Why was Julie Burchill’s piece removed?
No surprises here. This piece by the Stephen Pritchard reveals that the decision was taken by The Observer‘s editor, who removed it on the following basis: “It was a mistake to publish it. I could not let the mistake stand. I didn’t want that legacy for the Observer. The idea that I would compound a mistake by continuing to publish the piece online is absurd. It follows that if you make a mistake, you try to correct it. I had to do what I could to address this error. Protestations about censorship were irrelevant. It was not a complicated decision to make. The responsibility I had was to try to make amends to a group of people we had needlessly and mistakenly offended. I had no responsibility for, or interest in, the sanctimony of other news organisations. It wasn’t about free speech, or Leveson or Lynne Featherstone [the Liberal Democrat MP who called for Burchill’s sacking]. It was about a personal desire – and decision – by me to address the offence caused to a group of people. The rest was noise.”
Whether you agree or not, that’s their official explanation, I guess.
One annoying thing is that someone like Julie Burchill will doubtless continue to receive plenty of journalistic work, grinding her various axes, while more considered writers who have some intellectual depth will struggle to get published. But that’s the way it goes. Hurtful, angry, meritless journalism can do well online as long as it is controversial and thus helps bring in revenue.
Disclaimer – I’ve had one or two pieces published by Comment is Free in the past. By all means attribute the above paras to my (freely admitted) envy of Burchill’s easy access to the mainstream media. My own contributions like this one, were probably too dry and recondite for such a forum. But, first, at least I get to live with myself for trying to raise rather than lower the tone. Second, the nature of what Burchill wrote on this occasion speaks for itself.