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?