November 17, 2005

Guardian retracts lies about Chomsky

The Guardian has withdrawn an almost complete pack of lies it ran about an interview with Noam Chomsky. I'm not Chomsky's biggest fan I have to say so when the net started buzzing about how he had been misrepresented by the Guardian I didn't take much notice. But someone sent me the Guardian's correction (or is it a clarification?) today and it's quite extraordinary. It seems to accuse Emma Brockes of deliberate falsehood.
Principal among these was a statement by Ms Brockes that in referring to atrocities committed at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war he had placed the word "massacre" in quotation marks. This suggested, particularly when taken with other comments by Ms Brockes, that Prof Chomsky considered the word inappropriate or that he had denied that there had been a massacre. Prof Chomsky has been obliged to point out that he has never said or believed any such thing. The Guardian has no evidence whatsoever to the contrary and retracts the statement with an unreserved apology to Prof Chomsky.
Now then, now then, but look it gets worse:
The headline used on the interview, about which Prof Chomsky also complained, added to the misleading impression given by the treatment of the word massacre. It read: Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated? A: My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough.

No question in that form was put to Prof Chomsky

Now here's a tricky bit:
Ms Brockes's misrepresentation of Prof Chomsky's views on Srebrenica stemmed from her misunderstanding of his support for Ms Johnstone. Neither Prof Chomsky nor Ms Johnstone have ever denied the fact of the massacre.
So hang on a sec. She misunderstood Ms Johnstone and Chomsky's support for Johnstone and felt that what she believed of Chomsky and Johnstone gave her carte blanche to fake interview questions and answers.

And here's another tricky bit:
Prof Chomsky has also objected to the juxtaposition of a letter from him, published two days after the interview appeared, with a letter from a survivor of Omarska. While he has every sympathy with the writer, Prof Chomsky believes that publication was designed to undermine his position, and addressed a part of the interview which was false.
Well the Guardian has now removed the interview from the Guardian Unlimited website but not the two letters, though it no longer juxtaposes them. It also still carries an article by Norman Johnson that draws quite heavily on the Brockes "interview", that's as in, it was so not an interview.

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