Even in its twilight years the Guardian remains the gift that keeps on giving. As the tin-shaking below the pieces grows stronger (generally presenting the publication as the only barrier between the reader and incipient fascism) the pieces remain reliably ridiculous. Yet even by these standards, Monday produced perhaps the Guardian’s worst shake-down effort to date.
The article was headlined “‘Alt-right’ online poison nearly turned me into a racist”. The explanatory subtitle continues ‘It started with Sam Harris, moved on to Milo Yiannopoulos and almost led to full-scale Islamophobia. If it can happen to a lifelong liberal, it could happen to anyone.’ The author of this piece is…. ‘Anonymous’. Who knows why. Perhaps the author reflected that one day they would grow up. Or perhaps they are one of those ‘composite characters’ left-wing journalists plead when they’re caught making stuff up. Or maybe the piece was authored by someone at the Guardian who wanted to hide their face. At any rate, at the end of the article we are assured that ‘The author was not paid a fee for this piece’, which is slightly more than the normal going rate for freelancers at the Guardian these days.
Anyway, whoever ‘Anonymous’ is they have a story to tell. They claim that after the June referendum (in which ‘Anonymous’ voted ‘Remain’, natch) the author became curious about other peoples’ views. The Guardian usually mans a stern defence against such error, and for once they are proved right. For our brave ‘Anonymous’ describes listening to talks by the renowned liberal American atheist and best-selling author Sam Harris. From there ‘Anonymous’ describes falling down a ‘rabbit hole’. The fascinating intellectual development of this anonymous individual continued apace. Eventually they came over all ‘Islamophobic’ and also started to hold incorrect views on Social Justice Warriors. Finally this really hard to sway individual sucked themselves out of the orbit by realising the error of their ways: ‘Suddenly I thought: “This is exactly like a cult. What am I doing? I’m turning into an arsehole.’ Later ‘Anonymous’ confronted himself yet further (‘he’ pretends to be a ‘him’ by the way, but who knows): ‘You’re becoming a racist. What you’re doing is turning into a terrible, hateful person.’ One wonders whether this confrontation was transcribed at the time. What are the Guardian’s ethics these days about journalists producing notes when requested by their editors?
This – it should be remembered – is a paper that complains solemnly about ‘post-truth politics’ as though they haven’t been practising it for years. The Guardian has spent years denying the reality of Islamist terror. The only mentions such terror does get is in the news pages, when Paris, London, Brussels or any other city suffers a major Islamist attack. Of course the paper tries to demonstrate that these things only happened because the attackers were the victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, low self-esteem, government austerity or all of the above. But the ‘I’ word does occasionally slip through because even the Guardian finds it has to report some of the news some of the time. The comments pages, on the other hand, are filled with people who doggedly deny that any such terrorism or extremism exists. Indeed its comment pages tend to be filled with people who, like ‘Anonymous’, stared at themselves in the mirror, realised they had become arseholes but chose to enjoy the view.
So here we are, with the Guardian pretending that Sam Harris – a man who has never called for anyone to be Jihad-ed, killed or oppressed and who is about the sanest, sweetest and most thoughtful person you could imagine (really a Buddhist, but with a bigger brain) is in fact a horrible hate preacher and gateway drug. There I must register a final complaint. If anyone is going to be a gateway drug around here I think it should be me. Why did I never feature in the terrible slippery sliding slope of sin so persuasively described by ‘Anonymous’? Why have I written all these pieces, given all these interviews and done so many ruddy podcasts over the years if I can’t be classed, even now, as a right-wing form of marijuana? God knows I’ve put in the hours. And you know there’s some really crazy stuff after me. I mean there’s Milton Friedman, Sir Roger Scruton and even Edmund Burke. It’s one hell of a ride, I’ll tell you. Are you up for it? Are you?
But I digress. Let me tell you what is actually going on here. Someone at the Guardian – perhaps everyone at the Guardian – has it in for Sam Harris. So they have decided to publish an ‘Anonymous’ hit-job in order to try to smear him and damage him as much as possible. That is all. It tells us nothing, except that the state of the left is so incredibly poor that in 2016 Britain’s only remaining lefty newspaper is willing to publish an ‘Anonymous’ hit-job on an actual liberal to try to help save itself from going bust. ‘It was all very low level’ pleads ‘Anonymous’ at the end of ‘his’ piece. You can say that again.