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Eyewash is our commentary on the bits of Private Eye edited by P--rs M-rg-n and written by P-lly T-ynb-- or one of the other journalists the Eye says it despises but regularly employs.

Much of the Eye is factual or investigative, and about that part we shall have nothing to say. The part we are interested in is the one that, although it doesn’t take up the most room, seems to us the most important, the part on which the success of the whole depends: all those places in the journal where, in one way and another, it judges men and the times by judging their language. And as the influence of P--rs and P-lly on that side of the journal is greater in some issues of the Eye than others, so some Eyewashes will be correspondingly longer than others. Because P--rs and P-lly had, for instance, next to no hand in Eye no. 1127, for March 4, Eyewash no. 1127 scarcely exists. (One oddity we note is that whereas P--rs’n’P-lly are never found in “Nooks and Corners” and rarely in “Literary Review”, they often have a hand in “TV Eye” and are solely responsible for everything to do with education.)

We have tried to advertise Eyewash in the Eye. We thought they would find it a piece of cheek after their own hearts, but we were wrong. Immediately below is the complete correspondence (so far) between ourselves and Private Eye about that attempt. We call it Ad Nauseam. We might have called it “How Journalism Works”. It bears out, we think, what we say in answer to the question “What’s wrong with Private Eye?” that it is too much like the other newspapers it despises. That correspondence is followed by a longish introduction in two parts, and then the shorter comments on individual issues.

Eyewash is numbered like the Eye itself, begins with no. 1122 (the Christmas 2004 issue) and comes out fortnightly, as soon after the Eye as we can manage. Clicking on the links on the right will take you to the correspondence, the occasional general pieces (What’s Wrong with Private Eye?) and the regular numbered issues that follow.

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Why we gave up Private Eye

1227, 22 January 2009 “Street of Shame” reports Simon Heffer’s efforts to get the Telegraph journalists to use the right words (“A spendthrift is not parsimonious; he is profligate” and so on). Mr Heffer also objects to the word scam as “unutterably tabloid and, like most slang, should be avoided in a quality newspaper.” The Eye’s target is Heffer, not the Telegraph writers who can’t write. In the same issue “Remote Controller” reviews the current series of Celebrity Big Brother. He reports a “mild fascination in seeing the new, cleaned-up, Ofcom-pleasing version”, obtains from it “limited pleasure” and is unaware that this houseful is even more disgusting than the earlier ones. We refrain from detail. A magazine that doesn’t see the simple foulness of Celebrity Big Brother has just joined the mindless consensus. There are other things to read in the world.

Words in Edgeways

Go to the current issue here or find back issues of the magazine here.