Guardian says ‘told you so’ a decade after 9/11
Paper thumbs nose at critics as it recalls how it came under fire in 2001 for questioning the wisdom of the war on terror
AS THE 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the Guardian newspaper, which came in for some heavy criticism for its liberal stance in the aftermath of the attacks, has launched an extraordinary attack on its detractors and proudly declared that much of what it said at the time has turned out to be true.
In a tub-thumping article for his paper, Seumas Milne, who was the Guardian's comment editor at the time, rails against those who lambasted the paper and performs the journalistic equivalent of sticking his tongue out and telling them "told you so".
The Guardian, he announces, was one of the few that was brave enough to question the knee-jerk demands for vengeance in the days after 9/11. "We gave space to those who were against it and realised the war on terror would fail, bringing horror and bloodshed to millions in the process," he proudly states. "The paper gave rein to the pluralism that most media gatekeepers claim to favour in principle, but struggle to put into practice."
It was vital, he writes, for someone in the media to counter the "mendacious spin" emanating from Downing Street and the White House.
Milne gleefully rakes over the criticism that came the paper's way after it deigned to publish articles by the likes of George Galloway and Rana Kabbani that questioned the motives behind the attacks and the American response.
He reminds readers that Michael Gove, now a cabinet minister, then a Times journalist, described 'Guardianistas' as "fifth columnists", novelist Robert Harris condemned the paper for hosting a "babble of idiots", and Andrew Neil suggested the paper should be renamed the 'Daily Terrorist'. Even attacks from such an obvious source as Richard Littlejohn (who vents spleen at the Guardian on an almost daily basis) are held up as examples of how the rest of the media turned on the Guardian.
"The backlash verged on the deranged," recalls an obviously riled Milne. "Bizarre as it seems a decade on, the fact that the Guardian allowed writers to connect the attacks with US policy in the rest of the world was treated as treasonous in its supposed 'anti-Americanism'."
The abuse continued after the fall of Kabul in late 2001, he notes, even though writers like Madeleine Bunting had warned in the pages of the Guardian of "protracted guerilla warfare".
"A decade on, we know who 'proved to be wrong'," sniffs Milne.
Despite the brickbats, the Guardian's stance paid off, he adds. "One by-product of that official public silence was a dramatic increase in US readership of the Guardian's website, as millions of Americans looked for a perspective and range of views they weren't getting at home."
What reason could there be for Milne banging the drum about that today? Perhaps it is because the Guardian is relaunching its US digital operation this autumn under the guidance of Janine Gibson, the former editor of the paper's domestic website.
The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, said earlier this year he wanted the US launch to "have the feel of an insurgent, disruptive start-up," so what better way to do that than by reminding everyone of the paper's radical heritage. ·
Comments are now closed on this article