The Guardian newspaper (previously The Manchester Guardian) has drawn certain criticism of late regarding its coverage of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, MP. Despite editor Katherine Viner’s recent comments, MediaLens has published a letter from now-former subscriber Ulli Diemer cancelling Diemer’s subscription and explaining why.
Diemer describes The Guardian unfavourably, stating:
“What was once a serious newspaper with high standards has degenerated into little more than a propaganda sheet.”
“Its campaign of vilification against Jeremy Corbyn has been nothing short of disgusting.”
While, on their recent fondness for Tony Blair and George W Bush, Diemer is as blunt can be:
“When a newspaper has arrived at the point of praising war criminals while deluding itself that it is holding the powerful to account, I know that it’s not a newspaper that I want to keep receiving.”
This isn’t the first time one of Evolve’s writers has taken issue with The Guardian. Their Corbyn coverage has long had a distinct and increasingly obvious bias. That being said, The Guardian’s anti-radicalism runs far deeper than most, including many current subscribers, might know. For a supposedly liberal-minded paper it hasn’t always been terribly liberal, either.
It was founded as The Manchester Guardian in 1821 by cotton merchant John Edward Taylor. Taylor witnessed the notorious Peterloo Masacre of 1819 when cavalry attacked a demonstration. The attack killed over a dozen people, the resulting chaos injuring hundreds. Local radical paper The Manchester Observer supported the demonstrators. Taylor, however, attacked demonstration organisers. As Taylor put it:
“They have appealed not to the reason but to the passions and the suffering of their abused fellow-countrymen, from whom they extort for themselves the means of a plentiful and comfortable existence. This from a capitalist and businessman.”
Hypocrisy wasn’t Taylor’s only weakness. Supporting the demonstrators saw The Manchester Observer shut down by a series of prosecutions for seditious libel, leaving the market open for a paper infinitely less challenging to the status quo. Enter The Manchester Guardian, capitalising on the demise of its radical rival and edited by Taylor himself.
The new paper would, according to its launch prospectus:
“Zealously enforce the principles of civil and religious liberty.”
The working-class Manchester and Salford Advertiser, on the other hand, described it as:
“The foul prostitute and dirty parasite of the worst portion of the mill-owners.”
For what’s now often regarded as a leftist paper, The Manchester Guardian often opposed workers’ interests. The 1832 Ten Hour Bill was intended to limit daily working hours in what, by modern standards, would be sweatshops. To The Manchester Guardian, however, it was:
“A law positively enacting a gradual destruction of the cotton manufacture in this kingdom.”
Substitute this for today’s big business complaining that curbing zero-hours contracts damages profits and you’ll see the parallel fairly quickly. Taylor, being a cotton merchant, might have been disturbed by improving workers’ rights.
Trade unions, strikes and the right to strike are established parts of British working life, a means for workers to improve their lot or defend themselves against exploitation. Not according to The Manchester Guardian. It blamed strikes on union trouble-makers, a period version of Thatcher’s ‘enemy within.’ According to Taylor:
“If an accommodation can be effected the occupation of the agents of the union is gone. They live on strife.”
In plain English, unions are the enemy within. Their representatives exist solely to incite workers and upset employers. Sound familiar?
Returning to Taylor’s original pledge on the principles of liberty, the Manchester Guardian’s opinion on Abraham Lincoln is enlightening. Granted, Lincoln stated the American Civil War was to preserve the Union and abolishing slavery wasn’t originally a war aim. He also suspended some parts of the US Constitution. That said, the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves and the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery permanently. But, after Lincoln’s assassination, The Manchester Guardian commented:
“Of his rule, we can never speak except as a series of acts abhorrent to every true notion of constitutional right and human liberty.”
Yes, this is still the ancestor of today’s trendy lefty Guardian.
On more topical subjects, The Guardian hasn’t always supported the NHS and Welfare State, either. It loathed one of the Welfare State’s founders, Aneurin Bevan. Indeed, the NHS was so loathed by The Guardian that in 1951 called for Prime Minister Clement Attlee to be voted out for creating it. It feared State healthcare would increase numbers of ‘congenitally deformed and feckless people’ while it would ‘eliminate selective elimination’ thereof.
Put plainly, the caring, sharing Guardian hated the NHS because it hindered evolution’s breeding out the halt, sick and lame. Something to consider when it trumpets its opposition to today’s welfare reforms and NHS cutbacks.
Journalistic ethics haven’t always topped The Guardian’s concerns, either. In 2015 Nick Cohen criticised Rupert Murdoch for revealing sources, a serious breach of journalistic ethics. As a result, a number of people faced serious consequence including prison.
In 1983, civil servant Sarah Tisdall leaked to The Guardian a copy of a confidential ministerial memo about stationing cruise missiles in the UK. After a court ruling The Guardian returned the memo which helped identify the source of the leak. Tisdall was later handed a six-month sentence for breaching the Official Secrets Act.
More recently, the paper flip-flopped on the first Gulf War. Initially sceptical (perhaps rightly so), it changed its tune right before the war started, stating:
“Let the momentum, and the resolution, be swift.”
Esteemed journalist Maggie O’Kane saw it rather differently:
“We, the media, were harnessed like 2000 beach donkeys and led through the sand to see what the British and US military wanted us to see in this nice, clean war.”
So, all in all, for a publication regularly pushing its dislike of fake news and the sanctity of liberal values, The Guardian wasn’t (and still isn’t) all it proclaims itself to be, either.
Something to think about when deciding whether to renew a subscription.