Assange, Treviño, and the Limits of Debate in the Corporate Press

Glenn Greenwald, freshly hired by the Guardian, brilliantly denounced the British media’s “staggering levels of mutually-reinforcing vindictiveness and groupthink when it’s time to scorn an outsider like Assange.” He didn’t call out Guardian “team members” by name, but Peter Beaumont proved that many Guardian team members had to have been stung by Greenwald’s piece. Beaumont could not resist publicly whining in a tweet:

“@petersbeaumont: another column in the guardian by greenwald telling guardian reporters like me – as well as rest of media – just how crap we all are.” 

Seumas Milne, another Guardian team member, also wrote an excellent piece about Assange’s case that took a gentler swipe at the British media than Greenwald’s whose piece pushed the limits of acceptable dissent a little farther.

How much farther could Greenwald have gone? I think not much farther at all without resigning from the Guardian in disgust or getting fired.  Is that a big deal? Are the limits imposed by working for an outlet like the Guardian significant? I believe yes is the answer to both questions as the case of Joshua Treviño illustrates.

The Guardian recently announced, quite proudly, that Joshua Treviño had been hired as a Guardian “team member”. In fact, Treviño was said to be a new “correspondent” and member of their “editorial team”.

Thanks to Electronic Intifada and others, the Guardian was soon bombarded with outraged complaints about Treviño having used his Twitter account in 2011 to call on the Israeli Defence Forces to murder of Alice Walker and other Gaza Flotilla activists. Treviño had tweeted

Dear IDF: If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla – well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me

The Guardian soon published Treviño’s idiotic “clarification” of that depraved tweet:

It also appears that the Guardian may have demoted Treviño from “correspondent” and part of its “editorial team” to its “commentary team”:

It then emerged that Treviño had also tweeted the following shortly after Israel murdered nine activists on the Mavi Marmara:

“After examining the facts of the flotilla, I condemn Israel:  For being too nice, too soft, too accomodating to the scum of the earth.”

To my knowledge, no “clarification” has yet been posted by the Guardian or Treviño.

One will search in vain for articles by other Guardian “team members” stating the obvious about Treviño and their bosses who hired him. The Guardian tried to defend Treviño’s hiring by claiming a desire for a “plurality” of views. However, judging by the total absence of any articles by Guardian team members about Treviño’s deranged outbursts, plurality isn’t valued at all. Is the Guardian team virtually unanimous in their support for, or indifference to, Treviño’s hiring or to what he said? No strong feelings at all from such an otherwise very opinionated group?

The lack of open dissent by Guardian writers over Treviño is not even the most damning example of the steep price that must be paid by anyone who writes for the corporate press.

The Guardian hosted an op-ed by a perpetrator of genocide on its Comment is Free website.

As in the case of Treviño, the extremely opinionated Guardian team, whose faux radical members have made sleazy accusations of “genocide denial” against the Left (and had the gall to pose a brave dissidents within the “movement” while doing so),  were not prompted to write any articles when a perpetrator of genocide was given a platform by their employer.

People can reasonably argue that the compromises required to get access to a large audience via outlets like the Guardian are justified. What cannot be reasonably argued is that the costs of those compromises are trivial.

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