Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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Paywalls keep the truth from the youth

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REGULAR readers of my articles may have detected that I do not necessarily hold the thoughts and words of Owen Jones in the highest regard. In fact the polar opposite is more likely. It is an indictment of the editorial standards of the Guardian that Jones is permitted to write nonsense in its pages and be paid for it. But then this is a newspaper whose senior staff decided that David Cameron’s personal suffering at losing his son could not be as great as that of anyone else because of the insulation afforded by ‘privilege’. Despite a detailed editorial process, this vile opinion almost made it into the print edition with no one in charge having a reality or morality check until there was a public outcry after the offending article was posted on the internet.

But back to Jones. I was quite affected by an article of his last June which suggested that the USA was on the verge of war with Iran. The background was that oil tankers were being attacked in the Gulf. Jones went through the usual list of prejudices and biases to damn all of the West. Curiously, Jones, who is gay, ignored the fact that the Iranian dictatorship publicly executes gay men when he decided which side to support. But being a socialist, he is adept at doublethink. It is the only way socialists can remain sane when confronted by the difference between their beliefs and objective reality.

What struck me was the missing piece of information that would have completely explained what was going on, and why Western military assets were being concentrated in the area. It is all due to the Carter Doctrine.

The Carter Doctrine was the consequence of the destabilisation of the Middle East that accelerated with the Iranian revolution. The Persian Gulf is a waterway along which a quite sizeable proportion of the West’s oil supplies travelled. At the time, these supplies were of great concern to the Western world.

The Carter Doctrine was a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, by drawing a line in the sand and telling the Russians ‘thus far and no further’. It was feared at the time that the USSR would not stop at Afghanistan and would carry on to Iran. In fact, it has been suggested that the Soviet move was actually a pre-emptive strike as Brezhnev and his gang feared the USA was about to take Iran themselves.

However, the doctrine made clear that the USA regarded the strategic value of the Gulf to be as vital to its interests as the American mainland. No outside force, which could be interpreted to include Iran, would be permitted to take control of the international waters of the Strait of Hormuz, the point where the Gulf is at its narrowest and therefore the interception of oil tankers is at its easiest.

The Carter Doctrine was announced in early 1980, at a time when the USA was not self-sufficient in oil and North Sea oil was not fully on tap. But it applies to this day. The Gulf must be kept open and will be by military force if necessary.

So why didn’t Jones refer to this? Well, it would have demolished the reasoning behind his article. The USA was not angling for war, it was just implementing a foreign policy that had been consistent for nearly four decades. But I suspect there is another reason.

The Guardian is the only broadsheet newspaper that does not hide itself behind a paywall. Instead it makes use of a begging-bowl by inviting online readers to become ‘supporters’. Consider the consequence. The Guardian is the only heavyweight (and I use that term in this case quite loosely) newspaper that is freely available online. Teenagers wanting to be informed of the state of the world are thus restricted to one newspaper unless they want to spend money, and the internet rather promotes the idea of everything online being free. Teenagers might not regard paying for an online newspaper as being as necessary as making sure their Spotify subscription does not lapse.

So perhaps this is what Jones is doing. He writes articles any knowledgeable adult will see as nonsense. But callow adolescents are a different matter. Unless they do the research themselves, they will have only Jones’s world view available to them. We can see how willing young people are to look into the lessons of history, other than those thrust at them by schools and popular drama, by the way that communism is suddenly popular in a way that must baffle anyone who was alive and aware of the existence of the USSR at the time.

So the Telegraph and the Times hide behind paywalls at their and possibly the country’s peril. There is a battle of ideas under way, perhaps there always has been, but the only ideas now fully deployed on the field of battle come from the Left. The Right are defaulting in the furtherance of profit.

While a paywall might protect revenue at present, it runs the risk of having a whole generation of young people unaware of any ideas other than those promoted by Jones and his like. Eventually these ideas may dominate, not because they are correct or reasonable, but because they are freely available. The paywall concept might be necessary in preserving revenue, but there could be a greater cost for all right-thinking people in the long term.

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan works in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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