Guardian creates storm by appointing anti-Palestinian Republican to its US team
UPDATED:This posting has 6 items:
1) Guardian announcement The Guardian adds Josh Treviño to growing US team;
2) Ali Abunimah New Guardian team member openly incited Israel to murder Alice Walker and others;
3) Trevino responds My 2011 Gaza flotilla tweet: a clarification;
4) Daily Beast The Upside Down Attack on Josh Treviño;
5) Tikun Olam Arab-Hating Pro-Israel Flack Takes Pride of Place at Guardian;
6) Al Jazeera The Guardian, rightwing pro-Israeli and US market;
Josh Treviño at the Guardian’s ‘Post-Truth Politics & The Media’s Role’ discussion at The LongView Gallery on May 1, 2012 in Washington, DC. Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Guardian
The Guardian adds Josh Treviño to growing US team
By Guardian US, guardian.co.uk
August 15, 2012
Today the Guardian announced the addition of Josh Treviño to its commentary team in the United States. Formerly of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Treviño will be the newest commentator for the Guardian’s growing US politics team through his column On Politics & Persuasion which launches on Monday 20 August.
“We are pleased to have Josh join the Guardian,” said Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of the Guardian US. “He brings an important perspective our readers look for on issues concerning US politics,” added Gibson.
Treviño’s background spans from speechwriting for the Bush administration to conceiving and co-founding RedState. Treviño is also a writer-at-large for the magazine Texas Monthly.
Treviño said: “Joining the Guardian as a US politics commentator is a tremendous honor, and I genuinely look forward to engaging with the savvy, informed, and active global community of Guardian readers. My background in communications and activism has given me insight into what works and what doesn’t in the digital age. The Guardian works, largely because of its forward-looking strategy of comprehensive reader engagement that is rooted in an ethic of intellectual openness. Joining the Guardian is a privilege.”
Last month the Guardian announced that Glenn Greenwald would be joining its US commentary team from Salon. Treviño and Greenwald bring their distinctive voices to a strong team of political and cultural commentators that includes Ana Marie Cox, Michael Wolff and Naomi Wolf.
By Ali Abunimah, Electonic Intifada
August 15, 2012
In a sad sign of its deterioration, The Guardian has hired a new contributor who openly called on the Israeli army to kill Americans sailing to Gaza, including Pulitzer prize-winning author Alice Walker and Kindertransport refugee Hedy Epstein.
In a statement on its website the newspaper says:
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.
“We are pleased to have Josh join the Guardian,” said Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of the Guardian US. “He brings an important perspective our readers look for on issues concerning US politics,” added Gibson.
Calls for murder
Apparently, one of those “perspectives” is that those who disagree with Treviño should be brutally murdered.
In June 2011, as several dozen Americans, including Walker and Epstein attempted to set sail from Greece to Gaza, to break Israel’s blockade along with boats from other countries,Treviño tweeted, “Dear IDF: If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla – well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me.”
25 Jun 11
“IDF” is Israel’s initialism for the Israeli army. At the time, the Israeli army was itself inciting against Walker and other Americans, calling them a “threat to Israel.” Treviño’s initial call to murder was directed at journalist Joseph Dana, before Treviño asserted that Israel would be right to kill all flotilla passengers.
Treviño, who served on the advisory board of the extreme anti-Palestinian group Act for Israel, also endorsed a call to “sink the flotilla” likening it to a “Nazi convoy” and the Americans on board to “Al Qaeda.”
Not morally different from a Nazi convoy, is it? RT@KurtSchlichter: Sink the #flotilla. Enough screwing around with these psychos.
