The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade explores his inner Jewish problem

One can well imagine how it went down.  Somewhere in fashionable London an i-phone rang.

“Hi Alan, mate. How’s things?”

“Bit of a problem, Roy, I’m afraid. That blog post of yours about the EDL and the Daily Star.”

“What about it? Bloody good, don’t you think?”

“Oh yes, but the JC are onto it and I can’t do with any more hassle from them. Something about the ‘negative view of Muslims’ bit. We’ll have to take it down and you’d better do a statement. You know; the usual – ‘does not reflect my views’ and all that.”

“Oh alright. Look, I’ve got a busy weekend ahead. I’ll give them a bell and put the damper on this before it goes viral. Leave it to me.”

And so yet another revealing slip of the keyboard by the man who turned Helen Thomas into a victimised ‘iconoclast’ and was shocked by the ‘disproportionate’ reaction to her antisemitic statements gets consigned to history with a few mealy-mouthed mumbled words of apology.

Greenslade wrote the following on his blog, in the context of condemning the Daily Star for publishing a cover story highlighting the EDL.  Blaming the Star’s owner, Richard Desmond, Greenslade diagnosed a likely motive, asserting in one remarkably broad stroke:

“Desmond ought to think very carefully about letting the Star use far right politics to build sales. As a Jew, he may well have negative views of Muslims.”

Greenslade later backtracked, stating that his remark was ‘stupid’ and that he did not know ‘what I was thinking’ when he wrote it.

“A contrite Mr Greenslade told the JC he was pleased the line had been taken down. He said: “How stupid. I didn’t meant that and I don’t know what I was thinking.

“It’s contradictory, isn’t it. There I was going on about stereotypes and I immediately stepped into a stereotype.”

Mr Greenslade described the generalisation as was “so far from what I believe” and said he tried to be extremely fair when it came to coverage of sensitive issues of religion.

He added:

“I sometimes wonder at myself.”

But Greenslade is not just some amateur weekend blogger.  He is a professor of journalism at City University in London: a professional for whom words have been the tools of his craft for decades. A man who has reached the pinnacles of journalism has not done so by not knowing what he was thinking when he puts finger to keyboard and Greenslade’s dibbuk-like excuses ring extremely hollow, particularly in light of his previous record on the Helen Thomas affair and other events.

The day after Israeli troops prevented the Mavi Marmara from breaking the naval blockade on Gaza, Greenslade was quick to jump on the Guardian’s bandwagon of biased coverage of the event by parroting Al Jazeera fairy stories on his blog. Unfortunately, his journalistic credentials did not apparently prompt him to check the veracity of statements such as “[h]undreds of Israeli soldiers attacked the flotilla and the captain of our boat is seriously injured.” Neither did he seem to find relevant the fact that one of the Al Jazeera journalists – Jamal El Shayyal – whom Greenslade lauded for the fact that he supposedly ‘beat Israeli censorship’ was formerly a member of several UK organizations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood – the organization behind the flotilla.

The later amended version of Greenslade’s blog post states that “This article was amended on 10 February to remove inappropriate language”, but this is about far more than language. It is about a culture in which neither an experienced journalist nor equally experienced editors are able to recognize antisemitic bigotry and stereotypes even when they write them themselves and so have to be censured by others.

Such a culture does not merely fall unexpectedly from the sky and afflict an otherwise pristine journalist against his will like some seventeenth century-style ‘evil spirit’. It comes from within and Greenslade’s non-event of an apology, which goes nowhere near addressing the real issue, shows just how deeply it is ingrained.

Greenslade may indeed ‘sometimes wonder’ at himself. Some of us stopped wondering long ago; we know exactly what we see. Greenslade is part of a culture which is both offensive and dangerous – one which is tended and irrigated daily on the pages of the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’.

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