I notice that I am now being "pre-moderated" on the Guardian's Comment is Free (CiF) website; they deleted my comments in a developing sub-thread and half an hour after posting, a comment on the housing crisis had still not appeared.
that was deleted was critical about the way that the CiF format has had, by reducing the quality of the comments and
discussion to one-liners, and preventing comprehensive
deconstruction of the original articles, the quality of which is often
poor. Regular contributors such as Polly Toynbee and Will Hutton have
long since ceased to say anything of value and are not a credit to the
As I do not live in the UK, from
my overseas perspective, there is a different take on what may and may
not be said and how it may be said. I raised the possibility
that the stifling of debate may have been intentional. Viewed from the
outside, it is evident that the channels of discussion in Britain are nowhere near
as open as they are in Scandinavia, so the notion is by no means
far-fetched. In fact, I was not the first person to raise it on CiF and
others in my circle have made the same point. Thus, this action tends to
reinforce the suspicion.
At one time the quality of CiF comments
was often better than the original article. In newspapers such as the
Telegraph, which have always been threaded, there is little serious
in-depth discussion. If that was a model, then the effect should have
Whether deliberate or not, the effect is the same. When comment is no
longer free, the result is to damage the reputation of the forum.
Ultimately, visitors will stop coming and the quality of the comments
will decline, especially the kind of visitors to whom it is worth
addressing. I have noticed already that some of the more thoughtful
commentators have already dropped off, including people that I normally
disagree with but provide a stimulus to considered response.
There is a further issue: the dire state of the social and economic
fabric of the UK. The mainstream political parties have nothing to
offer, as was reflected in the low turnouts at recent by-elections. When
democratic processes are failing, what happens next? The only thing
that can get the country moving in the right direction will be the
emergence of fresh ideas and ways of thinking, and for that, good and
open public forums are necessary. In its previous form, CiF was
performing an important public function which it can no longer do.
The comments that I have made over the years have always been courteous, well-considered, literate, and
usually in a certain depth - features which the new format precludes.
If people such as myself are deterred from contributing, it is a loss to
CiF and the wider community.
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