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March 3, 2002

But who observes the observers? Charlie Stross, whose weblog has moved, wrote a while ago to point out that the Guardian actually publishes a much more diverse range of views than one might think from reading ticked-off post-9/11 American webloggers:
Basically, the Grauniad’s editorial team are collectively woolly-minded. Which is fine by me, because they’re much more likely to slip up and publish stuff that goes against their own prejudices than a tightly-focussed attack newspaper.
In support of this, Charlie points to two pieces (here and here) that address contemporary anti-Semitism rather more thoughtfully than the leader that originally ticked me off. To which I might add this more recent, and very hard-hitting, piece by Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth:
9Anti-semitism is so emotive a topic that it helps to perform a 9thought experiment. Suppose someone were to claim that there is a 9form of prejudice called anti-kiwism, an irrational hatred of New 9Zealanders. What might convince us he was right? Criticism of the 9New Zealand government? No. A denial of New Zealand’s right to 9exist? Maybe. Seven thousand terrorist attacks on New Zealand 9citizens in the past year? Possibly. A series of claims at the UN 9Conference against Racism in Durban that New Zealand, because of its 9treatment of the Maori, is uniquely guilty of apartheid, ethnic 9cleansing and crimes against humanity, accompanied by grotesque 9Nazi-style posters? Perhaps. 9

9A call to murder all those with New Zealand loyalties even though 9they were born and live elsewhere? A suggestion that New Zealanders 9control the world’s economy? That they are responsible for AIDS and 9poisoning water supplies? That they arranged the September 11 attack 9on the World Trade Centre? That they are a satanic force of evil 9against whom a holy war must be fought? By now we have moved from 9criticism to hatred to evil fantasy. But delete “New Zealand” and 9insert “Israel” and “Jews”, and all these things have happened in 9the past year. What more has to happen before an impartial observer 9concludes that anti-semitism is alive and well and dangerous?

Certainly the Guardian can be relied on to provide a continuous stream of occasions for takedowns like James Lileks’s now-world-famous Olive Garden piece, or Gary Farber’s highly entertaining demolition, just this morning, of Mary Riddell. But Charlie is right to point out that this has more to do with the sheer number and diversity of their opinion-piece contributors than with any grim editorial program. I’ve criticized the quality of British journalism a lot on this weblog, but one thing I’ll say for the best UK broadsheets is that they routinely present a wider range of opinions, marked as opinion, than all but a very few American papers; and the Guardian’s range is probably the widest. [12:20 PM]
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