A guest post by AKUS
Since we are now supposed to believe that the Guardian’s entire case for firing Josh Treviño rests on the basis of an undisclosed conflict of interest, I wish to make a full disclosure before continuing:
“I had never heard of Treviño before this, to the best of my knowledge. I have never read anything by him, not even his articles in the Guardian.”
There – now we’ve got that out-of-the-way let’s turn our attention to Chris Elliott’s bizarre attempt to brush this scandal under the carpet: The readers’ editor on… the bruising fallout from a writer’s offensive tweet.
Actually, we don’t really need to read any further than this strap line to understand why Treviño was pink-slipped. Clearly, it was the “almost 200 complaints” the Guardian received from its loyal if rapidly shrinking readership, and not the excuse given – that he omitted to reveal a conflict of interest
What seems to have been overlooked in the commentary about this affair is that in order to justify the dismissal the Guardian seized on a complaint from an undisclosed source about lack of disclosure on another topic altogether that pre-dated Treviño’s new role as a contract columnist by 18 months:
“There was a second complaint on Thursday 23 August received by senior editorial staff in the US and referred to the readers’ editor. This concerns another blogpost Treviño had written as a contributor to the Guardian’s US site – before he was on contract – on 28 February 2011 about a Republican congressman’s inquiry into Islamic radicalisation, which quoted the Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.”
Quite simply, the Guardian built a case for caving in to the Electronic Intifada and Palestinian Solidarity Campaign mob by noting Treviño did not footnote an article written some 18 months earlier (NOT the recent article) that had nothing to do with his first article under contract.
The Guardian states:
“[Treviño] had been a consultant for an agency retained by Malaysian business interests and ran a website called Malaysia Matters, which should have led to a footnote disclosing the relationship.”
Good Lord! Treviño quoted the Malaysian prime minister 18 months before he was contracted “on the eve of the Republican convention and in the middle of an already vicious and highly partisan election campaign, [to] explain and analyse the politics of the US Republican party.” Nothing to do with Malaysia. They simply were handed a hook to hang him on by their undisclosed source that they used to pretend they were not caving in to anti-Israeli bigots.
Had Treviño continued writing for the Guardian he might even have quoted a Republican without adding a footnote that he was a US citizen or Republican, thus once again breaching the Guardian’s “necessarily broad” guidelines, as Treviño put it in the joint statement he released with the Guardian.
Just to make sure they dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, the Guardian has updated Treviño’s 2011 article:
But what was the horrifying quote from the Malaysian PM that Treviño used without disclosing his conflict of interest?
In fact, the “conflict of interest” was so tenuous as to be essentially non-existent. You couldn’t make this up – the man who anti-Israeli activists Ben White and Ali Abunimah and the rest of them fought to have dismissed called for the US Congress to view Muslims and Islam in a more positive light!
“Consider, too, what Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told me this past Wednesday in Istanbul (from where I am writing), when we discussed the Muslim Brotherhood in a group conversation about Islam and democracy [see footnote (i.e., the new Guardian footnote)].
The Brotherhood, said the PM, “shouldn’t be part of the [democratic] process as long as they don’t reject violence and extremism … Anyone who wants to be part of the political process should adopt values that are compatible with democracy.”
That’s a Muslim democratic head of state affirming some very Burkean basic principles. We shouldn’t fall prey to the conceit that Muslims abroad speak for Muslims at home, nor vice versa – but might Congressman King’s hearings note that there are grounds for optimism in both camps?”
Noam Cohen, writing for the New York Times, noted the irony of Abunimah’s success in shooting Muslims in the foot in The Guardian Backtracks From a Bold Move in Hiring.
“The post that caused Mr. Treviño’s departure was in fact a defense of American Muslims against Congressional hearings, a bit of irony not lost on Mr. Abunimah. When asked if having The Guardian part ways with Mr. Treviño over an article sympathetic to Muslims was akin to convicting Al Capone on tax evasion (my clarification of the appropriateness of this particular metaphor will appear next week), Mr. Abunimah said the thought had already come up among his friends.
Nevertheless, there was only happiness on Mr. Abunimah’s blog that The Guardian “has done the right thing.”
Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of Guardian US (the Guardian has layers of bureaucracy that the USSR would have envied), apparently dissatisfied with Chris Elliott’s honest revelation of the real reason for dropping Treviño had this to say in a final attempt to pretend it all did not happen the way it so obviously did:
“This has been an eye-opening week. We knew that there are dangers inherent in attempting to be fair-minded and allow our opponents as well as our friends a voice and we have learned several lessons. But I hope we will continue to try and find ways to engage with honestly held philosophies and opinions.”
Not so eye-opening for those of us who have had the jaw-dropping experience of watching a paper once known for its willingness to tolerate the opinions of others ban and dismiss all those who disagree with its Stalinist line.
Treviño joins alumni like Melanie Phillips and Julie Burchill in the honorable list of those who are personae non grata at the Guardian because they support Israel. Treviño was kicked out simply because the Guardian could not bring itself to live up to its founder’s philosophy and protect him from the Electronic Intifada unleashed upon him.
Since Elliott, at least, clearly understands why he was forced to drop Treviño, if he finds his backbone I would not be surprised if he resigned after this shameful episode. But the Guardian has no shame, facts are no longer sacred, the voices of opponents must be crushed, and that may be too much to expect.
Footnote: I have never run a website that consulted for anybody that was retained by somebody. Or whatever.
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