The Guardian today fired Josh Trevino, a development that alas, was long overdue. But the reason it offered for doing so will make many scratch their heads. Essentially, the editor says she (are you ready?) discovered he was a paid lobbyist for a foreign government. Hello. This is Josh Trevino we’re talking about. This is what he does. He’s a PR shill for whichever neocon-friendly government pays the freight. In this particular case, it was Malaysia’s ruling party which needed help fending off human rights advocates who were none too happy that the leader of the Opposition was being tried a second time on trumped-up sodomy charges. They needed Josh to come up with ways to tell the U.S. media that it’s OK to persecute your political enemies for sodomy. And Josh did a good job for his bosses. For a bonus, he even came up with the additional smear that the victim, Anwar Ibrahim, was an anti-Semitic Islamist. Despite the fact that the party Josh was shilling for had been run for 22 years by a well-known anti-Semite named Mahathir Mohamad.
Here’s the joint Guardian-Trevino statement:
Joshua Treviño wrote a piece for the Guardian on February 28, 2011 titled “Peter King has hearings, but is he listening?” The Guardian recently learned that shortly before writing this article the author was a consultant for an agency that had Malaysian business interests and that he ran a website called Malaysia Matters. In keeping with the Guardian’s editorial code this should have been disclosed.
“Under our guidelines, the relationship between Joshua and the agency should have been disclosed before the piece was published in order to give full clarity to our readers,” said Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief, Guardian US.”
I vigorously affirm that nothing unethical was done and I have been open with the Guardian in this matter. Nevertheless, the Guardian’s guidelines are necessarily broad, and I agree that they must be respected as such,” said Joshua Treviño.
We have therefore mutually agreed to go our separate ways and wish each other the best of luck.
I like the Guardian generally. They’re far better at reporting foreign news than the New York Times. The Guardian even publishes my work periodically in Comment is Free. But someone was asleep at the switch on this one. I reported here just after Trevino’s appointment that he was likely a paid shill for the Malaysians. I did so on the basis of a comprehensive post published some time ago on an English-language Malaysian blog which offered evidence that he served in this capacity. It was all out there. But no one examined his past in sufficient detail. The fact that they wanted to hire someone with the ethical challenges of Josh Trevino and didn’t perform sufficient due diligence before doing so is alarming.
What alarms me equally is that Trevino is also a paid shill for the pro-Israel lobby. But in this he’s not paid by the government. He’s paid by Israel-enablers who lobby on behalf of the government. Unlike Malaysia, there are sufficient protective layers and sufficient funding from private pro-Israel individuals that he doesn’t need to do anything so louche as to accept Israeli shekels directly. It doesn’t make him any less a shill. It just makes him a more careful one.
This is a major victory for Electronic Intifada and other progressive media who took up this cause.
Trevino has a small coterie of Muslim friends who’ve justified his hiring and complained about his firing including State Department official, Shahed Amanullah and Beliefnet blogger, Aziz Poonawalla. Frankly, despite the fact that Trevino may be good company or a good drinking buddy or whatever, would you speak up on behalf of Meir Kahane just because he had a charming personality? Would I defend the Guardian hiring David Duke or Lincoln Rockwell because they had the gift of gab? You have your answers, I think. Amanullah says Trevino is “more complex” than his tweets suggest. I can’t even fathom what that means. Should he be hired by the Guardian for his expansive personality, that never shows itself in anything he writes? Or should we judge him on what he writes, as we judge all other journalists and writers?
“I reported here just after Trevino’s appointment that he was likely a paid shill for the Malaysians”
Thanks God it was not Israel – I can only imagine the furor that would have arisen… (Malaysia is sure to pass with equanimity). Albeit, I think the likely cheers here would be premature – the Guardian is likely to replace him with another commentator that represents the mainstream views in the US, which in particular are starkly different vis-à-vis Israel than those in Europe. It appears that a strategic decision has been taken by the Guardian already some time ago to let itself unchained from an ideological-tilt image so as to taken seriously by wider circles. Its US-related choice reflects that – after all the US is the superpower of the day and if you want to project to your readers realities as they are, you have to overcome the temptation to tell them only what they like to hear.
