The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Thoughts on socialism and leftism generally

Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Kevin R » 27 Jun 2014, 20:35

This is interesting..

Written in the wake of the flagging GMC having to flog their interests in publishing arm 'Trader Media' (Auto-Trader mag was one stork that brought a neat bundle of stipend that unfurled generously into the Scott Trust coffers, the other being 'Top Rank Group' - a conference and media business).

It speculates on how - in order to increase revenue to maintain journalistic independence - The Guardian has changed tactic by pushing it's open journalism and online comments facility into a place that attracts controversy for it's own sake, and thus abjures the cry of dissatisfaction of it's original less crazy liberal reader-base.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Mike » 28 Jun 2014, 01:32

Kevin R wrote:It speculates on how - in order to increase revenue to maintain journalistic independence - The Guardian has changed tactic by pushing it's open journalism and online comments facility into a place that attracts controversy for it's own sake.

Plenty of media outlets are doing this to some extent these days, in fairness. But eventually advertising revenue won't be enough to prop it up.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Andreas » 03 Jul 2014, 17:47

Naive nostalgia for Communism and the Soviet Union -- a textbook example:

One can't expect Mr. Bromwich to have understood all the implications of this experience in 1972 at age 11, but he has grown older since then... This article is amazingly unreflective. Of course there was nothing evil or sinister about the children he met in the USSR, but with hindsight perhaps he might have realized that not all children were so happy in the great Socialist Mother/Fatherland, for example, children of dissidents and political prisoners.

Bromwich credits the trip to his father. Brought up in poverty in Poland, Bromwich Sr rose through the ranks in the military, escaping Hitler’s invasion before making his way to the UK where he joined the Royal Air Force. He wasn’t in the Communist party, but had a completely different view of the world from his peers at the time. "He was left wing, an atheist, always anti-America," Bromwich says. "I think he wanted me to experience something a little bit different."

Why didn't Mr. Bromwich's father move his family back to Communist Poland, also a Socialist Workers' Paradise? Presumably he could have. Why did he choose to stay in capitalist Britain?

They were greeted with the realities of the cold war soon into the trip when on the train they were awoken by east German border guards. Looking for contraband from the west, they seized Bromwich's month’s supply of chewing gum and his Beano album summer special.

Later, when they were in private, the border guards probably consumed the chewing gum and read the Beano album themselves (or traded them for something).

He loved the campfires, pretending to play chess and miming to songs he didn't understand (but later looked up online):

Yes, exactly, this was a game of pretending. If Mr. Bromwich had learned some Russian, he might have heard the term "pokazukha" (something fake put on for show); the BBC is aware of it:

This summer camp experience was just another example of Soviet pokazukha, and Mr. Bromwich and his family were, unfortunately, useful idiots for the Soviet regime.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Mike » 04 Jul 2014, 03:38

Andreas wrote:Naive nostalgia for Communism and the Soviet Union -- a textbook example:

Just a single eight-word comment below that emetic article says all that needs to be said about it:

up next, fun times in the hitler youth
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Yessica » 04 Jul 2014, 06:21

I understand why some people might think the article is tasteless... but I think it fullfills the requirements of good journalism: It informs the reader of something he or she did not know before: Pioneer camps did exist in communist countries and people who went there generally liked the experience.

That is just true to my mind. Most people I know liked pioneer camps. The article is not a lie.

Of course things existed that were not so enjoyable. Is it really the duty of the writer to mention them in every article?
If that was the case then every article about a vacation in Brazil should mention that there is forced prostitution and every article about a vacation in Bolivia should mention there is child labor and so on.

If I learn about a country I want to learn from different perspectives. I want to read the perspective of the tourist who liked the beauty of Bolivia and the ten year old who is forced to work by bitter poverty. I would not want to read only "Bolivia sucks, there is poverty and child labor" articles.

I think I already know enough about socialist countries but if I didn't I would like to read the story of the child you went to the pioneer camp and had a great time as well as the story of the youth who had to go to youth work camp for being a dissident or gay amongst other things.
The writer did not experience that. Why should he write about it? Hopefully another writer, who has first hand experience, will do that.

Articles like that are valuable to my mind because they show the reader the strategies communist countries used to create a bind and loyality to the State.
No State will be able to exist if everything, virtually everything there is bad and every citizen hates living there every minute of his life.

As you know I am not a fan of socialism, living in a socialist country was tough for youngsters as they were constantly being brainwashed and it was no fun to be a young dissident BUT I know numerous people who greatly liked being a pioneer (, attending pioneer camps, celebrating youth consecration ( which by the way still exist.

To my mind pioneers had a number of positive side effects such as encouraging staying healthy and fit or helping other people. It would take the thread to far to go on about that.

