TCS Daily

Blog Bites Man

By Val MacQueen - July 29, 2005 12:00 AM

I recently wrote in TCS that the house organ of Britain's socialist chatterati, The Guardian, had hired itself a trophy terrorist sympathizer. I reported the unmasking of a "trainee journalist" who was a member of the Islamo-fascist group Hiz ut-Tahir. This is a radical organization banned throughout most of Europe and much of the Middle East, although it is legal in Britain. Trainee Dilpazier Aslam was writing features about terrorism for The Guardian with his connections to a notorious terrorist propagandist never revealed to the reader, who thought he was reading dispassionate, factual accounts.

Scott Burgess' conservative/libertarian blog The Daily Ablution specializes in monitoring and commenting on some of the loonier aspects of Britain's leftist press: The Guardian, The Independent and The Observer. Burgess read some of Aslam's pieces -- in which the trainee wrote that he considered today's British-born Muslims "sassy" and wrote that today's young British terrorists "aren't afraid to rock the boat" -- and smelled a rat. Background work revealed not only was the trainee a member of Hiz ut-Tahir, but he had previous journalistic experience of writing for its bloodthirsty magazine which specializes in incitement to harm Jews and also mandates the re-establishment of the Caliphate. Burgess wrote to The Guardian asking whether the paper's editors knew of Aslam's affiliations and, if they did, why they did not share this information with people who were innocently reading his pieces as objective journalism.

Two or three letters failed to get a reply from the haughty Guardian, but fellow traveler The Independent, spotting an opportunity to embarrass its rival, picked up the ball and ran with it. Meanwhile, The Guardian kept its head down and hoped everything would blow over. But what blew over was a storm of indignation from some of Britain's best known bloggers. The story developed legs and The Guardian finally capitulated by sacking Aslam. The editors announced they had given him the option to resign from Hiz ut-Tahir, but he had declined and chosen to leave The Guardian instead. Snubbed by a terrorist sympathizer! It doesn't get much worse and the paper threw itself into an almighty, self-exculpatory snit.

Pride stung, instead of accepting that it had been revealed to be utterly bereft of such ethics as we journalists claim to have and apologizing to its readers, it went to work on a snide trashing of Burgess, referring to him, as "someone who stays indoors a lot". It also made the Hillar-esque claim to have been the victim of a vast right wing bloggers' conspiracy. Except, one of Burgess's staunchest allies throughout this episode had been Harry's Place, a literate, universally well-regarded left-leaning blog.

Meanwhile, as The Independent giggled into its tea and the BBC declined to report the story even after it got into the mainstream media, The Guardian cattily mentioned a letter of application for an advertised position of trainee journalist it had received from Burgess previously. The Guardian ascribed his uncovering the Hiz ut-Tahrir story to bitterness that Dilpazier Aslam won the job. This occasioned immediate merriment among Daily Ablution readers as Burgess had run the letter, an obvious spoof, much earlier on his blog. In reply to the question asking what he felt he could contribute to The Guardian reader, Burgess said he hoped to dispel a curious sense of negativity about America, and responded to other questions along similar lines. He had closed by asking his readers, "How soon do you think I can expect a reply?"

By now, nationally known journalists had perked up and were writing their own takes on the story, among them The Times' Stephen Pollard on his own blog under the title "Scott Burgess -- all British hero" -- intentionally ironic as Burgess is an American living in London -- and conservative Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips on her own blog (titled "Him indoors v 'staff reporter' ") reported Burgess's funny fisking of The Guardian's self-justifying apologia.

No matter how The Guardian now tries to downplay its lofty disregard for Aslam's primary allegiance (and its readers in not identifying him), it cannot deny that it ran a story on Hiz ut-Tahrir last November in which it terms the organization "Britain's most radical Islamic group".

The story has now crossed the English Channel and the French are in on the act, with an article in Libération, which leads with, "Aslam was a victim of an extreme rightwing blogger." In the Libération piece though, The Guardian suddenly claims it was about to dismiss Aslam anyway.

News just in: The Daily Ablution can claim its second scalp for Burgess's work the on Sassygate scandal. The Guardian's executive editor for news, Albert Scardino, has just resigned according to Burgess. Burgess reports that his source at The Guardian said Scardino's position had become "untenable" due to the split between Aslam's supporters and those who wanted him gone. Editor Alan Rushbridger has conceded that this affair and its internal repercussions constitute "a significant crisis for the paper".

And still in there punching, the scandal-rocked Dilpazier Aslam is considering legal action. Against whom, and on what grounds, we have not yet been privileged to hear.

The author is a TCS contributing writer living in Europe.

* Due to an editorial oversight, an earlier version of this article suggested the Independent failed to credit Burgess properly. The Indy did so in one piece, but not another. TCS regrets the error.


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