It seems curiously difficult to find out what exactly Ian Hislop did in the five years between leaving Oxford and becoming editor of Private Eye in 1986; I don’t think he survived solely on his PE contributions. I thought I’d read somewhere that he’d done a stint in teaching, like fellow PE satirist John Wells; if so, I guess he’s grateful to have washed off the smell of pencils.
For hasn’t he done well since! And despite PE’s having seriously upset powerful people in its time, his reputation for being ‘the most sued man in Britain’ is overblown:
Sutcliffe was the turnaround, it meant the court of appeal could cap libel damages, the judge was allowed to direct the jury as to amount, everything that had been mad about it started to be changed […] I think at the moment  we’re all worried about injunctions and privacy.
I’m not alone in thinking PE has lost its contrarian edge. This (sweary, and Brexiteer) blogger says:
Private Eye is now Establishment. Supporting the mainly London, liberal elite – the civil servants. lawyers, politicians and all the rest of the gravy train troughers who serve no purpose to the majority of Brits. All within the M25 natch.
Recently it looks to have gone further than that, taking a starkly Russophobic line. Four issues back, several of PE’s cartoons, if you translate the images into words, alleged that Putin was deliberately and gleefully targeting civilians in Ukraine; and nothing in print suggested otherwise. The advantage of graphic humour is that it evades having to defend its case; though since the Ukrainian forces have a tactic of using the local population as human shields while firing on the Russians, the latter may have a war-law counter-argument in terms of ‘proportionality.’ PE might almost be a brother in arms of the Daily Mail’s Ian ‘Putin is a snarling rat backed into a corner’ Birrell. At a time when the Prime Minister breaks appointments to fly out to Ukraine and urge President Zelenskyy to keep fighting, a non-aligned PE would be most welcome.
Issue 1571 was not a one-off in its partisanship. The current issue (#1575, p.11) contains a sharp (would ‘goaded’ be a better word?) riposte to a website called The Grayzone, which ran stories (June 7 and June 13) about links between journalist Paul Mason and British intelligence.
PE’s piece, titled ‘Grayzone Layer’, reports Mason’s announcement that his email account had been hacked, and repeats his assertion (untested in that article) that this will have been carried out by ‘a Russian state or state-backed unit.’
The anonymous PE writer terms The Grayzone ‘the leading pro-Kremlin site in the English-speaking world’ now that the West has blocked our access to RT and Sputnik. The tone could be read to imply approval of this censorship, but bearing in mind that we are not technically at war with Russia, it must be a matter of regret that we Brits are having alternative sources kept from us. Ironically, at the foot of the same page PE deplores the action of Turkey’s President Erdoğan in shutting down ‘168 critical media outlets.’
Concerning the hacking of Mason’s emails, what they reveal may justify the intrusion in a way that does not apply to the News International phone-hacking scandal; unlike the latter’s appeal to prurient curiosity, there is a public interest angle. Besides, if we recall Hislop’s 2011 concern over ‘privacy’ (above), even PE should be less worried about the method than about the results.
Mason has held important positions with BBC2’s Newsnight and Channel 4 News, and writes for a number of left-leaning newspapers and magazines; yet his private communications reveal proposals for collusion with an ‘intelligence contractor’ called Amil Khan, and one Andy Pryce of the UK Foreign Office Counter Disinformation and Media Development unit, in setting up ‘an information warfare outfit funded ‘through cut-outs.’’ Despite have once been a left-winger Mason, said The Grayzone,
planned to wage all-out war on anti-imperialist and left-wing academics, activists, campaign groups, independent journalists and media sites – and particularly this outlet.
After briefly alluding to the plot against The Grayzone (but omitting mention of Mason’s other targets), Private Eye’s article goes on to dig into the writers of the two TG pieces, Max Blumenthal and Kit Klarenberg. The author uses ironic quotation marks around the phrase ‘factual reporting’ to throw doubt on Blumenthal’s allegation that the Ukrainians attacked civilians in Mariupol as a false-flag operation designed to provoke NATO intervention; yet there is evidence (e.g. a number of videos here) to suggest that false-flag plan or no, Ukrainians have been targeting civilian areas and individuals, including with the use of snipers.
Next in PE’s firing-line is Klarenberg, citing the latter’s connections with RT and Sputnik, and his spats with a couple of people who had accused Russia of ‘disinformation.’ As we become submerged in all this who-shot-John argy-bargy we are encouraged to forget what we now know Mason was up to, something hardly touched on by PE here, far less denied.
The would-be-killer last paragraph notes that Klarenberg used to praise fund manager Neil Woodford, whose Equity Income Fund collapsed. This again omits relevant information about how Woodford had previously earned a stellar reputation at Invesco Perpetual, having stayed out of the ‘irrational exuberance’ of the dot-com bubble and the 2008 Great Financial Crisis. Sadly, ‘Casey struck out’ this time, but that was hardly Klarenberg’s fault. Besides, as Woody Allen said, ‘A stockbroker is someone who invests other people's money until it is all gone’; and if you think cash is safer these days…
What we have in this PE article is an attempt to ignore a disturbing revelation about Mason and his spooky friends; and an ad hominem counterattack designed to distract us and mislead us with negative atmospherics. Not many points out of ten, I’d say; and raising fears that Private Eye may have become a ‘safe pair of hands’ for the characters involved in what I recall Stephen Fry, responding on TV news to video-linked ex-MI5 operative David Shayler, called a ‘greasy trade.’