25 Jun 11
When challenged about his apparent call on Israel to kill fellow Americans, Treviño doubled down, affirming “Sure, if they adhere to our enemies. Flotilla participants do.” (25 June 11)
It is entirely my responsibility as a writer that my Twitter statement about American activists on the Gaza flotilla was misunderstood
By Josh Treviño, US News blog, guaurdian.co.uk
August 16, 2012
The imperative for all of us who care about politics is not merely to have sound ideas, but to convey them soundly. Few meet either standard well, and that is simply the human condition. Yet the burden on me to that end is immeasurably more than that upon the average person: I write for a living, I communicate professionally and, debatably, I have some effect on policy and politics in my sphere. So when I fail, it tends to be noisily.
A sterling example came on 25 June 2011, when I posted this on Twitter:
“Dear IDF: If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla – well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me.”
I realise that this statement left a sizable number of people appalled that I, by their reading, urged the Israeli Defense Force to shoot Americans participating in the second incarnation of the Gaza flotilla.
I urged no such thing. I intended no such thing. But sufficient numbers believe I did, and in cases of widespread misapprehension of meaning, the fault always lies with the writer.
The Gaza flotilla of 2011 was a follow-up to the first one in 2010, in which a collection of activists sought to run the Israeli maritime blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Though their proclaimed intent was merely to facilitate movement of consumer goods by sea, those goods already circulate, albeit imperfectly, through Gaza’s land borders with Israel and Egypt. The primary outcome would have been the opening of Gaza’s port to the commerce of war: Hamas would have been able to resume uninspected seaborne shipments of arms and ammunition from Iran and elsewhere. (The most famous incident in this vein, the Karine A affair of 2002, was merely one of many.)
In this light, the Gaza flotillas sought to render aid to a known terrorist group – and, in my view, its participants were morally complicit in that. Moreover, in these circumstances, Israel was within its rights to prevent the breach of its blockade and to defend itself by force, if necessary, in so doing.
This wasn’t simply my interpretation. Two days before my tweet, on 23 June, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the following in a press conference at the department of state:
[W]e do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza … [W]e think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.
This was interpreted by pro-Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah as “seem[ing] to lay the ground – indeed almost provide a green light – for an Israeli military attack” on the Gaza flotilla, and he was likely correct. The unmistakable corollary of Secretary Clinton’s statement was that any American citizens participating in the flotilla were on their own, and that the United States government would not intervene if they placed themselves in harm’s way. In a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder five days later, Texas Governor Rick Perry, then on the cusp of his presidential candidacy, went a step further, and urged that Americans participating in the flotilla be actively prosecuted.
If there is a definition of “mainstream” in America’s partisan political life, it probably looks something like a position held from the highest levels of the Obama administration to the Office of the Governor of Texas. It is also worth noting that Americans historically take a dim view of their fellow citizens who render aid to their country’s enemies – among whom most Americans would count Islamist terror groups like Hamas. The Obama administration’s targeted killing policy has itself extended to US citizens allied with terrorists, as in Yemen.
So what I intended to convey, then, was exactly what Hillary Clinton, Rick Perry, and the broad sweep of American opinion historically affirms: that US citizens on the Gaza flotilla of 2011 were responsible for their own fate, and that Americans utterly out of sympathy with their de facto assistance to a terror group would not be moved if the worst befell them.
That is what I intended. It is not what I accomplished.
In the ensuing Twitter back-and-forth with multiple outraged interlocutors, I focused on defending the rational integrity of my case – without pausing to consider that it was badly marred by its lack of rhetorical integrity. In succeeding, to my mind, in the sphere of argument, I missed the point: which is to succeed in the sphere of communication. Winning a process victory means little if no one else is convinced. My approach was tailor-made for the Romney campaign, perhaps, but not for the real world.
Instead, the widespread impression has arisen that I actively urged the IDF to shoot Americans, that I welcomed their death, or that I hoped for that outcome. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I own that I am combative, aggressive, and direct, yes: often intentionally so. I have also lived a life that has attempted, if imperfectly, to render service to my fellow citizens, including by military service and participation in humanitarian aid projects. Above all, I have worked for policies and a society that I believe gives the most hope to the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized: a society of liberty, in the classical liberal sense, that now goes by the name of conservatism.
