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Grant, Glenn and The Guardian’s Double Standards

September 9, 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/sep/08/grants-shapps-altered-wikipedia-entry

The Guardian (and its outpost twitter) has been getting its knickers in a twist about Grant Shapps, the Tory MP and his self-serving online behaviour. Apparently he has edited his own wikipedia page, making himself look more impressive in the process, using an unacknowledged assumed name.

This goes against wikipedia policy, and the Guardian’s sensitive moral sensibilities. Wiki says if you use an assumed name to edit your own pages you should identify yourself and be transparent about it.

I am not convinced by the Guardian’s stance on this issue for a few reasons. Firstly, I know for a fact that lots of people create and edit their own wikipedia pages without telling anyone who they are. Whilst it can be somewhat tiresome reading so-called ‘encyclopedias’ that read more like facebook profiles or linked in self – promotional blurbs, I think this is only natural. In metrosexual culture, the Big I AM is what internet communication is often about. And if wikipedia is run by the people, for the people, it is going to reflect how the people are.

Secondly, the Guardian has a habit of criticising ‘shallowness’ in others but not acknowledging it in itself. I found it particularly funny that Suzanne Moore recently added ‘narcissistic’ to her list of faults of her feminist nemesis Naomi Wolf. Moore then went on to twitter to receive gushy adulation from her twenty one thousand twitter followers. If anyone criticises her work it’s easy, she can just block them.

This brings me onto the third and final reason why I don’t buy the Guardian’s ‘concern’ about Shapps.

In a piece in the Telegraph Willard Foxton made a careful critique of the Guardian’s new ‘star signing’ Glenn Greenwald. A pundit from the USA, he has been greeted with a mixture of fanboy worship ( for his sharp criticisms of American foreign policy and relatedly his defence of Assange) and horror. The horror seems to have come largely from his Graun colleagues, many of whom lie firmly in the Anti-Assange camp.

Foxton writes:

‘If even the most basic fact-checking of Greenwald’s article had gone on, someone would have said “hang on Glenn, isn’t this nonsense?” Further, Greenwald has been accused of sock-puppetry in the past, which makes it all the more worrying that – apparently uniquely at The Guardian – he claims he has been given moderating powers over the comments on his pieces.

Greenwald’s blog shares the space and the masthead of the Guardian. To the untrained eye, it is indistinguishable from real, hard, fact-based journalism. Greenwald is entitled to his view that CNNi (but not CNN) is censoring the news to appease Middle Eastern regimes, but it doesn’t stack up at all – and by giving Glenn the authority of the masthead, the branded blog, I feel the Guardian is undermining the excellent hard journalism it produces.

The Guardian has already sacked one of the two high-profile Americansit hired recently; maybe it’s time for Glenn to “draft a piece for Malaysia Matters”, as they say at King’s Place?’

So if the Guardian are so keen to stamp out sock puppetry and unchecked self-promotion maybe they should not be giving Greenwald such free reign.

I am a little worried that giving Greenwald moderating powers over his articles may be an ‘experiment’ on the part of the Graun, and if it ‘works’ they might roll it out to other columnists. I know Julie Bindel would be rubbing her hands with glee if she could control the ‘misogynists’ below the line. And in fact, under Suzanne Moore’s piece about Naomi Wolf’s by now very well-examined Vagina, the moderators were incredibly gung ho with the delete button. Maybe that is a taste of things to, er, come…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2012 1:01 pm

    Hi QRG,

    Let me start out by saying that I like your blog, and I respect you as a writer and critic. As regards this post, I share your distaste of the way moderation works at the Guardian. I also completely agree that the rather strange spat between Suzanne Moore and Naomi Wolf was rather unedifying.

    But I really think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick with your criticism of Greenwald. His output thus far at the Guardian has been nothing short of superb, in my opinion. He is meticulous, methodical, and sensitive to criticism. Moreover he engages with commenters BTL and updates his pieces when new information comes to light – a good example of this being his initial acceptance of the “Sam Bacile, a real estate developer” line on the offensive YT video that sparked protest across the ME and Africa, only later to be updated as the facts became clearer.

    It seems to me that the reason he moderates his own stuff is quite simple – he doesn’t want censorship, which unfortunately seems to be prevalent at the Guardian. It was, for instance, the reason I left. I no longer felt able to challenge certain feminist shibboleths without having posts that had taken a fair while for me to construct from being summarily deleted.

    And forgive me if this comes across as overly critical, but my belief is that to include a link of an _accusation_ of sock-puppetry is poor form, and is _exactly_ the sort of thing Greenwald _doesn’t_ do. Accusations are easy to make, and even the most cursory of glances at, say, the current US election, would amply demonstrate that there is political utility in making groundless accusations. Personally, I make it a rule of thumb that, unless there is proper evidence, it is better to ignore ‘accusations’ since doing so tends to reinforce the political utility of making groundless accusations. “No smoke without fire” is merely the cry of the people who’ve yet to encounter smoke machines (i.e. PR firms!).

    Finally, just as regards the substance of the allegations, it is entirely common for many people at the same IP address to post in similar places. It does not show, as is alleged in the piece you link to, that the same _computer_ is used, merely that it’s coming from the same router. All posts from a university network, for instance, will have the same IP address.

    Jamie

    • September 16, 2012 9:19 am

      Hi Jamie all very valid points there! I think it is not Greenwald who I over reacted to, because I dont really have an opinion on him and his work. It was the Guardian! I thought that if one journalist was able to moderate their own comments it might become a trend…

      If Greenwald is using his power for good I can’t complain!

      and you’re right about IPs I am in a house where more than one person/computer share the same IP address.

      QRG

      • September 16, 2012 2:24 pm

        Yeah, OK. I agree. The concern is that it opens the door for the worst of all possible outcomes: that not only do you get the author deleting the posts they don’t like but you can’t even tell that it is the author doing it because it could well be someone else, thus bestowing anonymity on the moderator. So it is the combination of the power to moderate and the anonymity of that moderation that’s the real killer. But, at least as I understand it, no one apart from Greenwald can moderate the content, so there appears to be more accountability under his particular arrangement. All in all, a good thing.

  2. redpesto permalink
    September 16, 2012 10:56 am

    Based on Greenwald’s work at Salon, I’m inclined to second Jamie here (he was particularly good giving the ‘received wisdom’ of the pundit class a good kicking). However, if Greenwald is using his power for good; we also know that some might use it for evil…

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