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The state of Private Eye

It is unlikely to be one of those subjects that ought to grab more than fleeting attention, but being a man of the media and with a liking for satire, wit and a good investigative story, like many of my fellow Gen-Xers, I used to read Private Eye. The magazine, founded in the “Satire Boom” period of the 1960s (this is ancient history today), has achieved a few notable scalps over the years. These days, in my view, it is increasingly rather conventional in its hatreds and targets.

And its recent front page around the Israel/Hamas conflict seems all of a piece with this mindset.

13 comments to The state of Private Eye

  • I’m so old I remember when Private Eye was funny.

    Trebles all round!

  • bobby b

    Possibly timely here:


    (In which K. Kisin rips into PE for fun and profit.)

  • Zerren Yeoville

    Private Eye started out as the outsiders ‘punching up’ at the Establishment.

    Today, and for the past couple of decades, it is now the Establishment ‘punching down’ at the outsiders.

    This is not just reflected in the editorial content either: compare the classified adverts of modern issues with those from the Eighties and Nineties, when all kinds of eccentric junk was marketed under the ‘Eye Novelties’ heading and the ‘Eye Read’ section was a platform for odd little magazines and weird self-published pamphlets.

  • DiscoveredJoys

    I recently picked up a copy of Private Eye scanned it briefly and put it back on the shelf of the newsagents.

    One word criticisms are lacking in nuance but the one word for Private Eye that struck me was ‘smug’. No longer poking at holes in the Establishment but ‘the right kind’ of people in the Establishment being smug about their elevated status and right think.

    It then struck me that Private Eye was not the only reflection of smug from the Establishment. Think of Brexit as the ‘smug’ Remainers versus the ‘unpretentious’ Leavers. Think of Critical Race Theory as the ‘smug’ “I have the true insight” against the ‘unpretentious’ “You are talking bollocks”.

    Think of advertising:
    “This is not just food… This is M&S Food” – smug.
    Bud light and Dylan Mulvaney – smug.
    Disney and Snow White – smug.

    Think of UK politics and the Establishment:
    RNA vaccines are an unalloyed good – smug.
    Harder, faster, lockdowns are needed – smug.
    Net Zero – smug.
    The Conservatives is the default main party – smug.
    Labour is the obvious alternative – smug.

    And of course “Anyone who doesn’t agree with us is not allowed to speak”. This is not just Smug… this is Authoritarian Smug.

  • JohnK

    I agree that Private Eye is a shadow of its former self.

    I feel that Ian Hislop has been editor for far too long. Private Eye is now a comfortable middle left magazine which is by reflex anti Brexit and anti Trump, without even wondering why it is.

    Part of the problem is that Hislop has been a panelist on the unfunny show “Have I got News For You” for decades (or so it seems). I imagine he makes more money from the BBC than he does from Private Eye. So the editor of this “satirical” magazine is fully part of the smug, leftist, public sector, London media elite. That is hardly a recipe for editing an anti establishment magazine. And he doesn’t.

  • Sam Duncan

    like many of my fellow Gen-Xers, I used to read Private Eye.

    Really? I’ve always thought of it as more of a Boomer thing.

  • Stonyground

    I heard someone mention that on HIGNFY Ian Hislop would regularly fire broadsides at the excesses and idiocy of the EU. That was until it was announced that there was going to be a referendum on the UKs continued membership and then he started slating those crackpots who were in favour of leaving. I haven’t watched it for years now so I don’t know if this is true.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes – Johnathan Pearce, I came upon that front cover of “Private Eye” some time ago in a local supermarket, it was like having someone spit in my face, which I am sure was the intention of the people who created the cover, they wanted to spit in the faces of “Red Sea Pedestrians” (or part Red Sea Pedestrians) – and when over 1400 of them had been brutally murdered was an ideal time, from their point of view, to do it.

    If one believes in Freedom of Speech it must apply to everyone – from the crowd of Muslims in Sydney chanting “Gas the Jews” to the wealthy lefties of “Private Eye” (many of whom appear on the BBC – no surprise there).

    Anti-Semitism in Britain has traditionally been subtle – “Private Eye” is nothing like the National Socialist publications of Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s, the people at Private Eye would strongly deny that they hate Jews – it is just an accident that their targets over the decades, such as Sir James Goldsmith, happened to be Jewish, it is purely a coincidence and only a “paranoid” person could think otherwise.

    As the German Marxist terrorist group, the Baader-Meinhof gang use to say – “we do not hate Jews – only MONEY Jews” or “we do not hate Jews – just the government of Israel the Zionist entity”.

    And, of course, they can always find a few Jews to help them in their work “Jews for Palestine” (or whatever) the standard “chickens for KFC” types.

  • JJM

    Private Eye, another of those examples of discretionary spending I’ve cheerfully eliminated.

    It’s quite surprising how soon your bank account starts to build up these days when you stop paying for anything that insults you.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Sam Duncan, it was a Boomer thing but it kept it’s reputation until the 90s, really. It did some good stuff taking the piss out of Blair. It’s generally lost its way since.

  • Runcie Balspune

    I gave up Private Eye when they (re-)employed that idiot Paul Foot, it was a bit incongruous when they had caricatures like “Dave Spart”.

  • Snorri Godhi

    According to the ADL Index of antisemitism, the UK is about even with the US as one of the least antisemitic countries in the world.

    However, i would argue that, in some ways, the ADL Index is misleading, because antisemites in the US and UK are much more influential than their counterparts in most of the rest of the world, in academia and the media. (And Anglo-American academia+media is more influential than academia+media in the rest of the world.)

  • James

    Yes stonyground that is true. I recall it being pretty eurosceptic as a publication in the late 90s and into the 2000s. I think Christopher Booker still wrote columns for them then, as well as Richard North of the EUReferendum blog / author along with Booker of The Great Deception. I guess it was just posturing mainly, as the minute we had the chance to leave the publication turned dead against it.

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