Tony Lerman is still Israel-bashing on CiF, and readers may judge for themselves whether he is telling us anything new or interesting. The article reflects his own conflicted and tortured relationship with his Jewishness and Zionism (he used to be a youth leader in a Zionist youth group) when he tells us (yet again) that the “cherished assumptions of Zionism” are being questioned by Jews themselves – nothing new here, Jews are nothing if not critical thinkers – and again he pushes his own agenda for a one state solution to the conflict. There is precious little new there and I do not propose to go further into it.
The whole thread is, however, a prime example of the sort of confusion brought about when a moderator/staff member is allowed to comment freely and give opinions on the thread. As I have argued elsewhere on this blog, this, from a person whose agenda is plain and who is more powerful than the commenters whose contributions he can easily get removed, is neither professional nor ethical. Lerman seems unable or unwilling to defend himself, so Matt Seaton has once again taken upon himself the mantle of his rescuer. The result is highly educative about the “group mind” of CiF and is painful and hilarious by turns. It seems that Seaton still has not learned to stop digging when he is in a hole.
There seem to be two parallel themes in this thread – one being the deletion of MarkGardner1’s post (Mark Gardner is Director of Communications at the Community Security Trust): His post, which follows, was deleted but subsequently reinstated following an appeal to the moderators by Seaton:
Seaton’s comment about Mark Gardner’s post follows. I would imagine that the moderators were wobbled by Mark Gardner’s notion that people should make up their own minds. Note also that Seaton says that the moderators “have exercised some latitude” presumably about what is or is not off-topic It would appear so, otherwise most of Seaton’s subsequent comments to the following might have been deleted too:
The hiatus was far from temporary although MarkGardner1’s post was reinstated. The thread continued to meander around, aided and abetted by Seaton’s attempts to put it back on track, which were undermined by the tone of his own contributions.
The other theme is centred on Seaton’s interventions. Below are a selection of posts and Seaton’s replies to them. You may well notice recurring motifs:
Let’s begin with a comment by Stomachtrouble:
Note that Seaton said that there was “much new here” which occasioned the following:
Of course he is right, and Seaton knows this full well but he dare not admit it. Instead he resorts to what I have come to call the “Henry manoeuvre” where, when all else fails, they tell the critic to leave if s/he does not like the bilge that CiF dishes up. It is plain that Georgina Henry’s ghost still walks the corridors of CiF, chains rattling, and her mean-spiritedness lingers long after she has gone:
BorisOnishchenko replies to this later in the thread and I have included the most pertinent sections of his reply below at **
Jubilation1 makes an apposite point:
To which Seaton replies:
Note the lack of insight into his own behaviour in Seaton’s answer above, and how he bats aside Jubilation1’s point as “nonsensical”, for equally nonsensical reasons; so what if 40% of CiFers are American? If they are afflicted with the same lack of critical thinking skills as their UK brethren and sisters below the line at CiF, then that is hardly a ringing endorsement of their contribution, is it?
Also note the variation on the “people can think for themselves” argument from one who obviously lacks the courage to trust people to do so, and evidenced by the fact that, in spite of the fairy-tale world which Seaton and his colleagues choose to inhabit, articles on CiF about the Middle East conflict are totally lacking in contextual information or balance and are anti-Israel agenda driven and unethically argued.
As regular readers of CiF Watch will know, many posts which disagree with CiF’s approach and try to put counter arguments for Israel are pulled from the page or deleted without trace so that a casual passerby without an axe to grind might be led to believe that most if not all the BTL commenters agree with the article. There are enough of these arbitrarily deleted posts for CiF Watch to run a regular slot called “Why were these deleted?”
Seaton is soon taken in hand by Bananachips, however:
To which Seaton tries (predictably and ineffectually) to try to deflect from the Guardian’s/CiF’s unhealthy obsession with Israel = bad by the equivalent of, “Well don’t blame us, everybody else does it” together with a vain and, yes, ineffectual, attempt to get the thread back on track:
He does not get away so cleanly, however. Enter SimonFunkal:
** We now come to BorisOnishchenko’s very measured reply to Seaton’s “Well, if you don’t like it you can go away” post 1.12pm, which includes the points I raised above, but the original of his post was removed. I am surprised that this repost was not removed either. Here are the relevant sections:
25 Jun 2010, 4:32PM
Having just said goodbye I noticed my earlier message has been removed – just as well I copied it ……………………… Please don’t let the mods delete it again as it raised points following on from our earlier conversation.
I’m afraid this particular article has swerved on and off topic so much there’s little point in giving ‘yellow cards’ as It is become a ‘red card’ game.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Thank you for your reply. This is a direct reply to your message…….
I don’t mean to offend you in what is obviously a job where you cannot keep everyone happy and It is good to see you defending the Guardian’s coverage of the Middle East (a wide coverage indeed) but it does not quite ring true to me, so I’ll say it another way:
Britain is at war in a coalition of partners including USA, Germany, Poland, France etc for a war taking place in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Britain has just come out of fighting a war in Iraq. These are enormous events which affect the Middle East in particular. ….
Articles concerning these wars and participants should be encouraged as they are ones which affect us here in the UK, issues about which one can understand people becoming obsessed.
What surprises me is that Cif also appears to publish at least one Israel / Zionism / Jewish related article at least every other day. In addition to them articles which discuss matters not initially to do with Israel often contain some reference to Israeli intentions and it does not take very long for the comments pages to feature postings accusing Israel of mis-deeds somewhere or the other (the monitoring process is good but I see what I see ………………. Israel this Israel that again and again). When compared to Iraq and Afghanistan events in Israel are ‘very small beer’ to UK citizens. British soldiers are not dying there, British people go there for business trips, holidays and do what they do in places such as Europe or the Far East…..
I would be grateful if the Guardian would publish a table of articles published with links to connected fields – much in the same way that each Cif profile lists related subjects.
Now, “In any case, even if you could come up with a legitimate reason for saying that our coverage of I/P in particular was excessive, my response is that no one forces you to be here and nothing obliges you to comment on the fact that you lack the capacity to distinguish between one article and another ‘because there are so many of them’.”
Matt this sounds like you are saying to me: – “if you don’t like it here you can go elsewhere” + – “You don’t have to comment on things you don’t understand”.
Telling people they can go elsewhere is polite way of saying ‘I don’t want to hear that’ (emphasis mine) and the my (sic)comment about the article was that it was fairly pointless to publish it and it merely added to the large volume of Israel related articles (which must regularly pass by your screen).
I think you are worthy of delivering a better kind of comment.
And Seaton’s reply to this very polite criticism? Why, very predictably and much later down the thread he bottles out. Note how Seaton says that it is a shame that they are losing sight of Lerman’s thread when his lame attempts to defend criticism of Lerman’s views and the GWV have been instrumental in derailing it. Note also that posts have been deleted for being off-topic:
Readers may agree that there is very little to lose sight of. Seaton has not yet “come back” to BorisOnishchenko at the time of writing this article. Interestingly none of Seaton’s posts have been deleted for being off-topic:
However, I am more teased by:
- the fact that Seaton is such a presence in this thread
- from whence comes this obvious need to rescue Lerman?
- why cannot Lerman defend his own arguments, such as they are?
Is it unrealistic to believe, given the comments by BorisOnishchenko, Bananachips and SimonFunkal, (who are probably the tip of the iceberg), that the tide is turning for CiF and people are becoming tired of its anti-Israel obsession? Does CiF realise this at some level, and is this why Seaton has once again been thrust out into the forefront to do his inadequate best to defend the GWV?
Heaven help CiF if he is the best they can offer.