Comment is (apparently far from) Free.

Many a CiF Watcher landed on these pages as a result of having been censored, banned or both on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ website and therefore has first-hand experience of just how ‘free’ comment there actually is. But an aspect of the title we do not often address in relation to the Guardian’s website is the financial one. It now appears that far from being free, comment may actually be downright expensive. 

Guardian writer Ally Fogg, in a piece from April 26th, raised the subject of a recent article in the New Statesman which estimates that the Guardian spends half a million pounds a year keeping ‘Comment is Free’ going. 

“One of the most active cheerleaders of commenting is the Guardian, which employs a dozen or so moderators, plus another dozen “community co-ordinators” who monitor Facebook, Twitter, Tumblrs and so on (the paper doesn’t give out an exact number). Assuming these people are on a modest £20,000 each, that’s nearly half a million pounds a year spent on making sure that the “community” – 1 per cent of readers – is well-served.”

Whether or not the New Statesman’s calculations are correct is anyone’s guess; Ally Fogg isn’t telling. But he does claim to have identified some vacancies in CiF’s stable of commenters. 

Of course the Guardian’s dire financial straits are common knowledge, with the paper (together with the Observer) having reported losses of £33 million in 2010 and £34.4 million in 2009. 

So, taking Ally Fogg’s idea one step further, perhaps the Guardian could recuperate some of its losses by hiring out its existing regular commenters to other blogs and websites seeking to up their traffic. The advert might go something like this: 

Rent-a-comment: exclusive GMG service takes care of all your weblog commenting needs. Our reservoir of experienced commenters includes:

The former ISMer:

His expertise is the spinning of tear-jerking yarns about his jaunts to the West Bank, featuring evocative descriptions of Palestinian cuisine and hospitality, the ‘apartheid wall’, settlements which expand faster than the speed of light and 7 foot tall Israeli soldiers. Can throw in the odd word of cod-Arabic for added authenticity and has a suitably progressive profile photo featuring himself in a Viva Palestina T-shirt personally signed by George Galloway.

The amateur expert on International Law: 

Able to instantly prove any political point necessary by means of an unreferenced and/or misquoted clause from the annals of hallowed ‘international law’.  OK – he’s actually a community organiser in real life, but he did read the entire works of Ilan Pappe on his last summer holiday and once went to a talk by Daniel Machover. 

The dictator apologist: 

Cut his commenting teeth at Socialist Unity and gained added credits at the knee of Simon Tisdall. Post-colonial guilt, anti-Americanism and cultural relativism added liberally to every comment at no extra charge. 

The ‘asaJew’ anti-Zionist: 

Invaluable when the credibility of wobbly claims such as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘apartheid’ is questioned. Can always be relied upon to lend ethnically-authentic support to the claim that ‘critics of Israel are invariably accused of anti-Semitism’. Conveniently located in north London and thus able to give first-hand accounts of Palestine Solidarity Campaign candle-lit vigils and Christmas carol services,  (except on Mondays when she’s at Friends House and Thursdays – volunteers at the Islington Interfaith Circle knitting raincoats out of recycled plastic bags for the Negev Bedouin).

The conspiracy theorist:

9/11? The financial crisis and the banks’ lost millions? Control of politicians and the media? Organ harvesting? He always knows who really dunnit. Prefers to be described as an ‘independent thinker’ (got that idea from David Miller at ‘SpinWatch’) and makes particularly proficient use of the words ‘sheeple’ and ‘hasbara’. 

The BDSer:

Since finding BDS (and getting a new asymmetric hairdo) her cup runneth over. No more boring bring and buys and flower-arranging at church for her: now it’s international fame and glory on the pages of the ‘Friends of Sabeel’ newsletter (circulation 493) and jazzy acronyms such as EAPPI. Almost takes her back to her ‘Age of Aquarius’ halcyon days… that keffiyah makes her feel so young and alive. But of course it’s not about her: everyone knows that this is the defining issue of our times and – as she was telling the hairdresser the other day, just before she went off with the girls to get filmed protesting about cherry tomatoes in Tescos – we all have to do our bit. 

On second thoughts, maybe relying on Auto Trader isn’t such a bad plan after all… 

9 replies »

  1. Look at this from the article:

    “and the Guardian’s legendary sub-etiding team”

    Legendary etidors, indeed.

    Gelendary editors, perhaps?

  2. Brilliant! Witty! Spot on! “Knitting raincoats for the Negev Bedouin” LOL! You’ve captured the mindset perfectly.

  3. Great post Hadar. I am sure that we will see this post being linked too on many future ‘fair and balanced’ CiF posts by commenters somewhat fed up with their comments being deleted while the Guardian faithful, (Berchmans and others) continue to post their vile poisness comments without sanction from the laughingly called ‘moderators’.

  4. Very droll! They did let me get away with this the other day.

    @talkthetalk – “this blaming of the Jews is no longer politically or socially acceptable’. You are new to CiF, then?

  5. Hilarious, Hadar.

    Come to think of it, I would pay them to take over those who can lovingly describe every Israeli nuke, the numbers of which are growing daily.

  6. Superb and spot on, as mentioned above. Autotrader – the sinking Guardian’s cash cow – is also staffed by skint shyster sellers of second-hand bangers seeking to stave off bankrupcy with the pen.

  7. Ooh, I like it!

    You would think they’d have given up by now losing money hand over fist as they are, but Jew/Israel-hating obsession, once it has the bit between its teeth, never lets go.

    I like the idea of rent-a-comment. You could split the phrases and use them as part of a random generator. No worries about whether they would make sense, since they rarely have before. Almost all of them are derivative (which unfortunately makes the replies to them repetitive – I have lost count of how many times here I have had to refer to Fathi Hamad’s touching concern for the safety of his people to the extent that he boasts that women, the elderly and children make the best human shields) but at least we set their bent record straight here. We’d never be allowed to there.

    I also like the conspiracy theorist profile and I think that CiFWatch should feed the paranoia of these morons and then stand back and watch them self-combust.

  8. There was an article in today’s Guardian by a brave Muslim woman called Sara Khan. An occasional poster called ‘backbiter’ wrote a comment which I would have thought conformed to Cif guidelines but was deleted. Does anyone have a copy of the deleted post and any comments it might have triggered?