Founded as the Manchester Guardian in 1821, the Guardian – along with the BBC – has long been the flagship of the British left, its very name synonymous with socialist politics. It has also, like many newspapers on both sides of the pond, been losing money for years because of competition from the Internet. How to solve this problem? The publishers of another major British paper, the Daily Mail, have addressed it by creating a website that’s lively, colorful, and packed with news stories (many of them sensational human-interest-type stuff) not just from Britain, but from around the world, especially the U.S. As a result the Mail‘s site has acquired a substantial international audience – the readers who post comments are as likely to be in Birmingham, Alabama, as in Birmingham, England – and has become the most heavily trafficked newspaper site in the U.K.
In 2007, the Guardian tried to increase its visibility in the U.S. by means of a special Guardian America subsite, but the project was deemed unsuccessful and was abandoned in 2009. Last year, however, the paper tried again. Unveiling Guardian US, Janine Gibson, editor of the new section, announced that “we’re hiring a new US team of writers, technologists and editors to work with journalists from the UK, to combine the Guardian’s internationalist, digital journalism with American voices and expertise.” Since then, the Guardian has hired a raft of American news commentators. From Naomi Wolf to Glenn Greenwald, they’ve all been leftists. This, of course, is bad business – a newspaper whose readership is sliding rapidly downhill can’t afford to alienate half of its potential audience. Even the New York Times has long made it a policy to have a couple of regular columnists on board whose politics are contrary to those of the editors (though not that contrary – and, in any event, op-ed pages, Book Review and other sections of the Times tend to be more reliably in line with the editors’ worldview).
Such considerations, it must be presumed, explain why the publishers of the Guardian decided to engage the services of Josh Treviño. Treviño is a founder of the Red State blog, which describes itself as “the most widely read right of center blog on Capitol Hill,” “the most often cited right of center blog in the media,” and “one of the most influential voices of the grassroots on the right.” He is also well known as a staunch defender of Israel. The Guardian press release, issued on August 15, read as follows:
Today the Guardian announced the addition of Josh Treviño to their editorial team. Formerly of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Treviño will be the newest Correspondent for the Guardian’s growing US politics team through his column “On Politics & Persuasion” which launches on Monday, August 20.
The response to this announcement was instantaneous – and outraged. Out of nowhere, an anti-Treviño movement emerged, spearheaded by Al Jazeera journalist Ali Abunimah, who on August 15, having apparently combed through Treviño’s oeuvre in search of something that could profitably be highlighted for maximum damage, drew attention, in a posting at his charmingly named Electronic Intifada website, to a 2011 tweet by Treviño that read as follows: “Dear IDF: If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla – well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me.”
Abunimah, of course, read this flippant tweet as a cold-blooded call for murder.
Dozens of Abunimah’s readers at Electronic Intifada posted livid comments. A sampling: “As an American, the reason why I read the Guardian is because I know I will be reading a guaranteed, left wing newspaper….I’m not reading it anymore.” “It’s sickening to see people like this gracing the pages of a well-known publication. N[o] sane and civilised person should condone this.” “This is a sad day for the Guardian’s readership.” “Joshua Treviño is a fascist right winger, and the Guardian is mainstreaming his ideology.” “[The Guardian's] job is to protect Neoliberal capitalism and the status quo by providing a relief valve for centrist liberals- not hardly left.” “The Guardian is done, finished.”
Abunimah wasn’t finished. Identifying Treviño, in an August 18 follow-up piece for Al-Jazeera, as “a Republican party operative” and an “ideologue for hire,” he raged that among the passengers on that flotilla “whose killing by Israel Treviño endorsed” were “poet and author Alice Walker, elderly Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein and several journalists, including Joseph Dana on assignment for The Nation.” Asking “What’s gone wrong at The Guardian?” Abunimah charged that “the venerable left-leaning liberal newspaper has effectively given its stamp of approval to speech that goes beyond mere hate, speech that clearly crosses the line into incitement to murder unarmed civilians and journalists.” As if the point hadn’t already been made, Abunimah underscored Treviño’s “propensity to call for violence.” And just to add to the absurdity of it all, this Al-Jazeera hack raised the dark specter of the Guardian headed down – gasp! – the same path as the dreaded Fox News.
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