My headline is part of the introduction to yesterday’s Observer media column by Peter Preston, former editor of the Guardian. The closed doors hide politicians who are refusing to the meet the electorate and the closed minds are found if you, “wade through the digital comment at the bottom of so many election pieces and you stumble into web swamps heaving with hate”.
Preston points out that in 2010 national newspaper day sales were 10.9m: now they are 7.6. In the same period membership of political parties has shrunk from 1.3% of the electorate to 0.8%.
And a combative Guardian piece on Tory NHS performance from a former deputy editor of the Indie (and Cameron speechwriter) prompts one reader to howl apocalypse: “I don’t like mendacious tracts in my newspaper of choice requiring me to weave through them like someone avoiding dog shit on the pavement.”
“Ian Birrell should be writing for the Sun, Mail, Times,” snarls another, who actually takes the name “Hatetories”. Apparently today’s version of democratic freedom means avoiding reading something you don’t agree with.
This, he suggests, is a change. Once Conservatives represented 20% of the Guardian readership and when the Sun “won it” for John Major in 1992 fewer than half its readers voted Tory.
I have looked at the comments in the Guardian a few times recently and have been shocked that so many bigots apparently read the paper’s website. It would interesting to know how many of the commenters buy the paper or its digital edition and how many of them are not paying but contributing indirectly by boosting page hits and advertising revenue.
The Guardian, like the Daily Mail with its hugely successful website, had an interest in attracting everyone including bigots.