Socialist Worker

Private Eye: The First 50 Years

by Patrick Ward
Issue No. 2276

For the past 50 years, the satirical magazine Private Eye has upset and enraged the powerful.

Its mix of humour and investigation has tirelessly challenged the hypocrisy of the elite.

This is all celebrated at a new exhibition in the V&A in London, featuring cartoons, photos and various oddities from throughout the magazine’s history.

The late socialist journalist Paul Foot was one of those central to the magazine’s investigative reputation.

He exposed scandals from New Labour’s PFI schemes to the lie that the 1988 Lockerbie bombing was orchestrated by Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

The Eye continues to be a key institution in the media. It recently recorded its highest sales since the early 1990s.

But it also has serious weaknesses. Among the witty—if sometimes tired—spoof articles and cartoons, there is a nasty streak of snobbery and prejudice.

Its jokes about the poor, women and young people rely on lazy stereotypes you might expect from the columns of the Daily Mail.

It is the anti-establishment journal of the establishment. And as politicians become increasingly ridiculous, it’s unlikely to go away any time soon.

Private Eye: The First 50 Years is at the V&A, London, until 8 January 2012. Admission free

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Tue 1 Nov 2011, 19:35 GMT
Issue No. 2276
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