Deïr Yassin says
Though the official statement from the Guardian doesn’t mention Israel, Electronic Intifada – who has been a major mobilizer behind the campaign against Trevino as Richard wrote – became involved because of Trevino’s extreme pro-Israel bias.
Trevino wrote on June 3rd 2010 on his Twitter:
“There are some Americans we’re better off without. Furkan Dogan is one of them”.
Furkan Dogan was the young Turkish-American who was killed on Mavi Marmara at the age of 19, just before starting his medical studies.
Tibor writes: the Guardian is likely to replace him with another commentator that represents the mainstream views in the US, which in particular are starkly different vis-à-vis Israel than those in Europe.”
Trevino’s views aren’t maintstream, they are out and out rascist and murderous, and are shared by a very small minorty of the American population.
Bob Mann says
Any word on who they are bringing on to balance Glenn Greenwald? Presumably they will grab another right-wing US voice, right? Or do you think they won’t feel the need to hire a replacement for Trevino’s spot?
Fred Plester says
I wonder if The Guardian will ask the Daily Mail for Melanie Phillips on a free transfer?
Sounds to me like the Guardian is just hunkering down until the whole mess fades away. Acknowledging their stupidity in hiring Trevino publicly would be too embarrassing, but I imagine some heads rolled behind the scenes.
I don’t think Greenwald needs “balancing” – he’s in favor of human rights and the rule of law. How do you “balance” someone like that?
Good question, Mary. Is it that for every rational journalist they feel obliged to hire an irrational one?
Well, they might be able to hire a hack who is in favor of surveillance without a warrant, extrajudicial killings, indefinite detention, racial profiling and the “special relationship” of the US with Israel. Maybe they’ll lure that moron Tom Friedman away from the NY Times.
There are plenty of open anti-Semites out there; for instance, …
Richard Silverstein says
You mean excluding yourself, of course.
“There are some Americans we’re better off without. Josh Trevino is one of them”
Glenn Greenwald is a such an amazing addition to The Guardian – too bad the Trevino fizz was such an avoidable distraction. Greenwald is a major ‘WIN’ for international voices debunking the Israeli/Netanyahu hoaxing of the US into a war with Iran
Mr. Trevino has an interesting resume (on Linkedin), one that shows he has not stayed at one job for more than about 2 years.
Hmmmmm? Some were temporary positions such as his working for the deVore campaign, but others …….. He has also not updated (as of 26 August 8 am EDT) his resume to show the Guardian job is KAPUT!
A good journalist speaks truth to power and seeks to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”: Greenwald passes the test, Treviño doesn’t. Sadly, all too many ‘journalists’ out there are only interested in sucking up to power; the Guardian doesn’t need that kind of “balance”.
I think some people here miss the key point. The issue is not this particular commentator Trevino. The question the way I see it is: are you ready that the Guardian will hire any pro-Israel commentator US style? (Electronic Intifada admits that this general aspect was their main drive here). Anybody who watched any of the Republican Party primary-debates must have grasped the hugely supportive sentiment of Israel among the leaders of that party (and the situation in the Democratic Party is not that much different). What the Guardian endeavors to do is to reflect that to its readers – the alternative amounts to an ostrich attitude.
Andy, I don’t know who you quoted: “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”, but this sums up in one small quote why I don’t call myself “progressive” but rather “liberal”.
So called progressives (perhaps in your eyes “a good journalist”) always supports the afflicted or underdog irrespective of what they mave have done to deserve to be afflicted, and will always fight the comfortable as if to say that if they are comfortable they must have bulleyed their way to be confortable at the expense of the “afflicted”.
A true journalist and a liberal looks for the facts and reports them irrespective of who is afflicted or comfortable.
That’s all fine, shmuel, but there are very few “true journalists” as you describe them and the “true journalists” won’t find any shortage of powerful comfortable people who deserve to be afflicted. Glenn does a good job afflicting them. Trevino is usually on the other side.
Your second paragraph is too vague to mean anything without examples. I have a sneaking suspicion of what you might have in mind.