Wednesday 4 March 2015

Stormy waters in the Welsh blogosphere

The Welsh blogosphere has shrunk somewhat in recent years, so it was heartening a couple of years ago to see what looked like a promising newcomer on the block in the shape of WalesEye.

WalesEye probably does not think of itself as a blog, and it set out with high ambitions to be a sort of Private Eye for Wales. We would be served a mix of satire and high quality investigative journalism.

Satire is in short supply in Wales, and it is no coincidence that nearly all of it is in Welsh (Cnex, Ddoe am Ddeg and the brilliant Dim Byd on S4C, the spasmodically updated, and Lol, which really is a lot like Private Eye).

Why it should be that nobody is writing satire about Wales in English is a subject worthy of a PhD thesis. The answer to that question would probably also solve the mystery of why BBC Radio Cymru manages to produce some interesting programmes, while BBC Radio Wales has Oliver Hinds and Jason Mohammad.

At any rate, WalesEye is not the place to go if you want satire.

The serious stuff is more of a curate's egg, but Cardiff-and-occasionally-bits-from-the-surrounding-area-Eye would be a more fitting name for this particular organ.

WalesEye has a very high opinion of its output, and so it was only natural that a year or so after its launch it should follow the lead taken by The Times and The Financial Times and place itself behind a pay wall, where most of its content now resides.

Who pays to read this stuff is anyone's guess, but it is unlikely that many of its subscribers pay to read WalesEye out of their own pockets.

Shortly before it decided to ask readers to cough up for the pleasure of reading what it likes to call its "premium" articles, WalesEye came to Cneifiwr's attention for an attack on the Welsh World War One poet, Hedd Wyn. The piece cited that literary authority Rod Richards (now residing in the parish of Ukip) in support of an argument that Hedd Wyn's work was mediocre, and that it was unjust that people should remember an anti-war poet (and probably a crypto nationalist) who was killed in action in 1917, while a man who had bayoneted a lot of Germans and lived to a ripe old age should die in obscurity.

It can only be a question of time before we have WalesEye interviewing Nathan Gill on the menace posed by that evil old nationalist Quaker and poet Waldo Williams. They will probably disclose that Williams went to prison for refusing to pay income tax.

WalesEye has a bit of a thing about nationalists.

A majority of the independent countries in the world owe their existence to nationalist movements and agitators. Gandhi was one of them. Here he is on the subject of nationalism and internationalism:

It is impossible for one to be internationalist without being a nationalist. Internationalism is possible only when nationalism becomes a fact, i.e., when peoples belonging to different countries have organized themselves and are able to act as one man. It is not nationalism that is evil, it is the narrowness, selfishness, exclusiveness which is the bane of modern nations which is evil. 

WalesEye seems to subscribe to Owen Smith's British Labour brand of "internationalism".

Internationalism is Gordon Brown stomping about on a stage decked out with Union Jacks and ranting about British values; Ed Milliband getting very angry at Emily Thornberry for tweeting a picture of a house decorated with England flags; Trident, flag-waving, military parades, futile wars and now a growing Tory-Labour obsession with plastering the Union Jack on driving licences and projects "funded by the UK Government".

Sometimes Labour's internationalism looks quite a lot like what the French call chauvinism.

For the last few weeks WalesEye has been running a campaign against Jac o' the North, and in one recent piece it cited this blog as another source of nationalist filth for referring to Jac as a sort of black sheep uncle.

Well, it's time to fess up. Cneifiwr was one of a group of abandoned waifs and strays who was adopted by wicked Uncle Jac from Margam Workhouse and other institutions in the late 1960s and 70s. Whereas our peers were going to Urdd camp or the Scouts, we went to secret training camps somewhere near Machynlleth and were brainwashed with tales of Owain Glyndŵr. Kalashnikovs being in short supply, we were given water pistols and told to shoot at life-size cardboard cut-outs of the Queen Mother and the Duke of Kent.

Our uniform consisted of druidical robes emblazoned with the "satanic" red dragon of Wales (see The Coventry Telegraph for more details). To be frank, this was not a very practical uniform, and Cneifiwr eventually rebelled and turned out to be a bit to the left of Uncle Jac.

Yes, there are right-wing, left-wing and middle-of-the road nationalists, but Wales being Wales, a lot of Welsh nationalists are a bit left-leaning and they go around believing in things like social justice, that Westminster does not work in the best interests of Wales, and that along with all those other countries, we would be better off governing ourselves.

But back to WalesEye which occasionally releases tidbits that everyone can read for free.

One recent example was a piece about the leader of the Welsh Greens, Pippa Bartalotti, and her attack on Leanne Wood.