None of this is to claim I’ve lived a life of especial virtue. I haven’t. But it is to affirm that any reading of my tweet of 25 June 2011 that holds that I applauded, encouraged, or welcomed the death of fellow human beings, is wrong, and out of step with my life and record.
Any such reading is also my fault.
I do not apologize for my views or my ideology. We must walk in the light we are given as best we may. But for giving the impression that I welcome killing, I do apologize. I was quick, intemperate, and too clever-by-half. I failed as a writer. And that is not the fault of my readers, but of myself.
Joshua Treviño’s first column for Guardian US on Republican politics will appear on Monday.
By David Frum, The Daily Beast
August 17, 2012
M.J. Rosenberg is a writer who—though himself of Jewish origin—regularly uses anti-Semitically loaded language to attack Israel and its defenders.
(See Commentary’s Alana Goodman for a review of Rosenberg’s record.)
Now he has a new target: Josh Treviño, co-founder of RedState.com and a newly hired columnist for the UK’s Guardian newspaper. On hearing news of the hiring, Rosenberg tweeted: “Trevino is every Jew’s nightmare.Protest to Guardian. Creepy white racist.”
And what is the affront that qualifies Treviño as “every Jew’s nightmare”? His defense of Israel!
Seth Mandel in Commentary:
In fact, one of the reasons people like Rosenberg and some of his more viciously anti-Zionist allies in this crusade against Treviño—like Ali Abunimah, whose site has gleefully compared Jews to Nazis—is that Treviño is not only an admirer, though not a practitioner, of the Jewish faith, but he’s also a staunch, unapologetic defender of Israel. And here we get to the crux of the “fire Treviño” bandwagon.
Treviño was among the vast majority of Americans to stand up for Israel’s right of self-defense against the “flotilla” movement seeking to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Since the first such flotilla included a terrorist-funded boat full of armed extremists who tried to kill Israeli soldiers, Treviño was on fairly solid ground here—and most Americans felt the same way.
You can agree or disagree with Israel’s blockade—which even the United Nations declared was legal—but Treviño held a majority opinion (at least in the United States) and has nothing to apologize for.
There are a lot of Jews in the universe defined by “every Jew,” but there can’t be many of us who regard our friends as “nightmares”—or who regard those who pander to anti-Semites as our friends or champions.
[David Frum is a former economic speechwriter for President George W. Bush and serves on the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition.]
By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
August 17, 2012
I’ve been reading with interest that the Guardian has appointed two new blogger-columnists, one of whom makes perfect sense and the other just makes me scratch my head and say: Huh? They are Glenn Greenwald and Josh Treviño. Greenwald of course is a fighting tiger of the progressive blog world. He’s a great catch for The Guardian. But Treviño?
I can understand the desire to balance Greenwald’s progressive fusillades with a conservative equivalent, but Treviño is a creep of the lowest order. Ali Abunimah has exposed his homicidal rantings against the American contingent in the Gaza Freedom flotilla (which included Nobel laureate, Alice Walker):
Dear IDF: If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla — well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me.
Thanks to Jesus’ General for that one, who notes that using this logic Josh would’ve encouraged the El Salvadoran death squads to murder American nuns (which they did). In this tweet, the right-wing incendiary likened the Flotilla to a “Nazi convoy:”
Not morally different from a Nazi convoy, is it? RT @KurtSchlichter: Sink the #flotilla. Enough screwing around with these psychos.
By the way, I could offer the link to these tweets a few days ago, but after his shellacking at the hands of Abunimah, Treviño has rather foolishly decided to put the evidence behind a protective barrier. You can only see his tweets now if you’re within his trusted inner circle. He doesn’t want anyone snooping through his rancid racist garbage. Perhaps wisely so.