If you truly want to understand a thing - be it a good thing or a bad one - you need to see the whole picture. You need to gather information from all points of view, that is why I see nothing bad about the article as long as enough articles about the bad sides of communism are available in the anglosphere.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Yessica » 04 Jul 2014, 06:30

By the way how would it be possible to prevent totalitarism if you know nothing about totalitarian States apart from "they were pretty bad"? You probably would not recognize a totalitarian movement in the making.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Mike » 04 Jul 2014, 13:24

Yessica, the problem is that the article is anything but neutral. If it were a simple case of reportage it would be a different matter, but the writer quite deliberately presents a cloyingly blissful picture of the whole setup:

Bromwich recalls the games in the camp with fondness...He loved the campfires...Bromwich has overwhelmingly warm memories of his time in Belarus...He’d love to go back...

In each case those are the words of the writer of the article, not the man who took part in this camp.

And the person who wrote that comment underneath makes an important (and obvious) point: such descriptions of blissful, summer-camp days full of laughs and activities were commonly heard from former members of the Hitler Youth. Could you possibly have a similar dreamy article of reminiscence written today about a Hitler Youth summer camp without the political context being introduced at some point (or rather, being centre stage)?

No way in the world.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Yessica » 07 Jul 2014, 09:49

Oops. I thought the article was written by the guy who attended the camp himself. Don't know why. Perhaps I thought so because the author did not seem to add anything but only summarize the experience of Mr. Bromwich.

As for the Third Reich. I think I cannot judge how it should be presented because I am not jewish, but to my personal mind what we learned in school about it was not so educational.

We spent years of schooling learning about it, but mostly only "this atrocity happened, that atrocity happened" and to my mind we got far to little background information, far to little information about every day life and so on. I do not know how a jewish person might think about it.
Dalrymple mentiones a girl who took part in a history class... I think it was a history class... and learned about the genocide in rwanda, but the only thing she learned was that it was bad. Dalrymple asked why we really needed a reminder that killing many people for no reason was bad. I hope I recall that correctly, I don't remember which book it was.

As for communism. A number of atrocities were connected to communism such as murder, democide (killing of a social group by means of hunger and labor), forced abortions, forced pregnancies, forced sterilisations, forced adoptions, quasi-colonialism, rapes as means of warfare. I just mention it for the record in case there is really anybody who does not know.

As I mentioned before my family is from the GDR and they told me some horror stories for example of mass rapes or how the GDR was bled dry by the tributes they had had to pay - while there was sacarity of food amongst it's population. The Sowjets even "stole" whole factories from the GDR, which were disassembled and shipped to the Sowjet Union. I have no idea why that was cheaper than building a new factory there. They also "stole" railway tracks, and ressources like coal.

This stories should be told but I assume they are told, aren't they? Anyway it's not the whole story. There were millions of people living in the communist countries and not all of them were having an unhappy life 24/7.
My family were amongst the less popular classes in the GDR which means they were dispossesed of their lands and banned from the extended secondary school. I think I mentioned before, yet I am not under the impression that their lifes were horrific.
Like everybody else they had good times and bad times. Focussing on how they were wronged does not tell the story of their lifes at all. People living in communist countries were full-fleshed humans not just victims of circumstance.

Back to pioneer camps. I cannot see anything wrong about reporting that they existed and were enjoyable - as long as the writer summarizes the opinion of Mr. Bromwich truthfully. I agree with you however that it would not have hurt him to add a little background info like "pioneer camps were also used for brainwashing".

It is good to paint a picture as diverse as possible, tell about the atrocities, yes, but also tell about the good things, tell about the communist ideology, important writes, tell which of it's goals communism reached and which it did not reach. The politically mature reader can come up with his own conclusions then.

I am writing this under the assumption that English readers do have access to a wide a range of information including those about horrors. If that should not be true and the only information available is about summer camps: forget what I wrote.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Elliott » 07 Jul 2014, 19:42

I think Yessica is right. It is interesting to read about these surprising aspects of Communism which some of us might not have heard about before (I hadn't heard of the pioneer camps) because they help you to realise that these regimes were actually peopled by humans, who had everyday tasks and chores to do, the same everyday tasks and chores that a Scout or Scout leader would have to do over here - fetch the milk, tell those boys to stop that, kick the football, help me lift this table, apologise to that lady, etc. This ordinariness occurred to me while I was reading the article; it rather surprised me to think that, even with a massive Communist regime over you, a lot of ordinary human relations would simply continue, because we are still human and the silly, sometimes funny, things of everyday life would still happen.

Of course, Mike is also right, that a warm reminiscence of life in the Hitler Youth would never be printed. But I don't think this means that a warm reminiscence of life in the Soviet pioneer camps shouldn't be printed either. I think they should both be printed, honestly, telling how it really felt to be in the Hitler Youth, not a biased account of how terrifying it was to be part of the Nazi machine etc. but how it actually felt for a happy, enthusiastic 15 year-old - odds are it would have been very enjoyable.

That such articles would never be printed in the Guardian or any other mainstream paper is a clear indication that the mainstream media is more fearful of Nazism than of Communism. This might not be because of any Communistic leanings in leftie journalists; an interesting thing is that Communism, for some reason, simply doesn't seem as bad as Nazism. It seems warm and friendly, like a sort of milk that tends to go sour if you're not careful but which in and of itself is very pleasant - "we'll all care for each other, there'll be no exploitation or greed or want", etc.

