A Competitive Threat to "Comment is Free"

Just Journalism recently published an in-depth report on the anti-Israel bias found in the Financial Times based on an analysis of 121 Middle East editorials in 2009. To complement this report, Robin Shepherd has a post on his excellent blog highlighting the type of phenomenon that we encounter day in day out in CiF – “below the line” antisemitism – which in the particular instance reported on by Shepherd, was triggered by a rare pro-Israel article in the Financial Times by Andrew Roberts.
As Shepherd observes:

One consequence of traditional media’s move to online platforms is that the threads which follow many articles are now open to readers to make comments of their own. This not only provides an insight into the kind of people who are attracted to a given article, it also places a responsibility on newspapers to police their websites in order to prevent libellous, bigoted or racist opinions from becoming associated with them.
Few issues reveal the nature of the problem more starkly than the Israel-Palestine conflict where extreme hostility to the Jewish state now masquerades as “normal” commentary in much of the British media. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that fanatics and open anti-Semites feel they have licence to let rip.

In CiF Watch style, Shepherd goes on to cite eight examples of the type of comments posted in the Roberts thread which you can read by clicking here. CiF Watch regulars will immediately notice the similarity in the nature of the discourse which Shepherd describes as “some of the vilest anti-Semitic bigotry to have been sanctioned by a British newspaper for quite some time”.

We have in the past demonstrated the growing convergence of antisemitic commentary between the far left and mainstream left on the one hand and far-right on the other which use the same type of language in substance to convey their message of hatred in the context of Israel. What is interesting to note from Shepherd’s post is the extent to which this kind of discourse has been mainstreamed in a leading right-wing British broadsheet pointing towards a worrying trend that antisemitic discourse has penetrated the fringes of both the left and right into the mainstream.
Even if one concedes that the readers that post comments in the online versions of the British broadsheets are not a representative sample of their readership, it does beg the question to what extent do the views expressed by these readers really represent the prejudice of a much broader cross-section of British society, who if freed of constraints of political correctness would if given the chance “let rip”. With the cross-fertilization of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bigotry becoming a regular feature of the mainstream British media and political landscape one really has to wonder.

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