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Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Guardian

A vaguely political one - I had an article published in the Guardian on Friday; and it was online as well.  Now. online you get comments.  This wasn't an issue when I used to write articles in magazines years ago - you'd get the occasional phone call, or Letter to the Editor, but some effort was involved in making a comment, and on the whole people didn't.  They might have fumed impotently and sworn they'd "never have that rag in the house again", but lacking the facility for instant comment they'd at least reflect on what they wanted to say; and on balance, generally didn't say it.

The internet, for better or for worse, has altered things entirely.  Now, it's the easiest thing in the world to see a piece online, go into orbit, and assault your computer keyboard with a rat-a-tat-tat of invective.  And several did - my article had nearly 700 comments when I last looked, and some of them .... well, some of them weren't friendly.

One of the reasons for this - the piece was on the Paralympics, and whether these Games are entirely a good thing for disabled people - was that I am not inspired by or interested in sport.  And I'm no more interested in or inspired by it if the athletes happen to be disabled.  Well, you can agree or disagree about that - it doesn't really matter.  I only mentioned it because I felt I should at least say, if I was having a bit of a pop at the Paralympics, that I wasn't exactly the ideal audience to start with.

However, I should have realized, and probably did - I like to provoke - that to criticize sport in a sports-obsessed country like this one (ie, very many more people follow sport than participate in it) is to run the risk of committing blasphemy.  So I wasn't surprised that a lot of people went splutteringly off at the deep-end, and missed the point by several sea-miles.

What did surprise me - a bit - was that some of them seemed to lose the capacity for reason in the process.  One who responded told the world, or that small portion of it that was interested, that I had "specifically said" that the Paralympics were "designed" to provide a cover for the assault on benefit payments to disabled people.  But I had "specifically said" nothing of the kind; nothing even approaching it; and it would have been a staggeringly stupid thing to have said anyway.  But he, who posts under the avatar Keo2008 on Comment is Free on the Guardian website, had read the piece; read my own comments and that of others beneath the piece; and had quite obviously re-written it in his mind to give him something he could latch onto and object to.  And Keo, though idiosyncratic, is not a complete idiot.  He makes generally informed comments..... but he completely misrepresented the article, and me, on this occasion.

It does make one wonder how rational we really are, when a supposedly intelligent person can make so utterly stupid, and provably stupid, a comment as that.

But there we are.  Respond, Keo, by all means, if you happen to read this.  But - read it first this time, eh?


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