Guardian Readers’ Editor Paul Chadwick denies my request for more info about his paper’s vetting procedures for anonymous contributors
Last month, I blogged about a purported hoax on British daily newspaper the Guardian by serial media prankster Godfrey Elfwick.
In November, the paper had published an anonymous opinion piece about how its left-wing author was nearly turned into a racist after being exposed to right-wing views online.
Shortly after the article was published, Elfwick – who had previously duped the BBC World Service into allowing him to denounce Star Wars as “racist and homophobic” during a live radio broadcast – claimed authorship of the article.
Perhaps owing to his success at hoodwinking the BBC, many on Twitter – including award-winning US writer and leading New Atheist Sam Harris, whose views on Islam are cited in the article as having helped lead the author to nearly becoming a racist – seemed to accept Elfwick’s claim of authorship at face value.
This led to a high-profile Twitter spat between Harris and eminent US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who accused Harris of engaging in “hatermongering against Muslims.”
Harris later used Elfwick’s unsubstantiated claims to demand an apology from Greenwald.
When I asked Guardian Readers’ Editor Paul Chadwick about Elfwick’s claims, he insisted his paper was “confident about the authorship of the article,” and that he saw “no point encouraging trolls by paying them attention.”
In a follow-up e-mail, I asked Chadwick about his paper’s vetting procedures for anonymous contributors, stating my concern that “without being able to provide demonstrable evidence that an article is genuine, you open the doors to false claims of authorship.”
Here is his January 3, 2017 response:
From: Readers’ editor (Guardian) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: sterlingjones1989 <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Question about Anonymous Guardian article re: possible hoax
Date: Tue, 3 Jan 2017 19:20
Dear Dean Jones,
Yes, there are processes for vetting contributors, but I am sure you will understand that if they are to maintain their effectiveness it is counterproductive to detail them.
Guardian Readers’ editor’s office
Guardian News & Media