Once upon a time, there was a young journalist who went into her chosen profession with an open and enquiring mind, and as a result produced many pieces of well-received work. Then, as the years wore on, something happened to the young journalist’s political compass, and she veered off to the right, renouncing her earlier, principled and liberal work and embracing the most batshit part of the right wing.
Neither fair nor balanced
Now, that young journalist has been long forgotten, and Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips is all that remains, churning out increasingly prejudiced and unhinged copy riddled with conspiracist nonsense. Typical of her recent output is “BBC censorship and the man-made global warming scam”, which promotes climate change denialism and bemoans the Beeb’s reluctance to promote it.
Her screaming intolerance has also provided this gem: “The Kavanaugh confirmation hearings were a key front in America’s increasingly savage culture war - in which the Democratic party has now become a threat to core American values”. So when she was included in the shortlist for the Comment Awards’ “Society and Diversity” gong, it was no surprise to see many reacting with a mix of dismay and ridicule.
Matters came to a head when Nesrine Malik and Gary Younge, who had also been shortlisted for the same award, decided they did not want to be part of this charade, telling “We have withdrawn our names from the Society and Diversity category of the Comment Awards on account of the nomination of Melanie Phillips on the same shortlist. In doing so we would like to draw a clear distinction between those viewpoints with which we disagree and those which we fundamentally object to on account of their bigotry and divisiveness. We believe that Phillips's body of work falls among the latter”.
There was more. “Given her record, shortlisting Phillips not only makes a mockery of the category by devaluing the principles of inclusion and diversity themselves, it also legitimises her offensive attacks on immigrants in general and Muslims in particular. To nominate a columnist who holds such views undermines the integrity of the award itself and so we would rather distance ourselves from it”. But here a problem entered.
Younge and Ms Malik had not wanted to go public, but the organisers of the Comment Awards refused to take their names off the shortlist. Hence their going public. Much of the feedback they received was positive. But lack of impartiality was not slow to kick in.
While Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain simply responded “Heroes”, Owen Jones said more in the same vein with “Gary Younge and Nesrine Malik: two of the best progressive journalists in Britain, withdrawing from the Comment Awards after being shortlisted alongside anti-migrant, anti-Muslim hatemonger Melanie Phillips for the Diversity category. Heroes” and Sunny Hundal contributed “Melanie Phillips is a vile bigot. That she's nominated for this award is a joke itself”, there was one objection.
After former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger mused “Whatever you think of @MelanieLatest as a columnist it’s quite a stretch to see her as a champion of diversity. Understandable that @garyyounge and @NesrineMalik feel this is not a shortlist they want to be in”, David Aaronovitch went off the end of the pier in no style at all.
“Given that she was nominated and the judges shortlisted her as they shortlisted others, what is it that you would have wanted the organisers to do, Alan? Quietly lose her nomination? Nobble the judges? And this time feel free to engage”. But engagement was pointless, as Aaronovitch’s next interventions show.
“You also asked whether I understood their desire not to be on the shortlist with someone whose writings they believe are beyond the pale. And I do understand. But that desire will now obviously become a free speech question because of the dilemma I posed you in my first tweet”. And to another Tweeter he snapped “I presume what you’re saying is that the organisers should have rejected the nomination of Melanie Phillips on political grounds”.
FREEZE PEACH™! It’s all POLITICAL! Er, no it isn’t. I did mention lack of impartiality, and that is exactly what happened: both Aaronovitch and Ms Phillips have a berth at the Murdoch Times. As always, the Murdoch press demands that all others yield to its behaviour and its choices, however screamingly batshit the pundit being defended.
Younge and Ms Malik are to be commended. Aaronovitch is not. That is all.
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