To be clear, I don’t have a problem with someone supporting Israeli policy, even the Gaza siege, as long as they do so using reasonable rhetoric that eschews terms like “Nazi” and incitement to murder. There are those who can do this and if the Guardian wanted a conservative commentator it could’ve found such a person. But it went instead for a flamboyant, ranting showman. It wanted a slightly more cultured, domesticated version of Anne Coulter. And it got one, with a vengeance.
MJ Rosenberg has also tweeted about Treviño’s white supremacist public statements.
The former Texas Republican PR flack also tries to hide his client list from those years. From this Malaysian political blog, it would appear that the ruling Malaysian political party was once one of his clients. That’s the only way to explain an odd series of posts and columns in Huffington Post and Washington Times which attempted to argue that the ruling party’s prosecution of the leading Opposition political leader, Anwar Ibrahim, for sodomy, was justified. Since Treviño’s PR flackery also includes lots of spinning on behalf of pro-Israel clients, he appears to have won the Daily Double in attacking Ibrahim for being not just a Sodomite, but an anti-Semite.
A few years ago, a friend asked me whether he should consider joining a pro-Israel junket being organized by Treviño under the rubric of Act for Israel [see below]. I did some research (didn’t know much about Treviño at that point) and offered my opinion that it was a pro-Israel shill group. What was clever of Treviño was that he was inviting a group of progressive writers and bloggers to join an all-expense paid trip to Israel during the imbroglio over the Carmel fires. You’ll recall this natural disaster also involved massive unpreparedness of Israel’s civil authorities, including firefighters (no firefighting planes), which led to 40 unnecessary deaths including Haifa’s fire chief.
Under those particular circumstances, Israel’s friends thought it was imperative to co-opt a group of liberal writers to sing Israel’s praises. What I found astonishing about Treviño’s come-on to the group was his promise that he could offer side-trips to Gaza and the Lebanese border. It’s beyond odd that Treviño could promise an American journalist a trip to Gaza. Either he doesn’t know anything about the situation in Gaza (likely) or he was flat-out lying (possible).
Even before beginning his tenure at the Guardian as a formal columnist was forced to inaugurate it with a twisted partial mea culpathat was in itself a sack of lies. You read one of his disgusting tweets above. Here’s how he speaks today of what he wrote then:
…Any reading of my tweet of 25 June 2011 that holds that I applauded, encouraged, or welcomed the death of fellow human beings, is wrong…
Excuse me? This is like the cheating husband caught in flagrante delecto and saying: “Who’re you gonna believe? Me or your lyin’ eyes?” Well my lyin’ eye knows homicidal racism when I see it. You simply can’t lie it away as he has here.
Unfortunately, what the Guardian has bought here is a racist sack of garbage. A guy who’ll pretty up homophobic scare tactics for enough money. Someone who’ll politically pimp for Israel if the price is right. Sure, you can say he’s shed his former clients and now he’s an honest man. But who would believe that? Perhaps a Guardian editor…
Hiring Joshua Treviño, who endorsed the killing of Gaza flotilla members, is a worrying step for journalism.
By Ali Abunimah, Al Jazeera
August 18, 2012
Something has gone badly wrong at The Guardian. In the name of “robust debate”, 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. What lies behind this worrying development, and what does it tell us about the state of media in general?
On 15 August, the Guardian announced the hiring of Joshua Treviño as a correspondent with the paper’s US politics team. Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of the Guardian US, said that Treviño would bring “an important perspective” to readers.
Treviño is a Republican party operative, paid political consultant and ideologue for hire. But while some may not like those attributes, they would not make him unique among columnists. What does distinguish Treviño is his propensity to call for violence.
Endorsing the killing of unarmed civilians
In June 2011, as several boats carrying unarmed civilian activists attempted to set sail from ports in southern Europe to break the blockade of Gaza, Treviño tweeted out a message to the Israeli army: “Dear IDF: If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla – well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me.”
