In the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, perhaps the most self-gratifying of all Guardian editorials recently came to public view. With a certain grandiosity, it lauds the newspaper’s efforts to plough “a lonely furrow in unearthing the truth about phone hacking”, going on to praise “the scrutiny of a newspaper – this newspaper” which helped to safeguard a free and plural press. Whether such a press is indeed Leveson’s outcome, or if this pomp and circumstance is camouflage for the Guardian Media Group’s £44 million losses this year is, however, not my concern. Nor, for that matter, are the potential merits of the phone hacking scandal for deserving this long-running attention and concern among certain media players.
No doubt, the financially ailing GMG – as with the demonstrably biased BBC – had plenty to gain by inflating the phone hacking scandal so as to lash out at a more successful competitor. Beyond this cynicism, however, the violation of the privacy of Milly Dowler’s family – and some 600 other victims – is just as galling. Nevertheless, in all of this, there is a further danger of losing perspective.
Causality reigns in this simplified perspective…
That is, though it might not suit the agenda of the left-leaning Guardian editorial team to focus on them, there are far graver concerns facing us than the real or supposed danger of a Murdoch media empire. Chief among them at this point is the future of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. This stockpile, never verified nor even confirmed until recently, finds itself amidst a rapidly deteriorating security context. With key Sunni figures such as General Manaf Tlass abandoning the Syrian government, four top national security figures dead in a single bomb attack on 18 July, and reportedly some 20,000 Alawite Syrians fleeing Damascus for Lebanon, one could think that the Iranian satellite regime is finally doomed.
In itself, this is no bad thing. The Iranian theocrats will be humiliated after investing great wealth and political capital in shoring up President Bashar al-Assad, who himself will hopefully meet an end along the lines of Muammar Gaddafi’s. Causality reigns in this simplified perspective; the wrongdoers get their comeuppance. But, again, this overlooks Syria’s massive chemical warfare arsenal.
…growing vulnerability of even key regime concerns…
While al-Assad himself is largely unlikely to put it to use (even the Kremlin has urged otherwise) the ultimate concern is what befalls them post-civil war. For example, note that while the main production and storage facilities are fairly heavily concentrated and well-guarded, some 45-50 smaller facilities are said to be dispersed across the country. If Syria were to follow Lebanon in becoming a state with no true central governance, run locally by various factions, there is a distinct risk these smaller facilities – and potentially their stockpiles – could be compromised. More worryingly, the aforementioned 18 July bombing was allegedly carried out by an Islamist group: the Liwa al-Islam, or Brigade of Islam. If true, this attack is not merely evidence of growing Islamist sophistication but also growing vulnerability of even key regime concerns; such as chemical weaponry.
In short, the prospect of Islamic terrorism gaining mass-casualty weaponry has perhaps never before been any more realistic. And yet, the Guardian takes a moment to gloat at Rupert Murdoch’s expense, instead.
The Guardian, through its editorial, paints itself as a bastion of good journalism. If it wants to validate that claim, (and perhaps reverse its economic distress) it might consider shifting its focus from attacking News International and onto matters of actual national concern. Good journalism ought to be about perspective; the perspective to spot awkward questions, and to realise when an elephant in the room demands a change in priorities.