And then there is the Guardian newspaper, who despite their lament over Home Secretary Priti Patel’s go-ahead for Julian Assange’s extradition to the US on spying charges, were to some extent the cause of his woes, having pushed Wikileaks hard for faster revelations of information supplied by Chelsea Manning, for the sake of a ‘scoop,’ as Craig Murray says in his recent interview with George Galloway. A 2011 book by two of the Guardian’s writers published the secret password that then allowed public access to the unredacted files, whereas Wikileaks had been working hard to scrub names so that individuals would not be imperilled.
It seems that the Guardian has become more than merely irresponsible, now smearing true revelations as disinformation. (It’s worth remembering that not long ago, the US also tried to set up a counter-disinformation board like the FO’s unit, but it fell over quickly when its head Nina Jankowicz resigned over allegations of bias.) As Jimmy Dore says, video-fisking a Guardian article attempting to discredit ‘conspiracy theorists’ re Syria’s White Helmets, the accusatory language is coming to sound like confirmation, instead.
Whom can we trust, when supposedly independent investigative outfits have begun to sing from the Establishment hymnsheet?
As the Nazarene said:
‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.’
The poison dwarf lost my respec when he bleated about Piers Morgan doorstepping him; what a baby. He's been a tired old fart like the people he was parachuted in to the Eye to get rid of of more than two decades.Clio the cat, ? July 1997 - 1 May 2016 Kira the cat, ? ? 2010 - 3 August 2018 Jasper the Ruffian cat ? ? ? - 4 November 2021
Erm, Private Eye was never, ever, ever brilliant- nm
Posted by psingh on March 19, 2023, 12:01 pm, in reply to "Pirvat Ye"
Yes it was. It was the best magazine in the world, hands down.
I read it cover-to-cover from 1983 until about ten years ago. Its cartoons, like the one posted by Tomski at 2:33 pm, were unrivalled, as were its literary reviews, Street of Shame, anything by Craig Brown, Paul Foot, etc. Yes, they had Auberon Waugh, but he had the saving grace of being funny as well as nasty. Yes, they targeted "Red Ken" and that guy Derek from Liverpool, but I never sensed they were a mouthpiece of the right wing like they are now.
The decline--the rot--came when that slimy careerist was installed as editor. A few gems remained---Craig Brown and the cartoonists---but the "journalists" that polisH brought in were a rum lot: especially the smug and complacent Francis Wheen.
The middle section was always dreadful and Hislop took over in 1986 (the year I graduated). I didn't notice for a while because I always ignored the filler in the middle but his conformism gradually infected the rag.Clio the cat, ? July 1997 - 1 May 2016 Kira the cat, ? ? 2010 - 3 August 2018 Jasper the Ruffian cat ? ? ? - 4 November 2021
He took over in 1986, but he kept a low profile for a long time.
"I never sensed they were a mouthpiece of the right wing like they are now."
At one time I would never miss an issue: those days are long gone. The difference for me was exemplified by the fact that the old Private Eye was strongly opposed to the gassing of the UK's badger population whilst the present incarnation are rather keen on encouraging it: A small issue perhaps but somewhat emblematic of the Eyes general decline in compassion.
"The decline--the rot--came when that slimy careerist was installed as editor."
-Old Private Eye pretty much ran on a principle of Noblesse oblige. That changed because Hislop was an aspiring social climber.
In the old Private Eye you could read a lot of the news as much as a couple of years before the corporate media got around to it: if they ever did. Of course they all clearly knew it was happening from the EYE but cravenly suppressed it which made them all the more culpable. It was probably my "Eye education" from the age of about 15 on that made me the sceptical barsteward I am today.
Re: The once brilliant Private Eye magazine is now "a safe pair of hands."
My newphew is a journalist, slowly climbing the 'greasy pole' advancing his career, learning to speak properly and clearly.
I've given up talking to him about his... 'trade' for the sake of my wife and being able to take part in family gatherings, at all. Increasingly, I make excuses. It's a bit sad.
I feel like he's joined the ####ing SS in order to advance his career. He's become a member of what seems like a cult to me. The Guardians of the Truth. He believes the organization goes out of its way to be truthful and fair, sources the stories from reputable news organiztions that also strive for accuracy and facts. Only he and his mates rarely have time to go to the source material for themselves and examine it critically. Way too much is hidden and based on a hierarchy og sources and truths, which are rarely, if ever, subject to critical analysis. There's an awful lot of trust built into the structure of the hierachy of... Truth.
He beleives he's one of the 'good guys' dedicated to the Truth. That the sources are controlled by the State and selected and filtered, narrowing down reality to what's manageable, never seems to bother them. Scepticism about the military and security agencies as sources, gets you noticed, and doesn't advance one's career.
In contrast, the 'bad guys', meaning Russia and China, are treated in a radically different way. Nothing, absolutly nothing they say is... True, and, it can't be, because, well, they are the 'bad guys.'
Re: The once brilliant Private Eye magazine is now "a safe pair of hands."