When another Twitter user called on Israel to “sink the flotilla”, Treviño chimed in that the effort to reach Gaza was “not morally different from a Nazi convoy”. A third Twitter user asked Treviño point blank if he was “Endorsing killing Americans overseas,” and Treviño left no room for doubt: “Sure, if they adhere to our enemies. Flotilla participants do.”
Among the passengers, 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.
I’ll lay my cards on the table. I had many friends and colleagues who travelled on these and previous boats, and I do take calls for their murder personally. And Treviño knew that a year earlier, Israeli forces had shot dead nine unarmed civilians attempting the same journey aboard the Mavi Marmara.
The Guardian responds
I wrote to the Guardian’s editors, including Gibson, sharing with them a blog post I published expressing outrage that they would hire a columnist who “who openly called on the Israeli army to kill Americans”.
I also asked the editors if they had been aware of Treviño’s violent statements – and whether publicly calling for the killing of those whose positions you disagree with is merely another opinion we are bound to respect and tolerate.
The response was disappointing. “We have long held that a range of voices is one of the great assets of The Guardian’s comment section” the company’s press office said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to the open and robust debate that we are sure will follow between Josh and Guardian readers,” the statement added.
The press office also sent me the link to a piece Treviño wrote – no doubt at the urging of his new bosses – to counter the growing outrage over his calls to kill flotilla passengers.
Disingenuous and dishonest
Treviño’s response, titled “My 2011 Gaza flotilla tweet: a clarification” (notably not an apology or retraction) is a disingenuous and risible piece of spin in which he further maligns flotilla passengers as seeking to “render aid to their country’s enemies” and implies that Gaza’s entire population of 1.6 million – half of them children – amounted to a “terrorist group”.
He argued that the words in his tweets did not mean what they plainly mean and that readers had just misunderstood.
Treviño claimed he wasn’t calling for flotilla passengers’ deaths, but merely saying that it is “mainstream” opinion that if Israel killed US citizens aboard the boats, it would have been their own fault. “Any reading of my tweet of 25 June 2011 that holds that I applauded, encouraged, or welcomed the death of fellow human beings, is wrong, and out of step with my life and record,” Treviño wrote, “I do not apologize for my views or my ideology.”
Who is Treviño kidding? He never managed to explain away his tweets actively endorsing sinking the flotilla and killing fellow Americans – whom he deemed “enemies” just because they tried to sail to Gaza.
Nor did he address the fact that, a year earlier, as the first reports of the massacre aboard the Mavi Marmara came in, he tweeted:
“Whether you’re for the #flotilla or against it, we can all agree on one thing: its dead are with Rachel Corrie now.”
This was a sneering reference to the American student and solidarity activist killed by Israeli occupation forces in Gaza in 2003 while attempting to block the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home.
“Let me be clear: even if the worst reports of Israeli actions on the #flotilla are true – and I doubt that – Israel is still right,” Treviño added. Treviño did not need to wait for any additional facts before concluding that Israel was right, because in his eyes Israel is always right.
Neither was that apparent glee at the killing of unarmed civilians out of step with Treviño’s record when it came to Iraq. In 2007, Treviño had called on the United States to follow the example of the colonial British in Africa during the Boer War of the early 1900s.
“The British achieved victory over the Boers by taking their women and children away to concentration camps” and “by laying waste to the countryside,” Treviño wrote admiringly, and suggested the US apply similar tactics to quash resistance in occupied Iraq.
That tens of thousands of men, women and children died was no deterrent; “Make no mistake: those means were cruel,” Treviño wrote, “I have stated previously that I endorse cruel things in war.”
And there’s the small matter of hypocrisy. If trying to break the siege of Gaza, or endorsing those who do, amounts to complicity in supporting terrorism, as Treviño wrote, then Treviño himself has accepted employment from supporters of terrorism since The Guardian’s own editors strongly condemned Israel’s lethal attack on the Mavi Marmara – placing responsibility for the bloodshed “entirely” on Israel.
CP Scott, The Guardian’slegendary editor from 1872 to 1929, famously coined the phrase: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” What would he make of Treviño’s misleading responses?
