The Independent is free

It all happened quietly and without fanfare but for those of us who care about such things history will recall that this was the week the the Independent bowed to the inevitable and dismantled their subscription firewall, having finally come to appreciate what us humble bloggers have been saying all along; that the value in being talked about freely far outweighed the (presumably) meagre sums of money that the Indy were eeeking out of their pay per view system.

The upside to this new arrangement should be immediately obvious – if you’ve a few minutes to spare, go and catch up with the musings of the excellent Matthew Norman and the ascerbic wit of Simon Carr immediately, you won’t regret it.

It also means, joy of joys, free access to possibily the best serious columnist currently writing in any of the upmarket dailies; Dominic Lawson.

Dominic Lawson? Praised by a lefty? Has the world gone mad?

Not as far as I’m concerned.

I like reading Lawson’s columns for the Indy, not because I necessarily agree with his opinions (often I don’t) but simply because I find his to be a writer who invariably puts up a good argument based on a strong, logically constucted narrative. I respect that and, reading his work, am always left with the impression that one could have a very good, if challenging, debate with Lawson. A real debate. An exchange of ideas and genuinely, and forthrightly, held opinons.

Its that which makes his columns so appealling, even if one disagrees with his views.

It certainly hasn’t hurt his standing in my eyes, either, to discover this in his current column:

I rather enjoyed the retort of the blogger known as Mr Eugenides, who commented: “Personally I find it pretty grotesque that a couple of dozen Cabinet ministers can spend £550bn of hard-working families’ money between them. I think we need a debate about that, not the bonuses paid to some private-sector bosses. Their remuneration, however exorbitant to the rest of us, is none of Peter Hain’s fucking business.”

Not only is Lawson aware of bloggers, always a good start, but he’s actually read and is quoting, in his own article, the estimable Mr Eugenides.

That – other columnists take note – is how to begin a new era of online openness on the right foot.

11 thoughts on “The Independent is free

  1. You mean I can read Mark Stone for nowt! Yipeee! Can you ever imagine him working for the Guardian? I couldn’t buy it, though. Love the politics, but it’s style is sooooooo dreary and the rest of its columnists are dreadful, especially that Hari and don’t even mention Yasmin Alibi-Brain! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Liberal tripe!!

  2. Jimmy:

    I wouldn’t get too het up about Lawson’s opening comments in that piece – one thing he certainly is is intelligent enough to be deliberately ironic.

    The worst thing one can say about his remarks there is that the whole line about the ‘benefits’ of global warming, whether its better condictions for British winerys, the flooding of London or turning Wales into a an island, is that the jokes getting to be badly overused and a bit frayed around the edges.

    Lawson does, from time to time, like to poke a stick at ‘scientific’ orthodoxy and often with good reason.

    I hate to have to say this but on certain issues, climate change being one and passive smoking another, much of what is put forward to rebut research that contradicts the prevailing othodoxy often amounts to an unscientific ad hominen attack on the authors.

    The correct way to rebut such research is to repeat the experiments and show either that the results are not repeatable or that there are fundamental flaws in the methodology, not simply quote your own data as gospel and then piss and moan about your opponent.

  3. While it’s obviously very good news that the Indy is now fully free-to-view – not least because it will draw in people that do not buy the newspaper, such as myself – for the columnists themselves it may be a double edged sword.

    Their work will now be distributed among a wider readership than ever before, their ideas discussed, their bon mots chuckled over and passed on. Most of them will surely welcome this.

    However, for the more doltish among them – as a right-winger, I nominate Yasmin Alibhai-Brown as a prime candidate, but there are surely others – it will mean their work being fisked on a large scale for the first time.

    Some fisks will be nasty and brutish (like mine) and their cogency and persuasiveness may vary; others will be more reasonable and considered, and all the more forensic for it. But either way one wonders how Yasmin (who’s on record as saying how much she hates bloggers, as you know) will feel about this development.

    That said, it’s nice to be quoted approvingly, even if slightly scary that the next time I write a lengthy Nigella-fantasy, her brother may be reading it…

  4. Unity – I don’t find this to be the kind of rebuttal to sceptics you quite rightly say is ineffective: http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/downloaddoc.asp?id=1630 Supposed “scepticism” on this issue is often, I find, simply laziness and demonstrates a lack of willingness to properly engage with an issue – which of course it is easy to do if you’re sitting in your sunny garden in Sussex in mid October. Of course he’s being ironic – so as to trivialise the issue, because he can’t be arsed to find out why of the 928 peer-reviewed papers on climate change between 1993 and 2003, none rejected the contention that human activities have had a major impact on climate change.
    So what pisses me off is the very fact that he is intelligent enough to understand the issue but chooses not to, and yet still feels in a position to write about it as if he did actually know what he was talking about.

  5. The thing is, Jimmy, that if you look past the sarcasm, Lawson’s main point in that article – the attack on Milliband’s comment that “the scientific debate has now closed on global warming” is entirely correct, and correct for the precise reasons he sets out.

    No scientific debate is even closed, unless one is dealing exclusively with a mathematically verified scientific law, and even then it may not be as closed as you might think – some of the current work at the sharp end of quantum mechanics and cosmology is starting to raise questions about the second law of thermodynamics, for example.

    That human activities affect the earth’s climate is not in doubtbut precisely how much of an effect it genuinely ash and whether some of the predictions made by scientists arising out of that work are entirely valid are very much matters for legitimate debate. Climatology is not a precise science, there are too many variables (for one this) and almost all of the equations used in climate models are themselves approximations.

    I don’t know how strong a scientific background you have, Jimmy, but if you understand the significance of the difference between linear and non-linear equations and have a basic understanding of the principles of chaos theory then you should understand why the predictions made by those studying climate change cannot be prounonced to be 100% reliable.

    That’s the point that Lawson is making – there is nothing absolutely certain about climate change, merely evidence to support certain theories, which may prove to be correct but, equally, might also prove to be incorrect, if not entirely (which seems unlikely) then at least sufficiently to throw the predictions currently being made as to its future course.

    It is subject, like most other things in science, to a margin for error and, therefore, not one on which the debate can be closed.

  6. How strong a background do you imagine Jimmy Hill has?! (That’s purely rhetorical; I’m sure old big chin would be as bemused at my using his name as Luther Blisset was of the authors of Q!) Anyhoo, I have a limited scientific background but an interest in the subject of climate change. Of course you’re right about the continuing need for debate, and of the foolishness of Milliband’s comment. I just don’t think Lawson added anything to this. It’s also somewhat mischievous of him to drop in so innocently names like Bjorn Lomborg (perhaps the most controversial authors on this subject – http://info-pollution.com/lomborg.htm). It’s one of my pet hates of BBC-esque coverage of all sorts of controversial issues, treating two arguments with equal weight even if one is completely off the wall. Just because one argument isn’t 100% proveable, it doesn’t mean that necessarily folow that a counter argument is made more valid – this is where conspiracy theroies come from! And at some point the argument about scientific debates never being closed starts to look rather silly!

  7. Unfortunately, I suspect there is no evidence that would persuade Lawson to act. He will always moan, if criticised, that the debate can never be closed, yadda yadda yadda, until the water pours into his throat. Anything on the other side, I suspect, will be treated as gospel.

    The Indy also has the nauseating fucktard, Bruce Anderson.

  8. Ah Bruce Anderson – the man who I heard on Radio 4 saying that Geese, if they could, would choose to become foie gras! What an absolute tool!

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