Journalist Matt Kennard is one of the figures calling for a boycott of the Guardian. He spoke to Martin Thomas from Solidarity.
K: It’s not really a formal campaign, but it was ignited on social media by left activists, journalists, and commentators who support the Corbyn project.
Obviously you expect outlets like the Telegraph and the Sun to be on the other side. But in fact the Guardian has morphed into the biggest and most consistent critic of Corbyn, and under an editor, Kath Viner, who was voted in as the left candidate. It’s a nominally left-wing paper which is trying to destroy the progressive movement.
What do you do? Hit them where it hurts. Stop buying the paper, stop giving them clicks. Enough is enough.
T: Why would you expect the Guardian to support Corbyn? It supported Blair enthusiastically in his early years. It’s not a left-wing paper. But it is a paper which gives information, which is why I read it, and occasional space to left voices.
K: The Guardian from the 1970s and 80s was quite radical. You could get Marxist takes on global events. Maybe that had already stopped in the Blair era. But now it’s either hard-Brexit Tories or Corbyn, and they seem to side with the Tories.
OK, the Guardian is not pro-Tory, but it effectively helps the Tories if you consistently publish attacks on the only alternative available to the hard right.
T: The Guardian still publishes critical columnists like Aditya Chakrabotty, Owen Jones, and Gary Younge.
K: In little pockets it still has very good journalists, but less and less. And those are all columnists. None of the reporters is doing the exposures which we need. Something has changed.
The Guardian is presented as the progressive extreme of British political discourse. So it gives the right a hand up if they can say: even the Guardian is criticising Corbyn.
If those commentators are still writing, it gives the Guardian cover to attack Corbyn most of the time. 90% of the Guardian journalists are anti-Corbyn.
T: The other serious bourgeois papers are certainly not more pro-Corbyn. But surely we should read serious bourgeois newspapers, and know how to do that while understanding their limitations. And just today I notice that the Guardian is putting on a meeting for John McDonnell.
K: There’s a lot more out there now, outside the legacy media, which you can read. It’s great that the Guardian is putting on a night with John McDonnell, but that isn’t going to do much to change the balance.
T: Possibly a difference here is that some of what you would think unfair criticism of Corbyn, we would think to be substantially fair criticism, though of course we would make it in our own way, from the left. For example, on antisemitism. The incident with the mural was shameful. The incident about “Zionists not understanding British irony” was shameful. The equivocation on the IHRA text was shameful. I wouldn’t say Corbyn is an antisemite, but I would say he has fumbled the issue, and been constantly on the defensive.
K: Obviously there should be even-handed coverage of those issues. But all those issues have been massively amplified. The move has immediately been made from “he’s made mistakes” to “he’s an antisemite”.
It’s a fair point that there are genuine problems. But the Guardian has allowed itself to amplify a lot of shrill voices on the right of the Labour Party. The other day in the Observer, which is a linked publication, they had an interview with an old Blairite minister saying that antisemitism is destroying the party.
It’s quite hard to rationally analyse it, but the boycott is to send a message of anger at how the Guardian has acted over the last few years.