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Tuesday, 25 April, 2000, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Does Private Eye make you proud or ashamed?
Private Eye has been described as the best satirical magazine in the world and has just notched up its 1,000th fortnightly edition of political gossip, jokes, media rows and reporting.
The brainchild of a group of public school-educated non-conformists, the magazine has led a charmed existence. Editors were to be seen as often in the High Court defending the latest in a deluge of writs for libel as in the publication's London offices. Private Eye's letters column is regularly filled by indignant politicians, public figures and business leaders demanding retractions and corrections for some of the magazine's wilder stories and legendary inaccuracies.
But the paper has claimed many prominent scalps - its early lone reporting of the Poulson affair in the sixties finally led authority to take notice and to the eventual downfall of some very powerful establishment figures. It dubbed Robert Maxwell a crook for years, and weathered the tycoon's many litigious onslaughts, before the more traditional Press took up the cause.
So is Private Eye just a 40-year-old scurrilous rag or has it been an important organ of the free press of which Britain should be proud? We should be told - and you can do so by emailing us with your views.
I think Private Eye is a great concept and it is great that such a publication has had the moral courage to stand up to and mock the very rich and powerful like Al-Fayed, Maxwell, Murdoch etc... and still live to tell the tale!
Ask yourselves, where is the right of reply in its columns? Why have so many had to pursue redress through the courts, at no little cost to their personal finance? I think it should be treated with the contempt it deserves, and preferably banned. That the BBC should be giving this pathetic rag, a forum for debate is typical and a shocking indictment of its (waning) judgement. Yours disgustedly
Peter Niss, England
Private Eye has, like any other magazine or newspaper, the right to publish facts and opinion.
The important thing though is to clearly separate fact from opinion and to report in good faith.
It matters to the cause of freedom of the press that journalists do not abuse their powers.
I am not accusing Private Eye of this but as an ordinary member of the public I merely state what I expect from them.
Whilst some of Private Eye's comments may at times be based purely on gossip the main point is that we still have the freedom to write essays/articles lampooning/lambasting prominent figures. Long may it continue so!
Joss Randall, France
The Eye is generally first with the dirt and is more right than wrong. As a borough Councillor, I hope to see my name in the eye eventually ... though I'm not sure it would do me any good!
Even though we boast that we live in a democracy, experience tells us that we should be sceptical of what politicians and those in power in other spheres, tell us. Private Eye is now the foremost satirical vehicle that is prepared to take on any issue and long may it reign. Private Eye is like David against Goliath and it will never lack support. Congratulations
The very fact that Private Eye does incite such outrage and vehement denial from public figures is testament to the good work it does in revealing the murky goings-on that would otherwise go unreported. The side-swipe it takes at the rest of the media, regularly pricking the bubble of self-righteousness, is something to be treasured.
People in Britain are too soft.
We need Private Eye to toughen people up.
There should be more publications making fun of people.
Quite a few famous people need to be taken down a few rungs and brought back to earth.
As an addict from the start I have to complain that the EYE has not had a really good scalp for a while. Stop resting, we need you.
What other publication would give us so much opportunity to laugh at Al Fayed?
Roy Freesinger, USA
Private Eye has brought radical change to Britain. 40 years ago Britain had a ludicrous inherited monarchy, an unelected second chamber and public schools were able to hog places at top universities. Thanks to forces like Private Eye look at the dramatic difference today. John Hardy, USA
So the Eye sometimes gets it wrong, but I've been reading it for long enough to know they often get it right, well ahead of the rest of the press pack.
It's brave, is not led by hyped-up news diary events and does not pander to PR's press releases before or after it researches stories.
As an Eye reader in good standing (sic) for many years,
I can only say that the Eye remains the standard for
irreverent but highly relevant satirical journalism. Canada's
own attempt to duplicate the Eye (the dismal Frank magazine)
lacks both the wit and the charm that the Eye has brought to
the world. Besides, I could never have introduced the term
'frenzied Ugandan discussions' to my vocabulary without it.
Happy millennium, Eye!
Andrea, USA (ex-UK)
I think Private Eye is great. The 'Publish and be dammed' style is sadly lacking in the UK. Personally, I think that they are sued so often for one of two reasons. Either they are so far out of line that they deserve to be sued, or the plaintiff is trying to stop something unpleasant being revealed.
'Condescending, irresistible, brilliant!'
That Private Eye has continued to flourish as a tribute to our dry sense of humour and healthy disrespect and irreverence for the Establishment. It is, as Tony Blair would probably like to say, but Alastair Campbell would advise him not to say, an actual beacon of satirical excellence.
Long Live the Eye. Like everything else, it isn't perfect but most of those who dislike it do so not for reasons of taste or decency but because it exposes things they would rather keep quiet. Eye is a credit to our society; you can get shot for thinking less in other countries. I'm not sure about 'proud' or 'ashamed', but it certainly keeps me amused.
Private Eye can be both shocking and funny (often on the same page) but never boring. To the best anti-depressant known in the UK, happy birthday and thank you for getting me strange looks on the train.
It pricks the bubble of the pompous and has exposed many corrupt actions which might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
It is also, lets face it, extremely funny.
David Boyle, Ireland
I read the Eye so that I don't have to read it in the newspapers two weeks later, when they catch up with the stories. It will always make mistakes - but then again who doesn't? Any journal that can maintain a sense of justice and combine it with a sense of humour is┐ (Contd. p94)
Private Eye dares to say what needs to be said. They were the only publication prepared to call Maxwell a crook while he was still alive, and they have always been the scourge of those who seek to use lawsuits to silence criticism. The Diana issue was a high point, but then almost every issue is a high point really.
