Private Eye

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Private Eye is a fortnightly UK satirical magazine.[1] It was founded at the time of the London satire boomWikipedia's W.svg in the 1960s and burst into the mainstream when a special edition covering the Profumo affairWikipedia's W.svg was commissioned by Richard Ingrams. Initially it was 90% humour, but under the editorship of Ingrams it rapidly became known for its anti-establishment views. Although it is widely viewed as left-wing, it has always maintained a pugnacious neutrality, revealing peoples' shortcomings regardless of their political slant. The proprietor was once comedian Peter Cook. Private Eye is currently edited by Ian Hislop, who is also known for his role in BBC television's long-running satirical news quiz Have I Got News For You, which has made him the most sued person in British legal history.[2]

It is very good on politics and the media, but rather less so on anything relating to science. It disgraced itself quite thoroughly by pushing the MMR vaccine hysteria well beyond all reason, apparently on the assumption that scientific disagreement is equivalent to political coverup for self-aggrandisement. At least they don't sell their MMR Special any more.

MMR quackery[edit]

Due to their desire to unearth any perceived government wrongdoing, coupled with a lack of scientific rigour, Private Eye spent most of the 2000s pushing Andrew Wakefield's line on the MMR vaccine as absolutely hard as they could. They quieted down towards the end of the decade and, when Wakefield was finally struck off, went so far as to publish letters calling attention to the fact and asking the magazine to, you know, actually apologise in some noticeable manner. Their response was utterly pissweak.[3]

In February 2010, Hislop commissioned a report into the Eye's coverage from their medical writer, "M.D." (Phil Hammond). It concluded that although the magazine was right to cover the scare when it first broke, it was far too blinkered when it came to accepting that there was no truth in the story.[4] So that's all right, then, they've cleared themselves.

Searching their website for "MMR" produces no results, although this is probably a case of their website's search engine being terrible; a search for either ATOS or Crapita produces nothing, and a search for Capita produces three hits—all of which refer to Capital.

Political satire[edit]

Beginning with "Mrs Wilson's Diary" (after the wife of Prime Minister Harold) the Eye has usually run a spoof column containing the alleged ramblings of the British PM of the time (or close associate), including: "Dear Bill" (purporting to be letters from Margaret Thatcher's husband Dennis to conservative journalist William F. Deedes), the "St. Albion's Parish News" (the magazine of "vicar" Tony Blair's parish[5]), a series of "Prime Ministerial Decrees From the Desk of the Supreme Leader" complete with a faux-Soviet seal showing Gordon Brown in a military cap,[6] Dave and Nick as head and deputy headmaster of the New Coalition Academy (formerly Brown's comprehensive), The Cameron Free School with Dave as "sole headmaster", and now "St Theresa's Independent state GRAMMAR SCHOOL for Girls (and Boys).

Regular sections[edit]

Private Eye has provided several forums for stories which are not covered by the mainstream media as they rely on unattributed sources. This has led to more than a few libel cases.

HP sauce[edit]

The dubious goings-on and hypocrisy in central government with information from anonymous inside sources. (HP Sauce is a British table condiment which introduced generations of anglophones to the beauty of the French language: Cette sauce de haute qualité est un mélange de fruits orientaux, d’épices et de vinaigre.... The bottle carries a picture of the Houses of Parliament)

Street of Shame[edit]

The dubious goings-on and hypocrisy in the newspaper industry (which was formerly based in Fleet Street) from anonymous inside sources.

Rotten Boroughs[edit]

The dubious goings-on and hypocrisy in regional and local government from anonymous inside sources.

Colemanballs[edit]

The hilarious misquotes of TV & radio sports commentators (inspired by the BBC's David Coleman) but now including other factual broadcast material.

Dumb Britain[edit]

Unbelievably stupid utterings by ordinary people on, e.g., quiz shows.

Crossword[edit]

The crossword, set biweekly by "Cyclops" in traditional British 15 x 15 cryptic form, is particularly politically snarky, nudge-nudge-wink-wink schoolboy naughty (mostly in the clues), and full of inside jokes such as "Brenda" standing for Our Brave Queen, Elizabeth Regina.[7] This is a prize crossword, and the prize —£100— is worth having.

Trivia[edit]

Lookalike
Private-eye logo.gif Express logo.gif
Express Private Eye

Private Eye's logo is a parody of the Daily Express's Crusader logo.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. One issue every fourteen nights.
  2. The Independent: Ian Hislop — My 20 years at the Eye 23 October 2006
  3. The Grauniad (05/02/2010) "Is this as close as Private Eye ever gets to a mea culpa?"
  4. The Editor Asks M.D. To Peer Review Private Eye's MMR Coverage
  5. Operating under the umbrella of Drawing All Faiths Together, or DAFT
  6. Issue 1244, September 4 2009.
  7. This is where they are