What’s happening to The Guardian?
A colleague suggested that, by hiring Treviño, The Guardian was returning to its Zionist roots – indeed it had long championed the cause of Israel and Zionist settlement in Palestine. That might be true incidentally, however the motive appears to be something more mundane, but just as worrying for public discourse.
The Guardian has been losing tens of millions of dollars annually as its print circulation – like that of other newspapers – collapses. While it has an enormous and growing online audience, it has yet to find a way to sustainably generate revenue from it.
In an in-depth article in The New Statesman in May, Peter Wilby examined The Guardian’s risky new strategy to try to turn things around, including a massive expansion in the United States.
To stop the losses that threaten to bankrupt parent company Guardian News and Media within a few years, its business plan calls for income from online advertising to double to $140 million by 2016.
Yet, as Wilby observes, “nobody is sure that website advertising and other digital income” can replace print advertising which still accounts for 75 percent of the company’s revenue, “particularly as a left-liberal brand is an uneasy host to much consumer advertising.”
The solution, it seems, is to move rightwards in search of new audiences. “If, for example, the website’s American traffic reached 40 million, it would make it on to the schedules of major advertising agencies,” Wilby explains.
The rightward shift already has already begun in the UK. “To show that the paper was moving out of its left-wing niche,” Wilby says, editor Alan Rusbridger “recruited the former [London] Times editor Simon Jenkins and the former Telegrapheditor Max Hastings as columnists.”
Treviño is merely a harbinger of things to come. If, in the search for revenue, open calls for murder are now to be excused as merely “robust debate”, and purveyors of such views legitimised as members of editorial staff, then The Guardian too will need to accept responsibility for whatever such ugly and violent discourse brings.
The future of media
The Guardian is not alone in struggling to make the transition from print to financially sustainable online platforms. Going down the Fox News “Fair and Balanced” path is one response that effectively, if not explicitly, subjects journalism to the demands of advertisers and accountants, rather than integrity and accountability to the audience.
Another approach is simply to have limitless resources pouring out of the ground in the form of oil and gas revenues, but that is not a model that produces much accountability either. As recent criticism of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya by Sultan Al-Qassemi demonstrates, media sponsored by rulers or states is too easily swayed by personal or foreign policy agendas.
Even the BBC, once staunchly independent, now appears much more susceptible to pressure and criticism from the British government.
Is it commentary or public relations copy?
Another problem – which Treviño’s hiring also neatly illustrates – is the blurring of commentary and journalism with public relations copy at the expense of transparency.
According to The Guardian’s own editorial code, journalists and commentators must disclose outside work and organisational affiliations that could pose a conflict of interest.
Treviño, as has been disclosed, works as a paid consultant to Republican candidates for elected office. But there’s much more readers deserve to know.
In July 2011, Treviño was caught in a curious controversy where a website in Malaysia accused him and another US blogger of running a website named Malaysia Matters, allegedly secretly paid for by Malaysia’s prime minister and another politician in order to improve their image.
Treviño told reporter Ben Smith, then of Politico, that the story was “completely false”. But Smith stated that Treviño “misdirected” him.
While Smith was unable to get to the bottom of the murky financial arrangements behind Malaysia Matters, he revealed that, in 2008, Treviño had approached a number of prominent US bloggers, “offering them a free ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ Malaysian junket, paid for, he [Treviño] said in an email at the time, by business interests associated with Malaysian politics.”
When challenged on this rather odd activity for a journalist, Treviño wrote to Smith: “I also offer people paid trips to Israel” – as if that were the most normal thing in the world for a blogger to do.
Do Treviño’s new bosses at The Guardian know this? Do they know on whose behalf Treviño – a former member of the advisory board of Act for Israel – is writing? And more importantly, are they planning to tell their readers?
Ali Abunimah is author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. He is a co-founder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada and a policy adviser with Al-Shabaka.
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