You might say that this means we should redouble our efforts, vilifying Communism just as much as we vilify Nazism. Maybe we should. But I would still like to read about the good, pleasant experiences that people had under both regimes - rather than biased propaganda against them which pretends that every day and every activity under these regimes was a politically-telling nightmare.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Mike » 08 Jul 2014, 03:33

Fair enough. It just seems to me that the further we get from the Cold War, the more nostalgia for the old Communist regimes seems to seep into the western media (it would be interesting to see what it's like on the other side of the old Iron Curtain). Not to mention the fact that Venezuela and Cuba are still routinely extolled by the perpetually deluded as beacons of hope in an otherwise hopelessly materialistic and unjust world.

As I suggested in the previous post, if the story had simply been written as a memoir by the man in question, it would be understandable enough. But when it's a case of building his reminiscences up into a proper story, I think there is a certain obligation on journalists (if they have researched the material properly) to present such experiences in their context, and the context here is particularly important.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Yessica » 08 Jul 2014, 07:09

Mike wrote:It would be interesting to see what it's like on the other side of the old Iron Curtain.

Not sure about the media a rarely read articles about life under communism because I know enough about it. Some people have nostalgia for communist times though.
In Eastern Germany, there is a phenomen called Ostalgie, a nostalgia for the life in the GDR. It is even described in a very biased Wikipedia article.

Take that article with a grain of salt. Some of the unsourced statements such as "there was no poverty in the GDR" are pretty ridiculous to my mind. Everybody was poor, they were so poor they went gaga about bananas or "real coffee" or disposable diapers.

My parents were shocked to learn that broken things in capitalist countries were not mended but simply thrown away.

Also some statements such as
"To the statement of the interviewing journalist that "GDR inhabitants did not have the freedom to travel wherever they wanted", Germans replied that "present-day low-wage workers do not have that freedom either".
are simply wrong. If you look up the source you see that one person who happened to talk with the reporter held the opinion, obviosly the Wiki author thinks all Germans have only one voice.

The Wikipedia article is wrong to say that
When the renowned West-German magazine Der Spiegel asked former GDR-inhabitants whether the GDR "had more good sides than bad sides", 57% of them answered yes.
, because the source states that
"The GDR had more good sides than bad sides. There were some problems, but life was good there," say 49 percent of those polled. Eight percent of eastern Germans flatly oppose all criticism of their former home and agree with the statement: "The GDR had, for the most part, good sides. Life there was happier and better than in reunified Germany today."

I am a little shocked by the quality of Wiki's article.

Anyway, Ostalgie, I do not know any good English articles. So take the wiki article which at least desribes the feeling.

Ostalgie is the longing for the past albeit a past that never happened. It is a bit like a retro cult. Youths for example dress up in "blue skirt" and have fun... or the celebrate a party where they serve Solyanka, which was popular in Eastern Germany.

There are ostalgic movies such as NVA, which is about the "national people's army". I have not watched it but i have been told that it is a "droll story" about someones experiences as a recruit and very ostalgic but not very funny, or "Sonnenallee", another droll sory from someones youth I have not watched.

Ostalgic products such as fake coffee, coffe from wheat and chicoree, or "Wäscheblau", or old East Germans brands such as Club-Cola or "Tempo"-Lentils became popular again.

"Tempo"-Lentils to my mind the only product which is superior to the capitalist alternative by the way, as the take only ten minutes to cook.

Most people who engage in Ostalgie do not want the old system back.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Nathan » 22 Jul 2014, 19:18

I read the Guardian every day but this is the most ridiculous article I've ever read in my life!

I've heard of feminists going after Thomas the Tank Engine because he has a male name, but somebody here has decried the show's "classism, sexism, anti-environmentalism bordering on racism", and how a cartoon based on books written in the 1940s is "forever caught in British colonial times".

I haven't seen Thomas the Tank Engine for 25 years but I was wondering where the racist subtext could be, considering the trains are painted in all sorts of different colours - here is my answer:)

I'd like to think there was a good environmental message in there, but when the good engines pump out white smoke and the bad engines pump out black smoke – and they are all pumping out smoke – it's not hard to make the leap into the race territory

It's amazing that somebody actually put their real name to this article knowing that when the Guardian goes bankrupt they'll have to find another job! Amazing too that nearly all of the hundreds of disbelieving reader comments were allowed to stand.

Enjoy! ... en-parents
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Charlie » 22 Jul 2014, 19:34

...and the Lord wept.*

*racist, patriarchal tears. Obviously.
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Gavin » 22 Jul 2014, 19:46

I'm loving the comments there!
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Re: The Guardian's Greatest Hits

Postby Nathan » 22 Jul 2014, 19:57

The funny thing is that whenever I've done pieces of work knowing that my name is going to be credited to it I've always been extra obsessive about double-checking it and making it as watertight as possible - I know I keep saying this, but how can anybody in any profession be so lackadaisical as to put their name to such a ridiculous piece of work, absolutely knowing it will get ripped to pieces and that tens of thousands of people will be laughing at them and their credibility destroyed?!
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