael Wharton‘s Peter Simple column, it was still a very good newspaper.

    he supported Welsh nationalism, but lost patience with them when their leader threatened to fast himself to death for a Welsh language television channel; it would have made more sense, he said, had the man fasted for a television jamming station.

  • Snorri Godhi

    If you search for “which comment would you block” in this article at the Grauniad, you’ll find that you can compare your personal comments policy to that of the Grauniad.

    It appears that any comment that can be interpreted as criticism of a whole group (women, Blacks, Jews in the examples given; presumably also Muslims) can and probably will be deleted. I can understand if they delete comments containing ad hominem against the article’s author, though.

  • Mr Ed

    Let’s face it, it’s not their own comments that they want to block, it’s any comments that they disapprove of, this is just a ‘warm-up’, or displacement activity.

  • So Snorri,
    What if you are a black Jewish woman? I am not but some people are none of them ever pissed on my BBQ so OK.

    I am only 42 so I don’t recall ads on the front-page of anything. The Guardian is though good for football but then that means reading it from the back-page. It reminds me of “Fatherland” by that Times writer where his NAZI copper reads the paper backwards because if Bayern Munich beat Hamburg 2-1 they probably didn’t make it up.

    One of the things that gave me give-up the ghost on The Times was Simon Barnes. What an ineffable twatter! “The Fulham match was like the battle of Platea”. No it wasn’t, Simon. No phalanx was deployed, nobody was hacked to death with swords, no history-defining feats occurred even if Michael Jackson was there.

  • The Telegraph has their “new look” which apparently doesn’t include syndication (RSS or anything similar I can find).

    They seem to have downsized a bit. There used to be a section easily found on “health” which was mostly a chronicle of the failures of NHS, (bad treatment, dirty hospitals, bankrupt trusts, etc.) with a few articles on clean living thrown in for camouflage.

    The “Europe” section used to allow finer breakdowns – Germany or Greece for example. Both of which were useful in recent years.

    I have stopped reading it, since it is impossible to find what I want and not have to wade through what I don’t.

    I’m sure they paid some image consultant a large quantity to make the site feel fresh or new or something.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not normally read or comment upon Guardian articles.

    If a publication presents itself as one thing and is really something radically different – this needs to be pointed out.

    For example the Economist magazine presents itself as offering the Free Market perspective on policy – and is actually pro statist (government spending and regulations and Credit Bubble monetary policy) this contradiction (the fact that the Economist magazine presents itself as free market and is, in fact, statist) needs to be pointed out – so that fewer people are mislead.

    However, the Guardian openly presents itself as a publication for the support of evil – and its articles fit in with this theme.

    There is nothing to point out. No real contradiction.

    The Guardian is meant to support evil – and its articles do indeed support evil.

    No comments are needed.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Zendo Deb,

    Nearly every change I can recall in the online presentation of all three of the broadsheet papers has been bad. The Guardian used to have a wonderful feature where you could search the readers’ comments. To be fair, they probably had to discontinue that because of the sheer volume of comments that had built up.

    You used to be able to search the Guardian archive for key words within any period you cared to specify. Perhaps they got rid of this one because it made it too easy to pull out embarrassing past stories.

    The annoying changes to the Telegraph you have already described. Unless I’ve missed something, the recent “improvements” at the Times have removed the facility that there used to be to limit a search of the paper’s archive to the last day or the last seven days, thus rendering the search facility useless. Search for something like “referendum” and you get a zillion hits; whereas it was often handy to be able to quickly get to today‘s story about the EU referendum.

    Of course one can still use Google Advanced Search specifying the domain name guardian.co.uk or whatever. I’m beginning to wonder how long that will stay available.

    There is one good change to the Guardian. Comments can now be ordered by recommendation. It’s interesting to go back to old stories and articles and see more clearly what the most popular response to them was than one could see at the time.

  • lucklucky

    Comments are competition to journalists no wonder they cut them.

    I always wondered when this day will come. Everywhere not only UK.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Natalie, in my opinion the changes in the last two or three years to nearly all the websites I visit (including Yahoo groups and e-mail!) have been bad.

    Sterling exceptions: Samizdata (go Samiz!!!), countingcats.com, and Libertarian Home. Of course both the Management here and at Cats and LH use WordPress, which finished breaking its search routine a few years back, but that’s not the fault of the various owners and their COO’s.

    Unfortunately, Ixquick/StartPage still return relatively few results (sometimes they report thousands of results but only allow to see three of them); so sometimes I am thrown back on Google, which only presents 10 results per page. Better than nothing, but still, not good. Not satisfactory at all.

    It seems as though Dreadful, Dreadful Disqus has ensorcelled 90% of the owners. Congrats to the three named for not being among them! I will NOT register with Disqus, not even for the purpose of sharing my vast storehouse of wisdom, spreading the Cause of libertarianism to the farthest corners of the globe [sic], or even beating the deserving about the chops with a stick.

  • konshtok

    there’s an app browser called Peanut for smartphones that make it possible to leave comments anywhere

    of course you can only see comments if you have the app

  • Tranio

    Small Dead Animals is the Canadian place to go to make comments.