Thursday, April 14, 2016

Who is the 'Guardian' Guarding? 1

Spot the odd one out:

"Writers who touch on tricky subjects - race, gender, Israel, migration... can often find themselves on the receiving end of abuse and agenda trolling as well as reasoned debate and criticism."

That's the Guardian's 'executive editor for audience,' Mary Hamilton, writing in a February 1 opinion piece, Online comments: we want to be responsible hosts. The fact that Israel is included in Hamilton's list is highly revealing of the Guardian mindset. While one can fully understand her concern about racist (including anti-Semitic) and sexist comments, and the need to give these the flick, the inclusion of Israel in the list suggests that, for the Guardian, anti-Zionism is as unacceptable as racism and sexism, a clearly absurd proposition.

So when the notice This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn't abide by our community standards appears (as it too often does) in comment threads involving Israel, you can be sure that the Guardian is trying to shield Israel from trenchant criticism.

I cannot, of course, prove it but I imagine that most of the censored comments on these threads either contain words such as 'apartheid,' 'ethnic cleansing,' or 'supremacist,' question the legitimacy of Israel as an ethno-religious 'Jewish' state, or reject that quintessential Zionist construct, 'the Jewish people' (as opposed to Jews, believers or lapsed).

This is why I simply do not believe the Guardian when it claims, at least with reference to Israel, that "[w]e recognise the difference between criticising a particular government, organisation or belief and attacking people on the based on their race [and] religion..."

Just who are the Guardian's faceless moderators? What are their qualifications and biases? It is entirely conceivable that, at best, they simply do not have the knowledge base to rule comments on Israel in or out, while at worst, they may harbor, to one degree or another, a host of Zionist prejudices and misconceptions.

No wonder then that the Guardian's readers are unhappy. Here, for example, is JohnnyCK's response to another piece by Mary Hamilton, The Guardian wants to engage with readers, but how we do it needs to evolve (9/4/16):

"So, ah, I just got moderated on the Guardian for the first time. I'm a bit shocked. It wasn't because I insulted someone or attacked a journalist or flame baited or trolled. I attempted to explain my position on Israel and I must have said something the moderators didn't like. I didn't say anything antisemitic or inflammatory... I tried to be very even-handed in what I said. I wasn't totally pro-Israel though, which I guess is the problem. I'm not thin-skinned online., but I'm very taken aback by how my statement was moderated in this instance. It's given me real pause over whether I want to keep using this newspaper."

That highlighted sentence says it all.


Grappler said...

The Guardian has been pro-Israel to a greater or lesser extent for a very long time. Its editor and owner, C.P. Scott, for nearly 60 years between 1872 and 1929 (owner only since 1907) according to Wikipedia, was a supporter of the Balfour Declaration.

The Manchester Guardian was a provincial newspaper at the time, and Manchester had a significant and affluent Jewish community with connections to the cotton industry, though I don't know whether that had any effect on Scott.

The Guardian has been ambivalent about Israel; its support for it runs counter to its otherwise liberal views.

Jonathan Freedland, who is (or was) the Executive Editor, apparently, seems to have a significant influence.

On the other hand Katherine Viner, the Editor-in-Chief, co-edited the play "My Name is Rachel Corrie".

I'd welcome some elucidation on the relative roles of these two.

Anonymous said...

But isn't Zionism a quintessential Jewish construct? Of the Jews, for the Jews (only) believers or lapsed alike?

MERC said...

Political Zionism is a nationalist ideology based on a corruption of Judaism. Before its construction in the late 19th century, Jews had no material designs on Palestine.

Grappler, it's the UK's Jonathan Freedland who calls the shots at the Guardian, there and here.

Grappler said...

That's what I thought MERC but it's not portrayed that way - at least from my cursory reading. Perhaps Viner is a front - "How can you say we're pro-Zionist when we have KV as the Editor-in-Chief?" The Guardian was never that unbiased in ME matters but it has become very much worse since Rusbridger left.

Grappler said...

There's a great piece on the new Guardian comment policy at Off Guardian.