The British blogosphere has claimed its first MSM scalp.
Eursoc has an excellent summary of the events that lead to this, but overstates the case somewhat.
UK bloggers may have hit on a home-grown scandal as significant as last year’s weblog-led revelation that CBS had been duped by forged documents relating to George W. Bush’s military record.
A 27-year-old trainee journalist is not Dan Rather and Mary Mapes.
Still, Scott Burgess of the Daily Ablution deserves credit for noticing that Guardian trainee Dilpazier Aslam had prior to his employment with the Guardian, written an article calling for a Caliphate and soon followed up by alleging that Aslam had been, until last June at least, a member of Hizb Ut Tahrir, the story has quickly grown.
Despite the lowly target, the story has had the hallmarks of an American-style blogswarm. After being amplified by the major British conservative and liberationist blogs, it had its essential mainstreaming moment when the story was picked up by a mainstream news outlet, in this case, the Independent on Sunday.
Oh yeah: The article that provoked all this probing into Aslam’s background has been re-printed in the Los Angeles Times. I wonder if they’ll take noteof his fate. I’m sure the bloggers will insist that they do.
The Guardian’s media secton now has a report, with lots of quotes from the blogosphere:
Rightwing bloggers from the US, where the Guardian has a large online following, were behind the targeting last week of a trainee Guardian journalist who wrote a comment piece which they did not care for about the London bombings.
The story is a demonstration of the way the ‘blogosphere’ can be used to mount obsessively personalised attacks at high speed.
Within hours, Dilpazier Aslam was being accused on the internet of “violence” and belonging to a “terrorist organisation” — both completely untrue charges.
One blogger appealed for “some loyal Briton to saw off your head and ship it to me”. Another accused Aslam of being guilty of “accessory before the fact to murder.”
These ravings were posted alongside more legitimate questions as to whether a newspaper should employ a reporter who belongs to a controversial political group linked to the promotion of anti-semitic views.
In the Independent on Sunday, Shiv Malik, also briefly a Guardian intern, accused the hapless Aslam of mounting “a sting by Hizb ut-Tahrir to infiltrate the mainstream media”.
And in the tabloid Sun, their attack-dog columnist, Richard Littlejohn, took the opportunity to claim: “A Guardian journalist has been unmasked as an Islamist extremist”.
Many bloggers repeated Malik’s untrue assertion — made in the Independent on Sunday — that the Guardian was “refusing to sack” Aslam.
The episode was a striking illustration of the way that blogs and bloggers can heat up the temperature and seek to settle scores — as well as raise legitimate concerns about journalism and transparency — when something awful happens in the streets of London.
Defensive — but fair. Anyone following this story on the blogoshere would have had to wade through a lot of misinformation to get to the essential and relevant issues. A lot of chaff needs to be ignored to get to the blogosphere’s wheat.
What does it all mean? Well, I’ll have to revise my theory of the weakness of British blogging a bit. Perhaps Britain’s tradition of a partisan press that makes no claim to be “objective” does not rule out this sort of thing. The Independent was all too eager to skewer its rival in the market for progressive readers. The British-based blogs (one run by an American expat) that were central to this story also had plenty of support from conservative bloggers in the United States.