Jonathan Cook: the Blog from Nazareth - www.jonathan-cook.net

Guardian staff come out of closet for Corbyn

Dear Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett,

Congratulations on coming out of the Guardian closet and admitting that you have been a secret Jeremy Corbyn admirer all along. Your column, “I used to be a shy Corbynite but I’m over that now”, was excellent.

Interestingly, I noticed Jonathan Freedland, the paper’s senior commentator and its Corbyn-denigrator-in-chief (he has some competition!) – and your boss, I suppose – wrote an oped a couple of days ago admitting he may have misjudged Corbyn. Maybe that was the moment you finally sparked up the courage to come clean about liking Corbyn.

I was very interested in what you had to say about why you remained silent for so long.

I had become so used to political commentators popping up every time I expressed admiration for Corbyn’s principles to call me naive or a narcissist or an Islington-dwelling champagne socialist or a loony lefty, as though we were in some pompous game of whack-a-mole, that I began to sort of believe it.

Are you talking about Freedland? But I suppose there were lots of other ideological bouncers out there in liberal-media pundit land. It must have been hard. As you say, “Stop treating us like fools!”

But I never did stop believing in the same things Corbyn does – in equality, social justice, social mobility and peace. Nor did I ever doubt that families such as my own would be much better off under a Labour government than a Tory one. Which is why I’m going to vote for him again.

Great, Rhiannon! Shame it took so long for you to pluck up the courage to speak out.

Why should anyone feel embarrassed to back an anti-austerity politician in this context? Why should anyone who cares passionately about the NHS remaining safe from being transferred into private ownership feel ashamed to support a politician who is committed to it? Why should any young person – most of whom seem to be voting for Corbyn – cringe at voting for a party that has committed itself to tackling generational injustice?

Good question. Why should anyone feel embarrassed, especially a well-paid, career-minded young journalist like yourself?

Here’s a guess. Maybe because your own paper worked relentlessly to make even leftists feel stupid for supporting Corbyn. The group-think got so bad, even at the Guardian, that Owen Jones, a friend of Corbyn’s, was too embarrassed to come out with anything more than grudging support for him in the paper’s pages. He spent his columns instead agonising over what to do about Corbyn.

Even George Monbiot, your in-house radical, sounded almost apologetic telling us recently that he supported Corbyn. No wonder you were too afraid to tell your bosses how you felt, or to pitch to them a pro-Corbyn commentary over the past two years. Safer to keep that information to yourself.

I worked at the Guardian myself for many years. I know the atmosphere in the newsroom only too well. I can imagine it was hard to contradict all those older, “wiser” heads further up the Guardian hierarchy. I wonder how many of the other young staff felt equally frightened to speak up over the past two years.

The narrative has shifted so much in the Tories’ favour, to the point where to announce you’re voting Labour feels subversive and threatening. … The frame has moved, but we still have the same brains, the same hearts, and the same guts. And my brain, my heart, and my gut are telling me that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t back Labour at this crucial time.

Yes, the narrative has shifted so much in the Tories’ favour. I suppose that was because there were no left-liberal journalists there to challenge it. If only we had a left-liberal newspaper that could support a social democratic candidate like Jeremy Corbyn for prime minister. Oh, but wait – isn’t your newspaper supposed to be left-liberal?

Anyway, well done, Rhiannon. I am glad you wrote this piece. Let’s hope, there are more like it to come. Maybe now it looks like Corbyn is in the running, and the Guardian editors have realised that they have egg on their face and that they have alienated large swaths of their readership, they will be more open to letting young journalists tell us about how they have been secretly longing to confess their passion for Corbyn and his politics.

Best wishes,

Jonathan Cook

 

UPDATE:

Perhaps not suprisingly, Cosslett was offended by my post. On Twitter she has accused me of sexism. That is to conflate sarcasm and sexism. Let me assure her I would have written the same post had she been a man.

But her reaction suggests that she and possibly others have missed the real aim of my article. My sarcasm may have obscured my point for some readers rather than highlighting it. So let me be clearer still.

The chief target of my post was not Cosslett but the Guardian. It was an insult to its readers to have published Cosslett’s article. Not because her views are not genuinely held or worthy of publishing. In fact, in other circumstances, my congratulations to her over the article would have been heartfelt. It is genuinely to be welcomed that she supports Corbyn, and genuinely of concern that she felt so bullied and intimidated at the Guardian for two years that she could not write of her support for Corbyn earlier.

My problem is where this article was published, not who wrote it or what they wrote. In publishing Cosslett’s article, the Guardian has shown the extent of its cynicism. One can understand what it has done if we precis Cosslett’s article:

I have had to hide my support for Corbyn for two years at the Guardian, after a reign of ideological terror there from my bosses. But now things are starting to turn around for Corbyn, I have been allowed to write something in support of the Labour leader.

That is the message implicit in Cosslett’s article, pure and simple. We can precis it yet further: “I have been recruited, as a young journalist, into a damage limitation exercise for my employer, the Guardian.”

Now that would be brave journalism indeed from Cosslett, and a very brave decision by the Guardian to publish it, if that was what the Guardian really intended that its readers take home from the article. But if that were the case, we should also be reading alongside Cosslett’s article a mea culpa from Kath Viner, the editor. She should have written an article about how very wrong it was for the Guardian’s editorial offices to have become such an intimidating place that young journalists like Cosslett could not express their true feelings.

It would also have required a promise from her that the Guardian was going to change its editorial practices. That it would become a more open and democratic employer, where young staff, and those on insecure contracts, would feel greater confidence to speak their minds. It would require a promise of concrete, practical reforms. But, of course, none of that has been promised, or even implied, by the Guardian.

Cosslett’s article has been offered up as a sop to its readers in the hope that they will think more kindly of the Guardian. Maybe become a supporter. Publishing Cosslett’s article was that cynical. It was an insult of staggering proportions to its readers’ intellects. In fact, it was published as an act of contempt for them.

The Guardian assumes we will not notice the veiled implications of Cosslett’s piece. That young journalists – and who can doubt Cosslett was far from alone in feeling she dare not speak out – have been silenced at the Guardian for two years by its editors. We are dealing here with a serious case of intellectual and editorial bullying – its editorial policy on Corbyn for two years has reflected the views of a tiny handful of insulated, over-paid editors, not the wider staff. The Guardian has been, as critics like me have been arguing, simply propagandising on behalf of the Westminister bubble.

That is bad enough. But it is more serious still. The Guardian editors have helped to exclude voices of support for Corbyn from the only supposedly serious left-liberal newspaper in Britain, at a time when the country stands on the precipice of an election that could dramatically shape all our futures.

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