I’ve only been involved in writing op-eds for mainstream media outlets since April 2005. On that occasion, I had a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald criticising a Sydney sheik who made imbecilic comments about women’s dress and rape.
The week after that article appeared, I received a call from the opinion editor of the Daily Telegraph inviting me to contribute. Over the next year or so, I submitted a few pieces here and there. I found that opinion editor to be most professional and courteous.
One Monday afternoon in late-December, I received an interesting phone call from the newly-appointed opinion editor of the Daily Telegraph. Tim Blair’s message was quite simple. As I had criticised him on my blog, accusing him of defaming me and of using hate-speech, he would no longer run my pieces on the Daily Telegraph’s opinion page. Here’s an excerpt from his tirade:
I spent much of the weekend going through your blog. I mean, f#cking hell. Put yourself in my f*cking shoes, mate. Why the f+ck should I run your stuff? Why should I do you any favours when you write that f^cking bullsh!t on your blog?
Him? Doing me favours? I’ve now had stuff appearing in 12 papers on either side of the Tasman, not to mention a gig in NewMatilda.com. Virtually all of these are paid writing gigs. The Tele, however, generally doesn’t pay. It's all gratis stuff, and writing for the Tele is an exercise that benefits both me and the newspaper.
After hearing this barrage of abuse from Blair, I checked my blog and found that the last time I had mentioned him was in August 2006, well before he had joined the Tele. I also checked Tim’s blog and found that on at least one occasion he had in fact defamed me by referring to me as an “egomaniac”.
Well, that’s life. Blair and I are both ideological warriors who fight our battles using the blogosphere. Things can get rather Middle Eastern out there in cyberspace. But Blair’s performance in his official capacity of opinion editor is grossly unprofessional and reflects poorly on his paper.
Allegedly conservative columnists from both News Limited and Fairfax often accuse Muslims of adopting a victim mentality. Yet my experiences in recent days have shown that some editors at News Limited are prepared to adopt the same posture of victimhood when facing even the slightest criticism.
And so my message to Tim Blair and anyone else of this ilk (and no, I'm certainly not including the Tele's editor-in-chief David Penberthy who has made genuine attempts to reach out to as wide an audience as possible) is quite simple: If you can’t stand the heat of criticism, perhaps you should consider exiting the editorial kitchen. If the mild rebukes of a humble blogger lead to your making abusive phone calls or writing racist editorials, perhaps you might consider a change of career path.
© Irfan Yusuf 2007