Tags: Left-Wing | U.K. | Paper | Pulls | Column | Assassinating | Bush

Left-Wing U.K. Paper Pulls Column on Assassinating Bush

Monday, 25 October 2004 12:00 AM

In a column published in the paper's entertainment guide section on Saturday, Charlie Brooker wrote that Bush would probably win the Nov. 2 election despite the prayers of "the entire civilized world," thus proving that God did not exist.

By Sunday, the column had been pulled from the Guardian's Web site, replaced with a note saying that the final sentence of the column had "caused offence to some readers."

It said the paper associated itself with a statement from Brooker, apologizing for any offense caused by his comments.

"The views expressed in this column are not those of the Guardian. Although flippant and tasteless, his closing comments were intended as an ironic joke, not as a call to action -- an intention he believed regular readers of his humorous column would understand. He deplores violence of any kind."

Booth and Oswald respectively assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and President John Kennedy in 1963; Hinckley tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

(Elsewhere in Brooker's column, the columnist compared Bush and Sen. John Kerry's performances in the recent televised debates, saying that although the Democrat had looked and sounded "a bit like a haunted tree," he was, at least, "not a lying, sniggering, drink-driving, selfish, reckless, ignorant, dangerous, backward, drooling, twitching, blinking, mouse-faced little cheat.")

The controversy over Brooker's column came shortly after the Guardian ended a much-criticized campaign aimed at influencing next week's presidential election.

The paper handed out, to anyone who applied via its Web site, contact details of American voters in battleground state Ohio's Clark County, which Al Gore won by just 324 votes in 2000.

Although the Guardian portrayed its campaign as merely an attempt to urge registered voters of undeclared party allegiance in the county to use their vote in what was a very important election, the paper made little attempt to hide its strong preference for Kerry.

The campaign, dubbed "Operation Clark County," drew considerable interest, and the paper said it handed out more than 14,000 names and addresses of Clark County voters to applicants from Britain and many other countries around the world.

But it also sparked strong opposition, with the newspaper being inundated with mail from unimpressed Americans.

A popular weblog based in Australia provided email addresses for more than 50 individual Guardian staff members and suggested they be swamped with messages.

Other "bloggers" suggested that pro-Bush people apply for voters' details - the newspaper had promised to hand out each name and address only once - to spare some Clark county residents the irritation of getting voting advice from abroad.

Hackers also broke into the Guardian's Web site.

Guardian media editor Ian Katz wrote that newspaper staff received thousands of e-mails from voters in the U.S., some of them abusive, an onslaught which he said was "pretty unpleasant and inconvenient" for newspaper staffers.

"You couldn't fail to be a little shocked by the volume and pitch of the invective directed our way."

Meanwhile, the newspaper's readers' editor (ombudsman), Ian Mayes, reported Saturday that in an internal poll of Guardian staff, 44 out of 71 respondents were against Operation Clark County, 13 favored it, and 14 were undecided.

Among reasons given for those opposed to the exercise was the view that intervention in another country's election was not "legitimate newspaper behavior."

Mayes said the Guardian's editor had defended the campaign, saying "it was a crucially important election in the face of which many felt a sense of impotence."

The paper has ended the campaign. It also dropped plans to send the winners of a competition, writers of the four best letters to the American voters, to Springfield, Ohio, to observe the closing days of the election campaign. Instead the winners will be given a trip to Washington, D.C.

The exercise might have had an unintended, if not unpredictable, response, that of galvanizing the pro-Bush camp.

Ohio Republican spokesman Jason Mauk was quoted in the New York Post as saying: "The British are our loyal allies, but voters in Clark County are outraged at this tacky publicity stunt conducted by an anti-Bush publication to manipulate the vote in Ohio. It has backfired miserably and fired up our base. The Guardian did us a big favor."



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In a column published in the paper's entertainment guide section on Saturday, Charlie Brooker wrote that Bush would probably win the Nov. 2 election despite the prayers of "the entire civilized world," thus proving that God did not exist. By Sunday, the column had been...
Monday, 25 October 2004 12:00 AM
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