Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guardian: we published that 'sexist' Ryanair ad by mistake. No, really.

Low-cost airline Ryanair has been forced to withdraw newspaper adverts featuring scantily-clad air hostesses after a predictable outcry. Leaving aside the merits or otherwise of the adverts themselves – it's the usual dispute between those who claim that such material is demeaning to women, and those who say it's harmless fun, and the ban is political correctness gone mad – the really interesting thing about this flap is that two of the papers that ran the ads were the Guardian and the Independent, the British media's bastions of identity politics and supposed defenders of women's rights.

It's particularly puzzling that the Guardian – home to feminist writers such as Julie Burchill, Suzanne Moore and Naomi Wolf – should have carried the ad, but the Guardian helpfully explains how this apparent incongruity came about in a report in the Media section of its website: apparently it was all a terrible mistake…
A Guardian News & Media spokeswoman explained said the ad appeared in the newspaper by accident after a "system breakdown" meant that it was not pre-vetted before it appeared.
Ah yes, those pesky 'systems', always breaking down at the most inconvenient moments. And you can appreciate how hard it would be for Guardian staff to spot a full-page picture of a bikini-clad trolley dolly amid all those worthy stories about unemployment, Syria and bankers' bonuses.

Now I know that a lot of quite gullible people read the Guardian, but if you believe that's what happened, then you probably believe that the captain of the Costa Concordia really did fall into a lifeboat. The Guardian would look less ridiculous if it simply admitted the truth: times are hard, our circulation's falling faster than that of any UK broadsheet or mid-market paper except for the Independent (many of whose readers are presumably switching to the i), we're haemorrhaging money, and we'll happily take anyone's cash to print an advert, no questions asked.

Of course, the Guardian's support for women's rights has always been qualified, and liable to be suspended without notice if it conflicts with the interests of groups or individuals higher up the liberal-left pecking order; for example, radical islamists (over burka wearing) or misogynist liberal heroes from assorted members of the Kennedy family to the rapists at the Occupy camps in the US. For the left, principles are things to be flaunted when it suits, and abandoned when necessary.

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