The UK Guardian has finally retracted their smear piece on Noam Chomsky. The retraction (by the readers' editor) faults the Guardian over every point of contention raised by Chomsky about the interview and the Guardian's subsequent chicanery with regard to the publication of letters about the affair. That's a good start, but I don't think it's anywhere near enough. So I've sent the following letter to the editor:
I was glad to see that your readers' editor took the Guardian to task so thoroughly regarding the numerous ways in which Emma Brockes' interview of Noam Chomsky was used (intentionally, it appears to me) to produce a false and misleading portrait of what had been said, and of the man himself.
However, it should not have required an investigation by the readers' editor for this retraction to occur, since the misrepresentations in this case were glaringly obvious to anyone who took the time to perform even a cursory review of the facts. Rather, as the editor, you should have taken it upon yourself to retract the numerous fabrications and distortions in the article. And your responsibility to do so hasn't ended with the publication of this readers' editor's correction.
I would strongly urge you to publish not just a retraction, but a full and complete apology--and not tucked away in the "Corrections and clarifications" section, but as an editorial. Your apology should address not only the article's numerous misrepresentations, but also its petulantly critical tone, which started with the title itself and continued without interruption straight through to the closing period. Furthermore, there are doubtless many thousands of Guardian readers who saw the fraudulent interview but who will never see the retraction, so you should publish another correction in the same location where the original smear was run. And if you genuinely want to make amends for this shoddy performance on the Guardian's part, you might consider running another interview with Chomsky (but performed by a professional journalist this time).
Ms. Brockes: "Witheringly teenage" would be the perfect description of your shoddy little hit piece. You had a unique opportunity to interview one of the most dedicated and tireless proponents of human rights in the world today, a giant in the field of linguistics, and you squandered it on a bitter, childish attack piece that was so misleading and biased that your own newspaper has actually seen fit to pull it in its entirety off of the web. As I said in my last letter to you, a reputation is built slowly, but it can be destroyed in a moment, and that's just what you've done. Congratulations on revealing yourself as a fraud in front of a global audience. I'm certain that I'm not the only one who will immediately turn the page when I see "Emma Brockes" in any byline in the future.
If you want more background on this whole sordid little affair, check out this MediaLens alert. And if you want to let the Guardian know what you think as well, there's a list of email addresses at the end of the alert.
My main thought on this: I can imagine what kind of personal and professsional sacrifices Chomsky has made in order to take the consistent stands he has for human rights, and I have immense respect for that. That's why it irks me so much to see some vapid tabloid hound like Emma Brockes take cheap shots at him. It goes without saying that Chomsky isn't above criticism, of course, but what I've found in almost all cases is that his detractors don't address the facts at all; instead, the average piece of Chomsky criticism contains a mountain of distortions that are transparently false (and patently ridiculous) to anyone who's actually read some of his political writings. And Brockes' Guardian piece, while slicker than the average Chomsky-bashing, was certainly no exception to that rule.