The attack came in the form of a press release which was covered and discussed just about everywhere, but true to its grating, self-inflating house style, WalesEye wrote that the Greens had issued an "extraordinary statement..... WalesEye can disclose".

"Disclose" and "reveal" are WalesEye's favourite words and they suggest that readers are being given some sort of privileged insight, rather than being served up a piece of lukewarm Labour Party spin on stories which have often already been covered everywhere else.

And then a few weeks back WalesEye ran another piece headlined, "I disagree with what you say, but defend to the death your right to say it".

In true Eye fashion, the headline had nothing to do with the following article which was a brief piece about the passing of the Freedom of Information Act.

Bearing this apparent love of freedom of speech in mind, it was somewhat ironic that a couple of days later WalesEye should launch another attempt to have Jac o' the North's blog silenced.

There have been several such attacks recently, the first being a claim that Royston Jones, the author of Jac, had said some unkind things about a man called Jacques Protic who had subsequently complained to the police after claiming to have received a threatening telephone call.

It is fair to say that Protic has quite a few bees in his bonnet about the Welsh language, a deep hatred of Welsh-medium education and a belief that Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are closet nationalists. Owen Smith may possibly be one of the few people in Wales who would agree with him on that latter point.

Protic also claims to be a card-carrying member of the Labour Party. Here he is spouting on the BBC Wales website:

The Protic story was strange for a variety of reasons, with WalesEye claiming to have been given the inside track on an investigation by North Wales Police. North Wales Police subsequently denied the substance of the story.

Next up, WalesEye claimed that Jac was once more under investigation by the cops for supporting a campaign to give local (i.e. Welsh) people priority when it comes to allocating social housing.

A legitimate point of view, and surely not a criminal matter. It seems that the police agreed.

And so the row rumbles on. A couple of weeks back there was an open outbreak of hostilities, which degenerated into name calling after WalesEye decided to change tack and accuse Royston Jones of flirting with some paramilitary types back in the 1960s, something which would have shocked readers as much as news that the Pope is a Catholic (as WalesEye will probably disclose shortly).

Next came a bit of cod history revealing - who would have thought it - that probably everyone in the British Isles has bits of DNA floating around in them from all over the place. The piece read a bit like a 15 year-old's history homework, but turned out to be the work of someone rather closer to 60 who is currently studying law with the Open University.

The article warned of the dangers of nationalism, the suggestion being that nationalists believe in some sort of Nazi racial purity rubbish. Tell that to all those who vote for the SNP.

The latest development is that the Western Mail had to publish a correction after repeating WalesEye's claims that Royston Jones was the subject of a South Wales police investigation and incorrectly stating that he had launched the housing petition.

Jac o' the North is one of the best written Welsh blogs, and it is a fair bet that his readers include a good many who disagree with some or all of his political views. He is often hilariously funny, and has a long track record of exposing charlatans, crooks and hypocrites in Welsh public life from Naz Malik to Nathan Gill. In the last few days he has been asking important and interesting questions about just who is behind recent attacks on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon renewable energy project.

And all of that is a great deal more than can be said for WalesEye.


Anonymous said...

Wales Eye = Daran Hill

Political Observer said...

Excellent article, Wales Eye is run by Phil Parry ex BBC Wales journalist and well known welsh nationalist hater, so his antipathy for the Jac o'the North blog shouldn’t be a surprise.

But if Wales Eye was anything approaching the ‘investigative’ news organisation it claimed to be, rather than dealing in tittle tattle, salacious gossip and slander it would have picked up on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon application, Nathan Gill’s background and the numerous third sector misuses of tax payers money that Royston Jones has exposed without the financial clout or Labour Party security blanket Parry has access to. I think part of the reason to get it shut down is pure jealousy.

Labour is clearly worried about May’s election because they’re feeding the Mule’s Martin Shipton attack lines almost daily to use against Plaid Cymru, but even that’s backfired as Shipton’s article on the Housing petition has to be removed.

Jac o’the North is well read because it’s got something to say to modern Wales, unlike Labour who sold Wales out long ago for a power and wealth and they will pay eventually for their lies and deceit.

Keep up the good work both, Wales needs you.

Jac o' the North, said...

Kind words, squire.

It has become obvious that I am not liked by the Labour Party; as you suggest, a very jittery Labour Party.

But far from silencing me it makes me want to say more. An ambition in which I am being helped with interesting stories about the bruvvers coming from a number of quarters.

Watch this space!

Anonymous said...

Well said PO.

I do think though that Hill is also somehow invovled or at least, he used to be.

Anonymous said...

What Blogs Sphere - no one reads it any more
Where did all the good ones go