Private Eye isn't a problem, as it is known to be a tongue-in-cheek publication anyway so people can make up their own minds about what they are reading. The real danger lies in those "serious" newspapers that supposedly report FACTS. Many people read them as gospel.
I admire the efforts that go into the
reporting of local government affairs
that PI does. If anything the magazine
is a window into the dark and murky
world that is politics in England. Despite
the cry of democracy and free speech,
the real power in England is confined
to a very small world where is not what
it seems. With the increasing portrayal of
style over substance I believe PI will play
an ever more important role in keeping
tabs on our political 'untouchables'.
In a world where politics is dominated by the spin-doctor. Private Eye is a breath of fresh air. It may contain innaccuracies, but at least it is something original and out of the ordinary in an increasingly conformist world. Long may it continue.
Andrew Steele, Egypt
Surely it is not that Private Eye is either a scurrilous rag or an important organ of free speech, but that Private Eye is a scurrilous rag, and therefore most certainly an important organ of free speech.
Private Eye stood alone following the death of Diana by exposing the hypocrisy of the press.
MD's exposure of the heart surgeons at the Bristol Royal Infirmary led to him giving evidence to the subsequent enquiry.
Oh, and the cartoons are very funny too.
As a youngster I struggled to understand the stories about lawyers and unprofessional businessmen. Now at 30, it's still the same!
Long may Private Eye remain a thorn in the side of Established Society.
Paul Brown, UK
Private Eye used to entertain and inform me. I then discovered that it has a homophobic policy on personal ads - it refuses to take ads from gay and lesbian people, but will take them from straight people. Not what I expected from the enemy of corruption and hypocrisy.
I love the Eye and am a regular subscriber, but it does seem to need a bit of a revamp. Other satirical organs for example the US-based Onion are simply much more up to date, and, well funny. Please for the sake of the under-30 generation could we have less long-running vendettas and more er... satire?
Some organs are irreplaceable. It malfunctions from time to time, but mostly works very well, not least because it is the valve that deflates the egos of so many self-important people.
For me, Private Eye's most important news story was M.D's coverage of the Bristol Heart Scandal. The most appalling indictment of the rest of the British press was that no-one appeared to follow this up for years, meaning that it is likely that several more babies and young children died when they might have been saved by more competent surgeons. M.D. (Dr. Phil Hammond of the Beeb's "Trust Me, I'm a Doctor") deserves credit for this, and editor Ian Hislop too for publishing it.
In the light of this immense public service, their occasional inaccuracies and mistakes are small fry.
My subscription is always renewed!
Moshe Forman, Israel
I have just renewed my subscription to Private Eye. It adds to a tradition of rich English satire - long may it continue!
Albeit a factual expose of the corrupt and downright stupid, it has never failed too perfectly capture the irony of it's own existence. May it live on. Not only for today, but also for all those who have imparted so much in the past. Like, just for one instance, Mr. Peter Cook.
I love it. It has made me laugh for years. The one thing the British are very good at is poking fun at themselves. And to do that you have to be clever. Private Eye has always been able to do that well. Long may it continue!
Adam Porter, UK
I will never forget that they printed a slip from another publication shortly after the death of Diana.
"Diana made as much of an impact in death as she did in life"
I don't think anyone else had the balls to challenge us to laugh about it like that!
While some comments in Private Eye are not to my way of thinking, I enjoy the challenge it provides to my views.
There has to be a publication that is not of the establishment mould and is prepared to reveal the scurrilous antics of government bodies et al.
I have a good read and a good laugh. Hislop deserves a knighthood. Will he get one? I think we should be told.
Readers of Private Eye are generally natural cynics who do not necessarily believe all they read, either within its pages or in the rest of the press.
The journal usually targets people who put themselves forward in the public eye (or are in a position of public responsibility) and who are performing actions that are hypocritical or publicly unacceptable. They rarely attack the personal lives of private individuals. It is only News of the World readers that care about "wife-swap sex-change plumbers". If Private Eye screws up then let it be sued - at least its targets tend to have the capacity and resource to sue.
Basically it makes me chuckle - these days we need a little "reverse spin" in the public arena.
I am immensely proud of the "Eye's" achievements over the years. It would be famous for "Mary Wilson's Diary", "Dear Bill", and "St. Albion" alone. It is hard to imagine an Iraqi Private Eye, nor a Russian one, or even an American or French one. Even in the few countries that might spawn an "Eye", it is difficult to believe that it could be done with such style and humour. Well done, "Private Eye", may you continue to go from strength to strength!
Jonathan Labrey, United Kingdom
Private Eye is a bastion of free speech. Its reports on the shocking and corrupt disgrace that passes for local government are excellent. It is just a shame that the newspapers do not take up Private Eye's causes and expose the crooks in public life to a wider audience. The publication is also very, very funny when it exposes the outright hypocrisy of public figures of all political inclinations. I am looking forward to the next thousand episodes.
Let's face it, life would be much duller without Private Eye and surely something else would rise up to replace it if it were ever closed down. Just imagine without Private Eye "Colemanballs" would never have entered the English language. Here's to the next 1000 issues and a continuation of the competitive world of no win/no fee litigation which must keep all on their toes.
paul haine, UK
The Eye is not always right but anyone who reads it regularly knows that most of the corruption, illegality and misuse of power it details does eventually surface and receive confirmation (eg Aitken, Archer etc)
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