I hope that no one I respect treats this magazine seriously anymore, because anyone who does has a serious judgement deficit, IMHO.
UPDATE: TheBit of Muslims Under Progress blog takes issue in the comments with my fit of pique:
I don't see any concern from Americans at Pootie Poot's endorsement of Bush. Why is this any better?
Further, how is this "interference" in the American election? Have they rigged the voting procedures? Made it difficult for American's to vote?
Endorsements are an expression of a personal opinion. Coming from a local newspaper, they are intended to sway opinion; coming from anyone non-local to the election in question, they are intended to serve as a statement of affiliation, and always have political overtones. Putin, of which neither TheBit nor I are fans of, endorsed Bush solely to influence the relationship of Putin with Bush, nothing more. Chechnya is of course involved.
The Guardian's letter-writing campaign is another matter. Rather than an expression of opinion, it was intended to sway - in effect, trying to co-opt the role of a local newspaper endorsement and affect the outcome.
Let's make the general principle explicit. If it's your election (ie, one in which you are eligible to participate), then swaying the outcome is not only allowed but verges on duty. The ideal vehicle for this is to express your arguments in the public forum, and expose themn to criticism and debate. That is the essence of free speech in the service of the common good. The First Amendment guarantees this process by which Americans can play an active role in the most basic function of our democracy.
However, if it's not your election, then your attempt to sway the outcome reflects your self-interest, and not the self-interest of the comunity holding the election. It is literally none of your business. Endorsements by individuals are fine because they are the expression of a personal opinion; if TheBit or any other aggrieved Guardian fan takes the time to assess the content of the letters in question, they will find that the letter campaign far trangresssed beyond that threshold, and into outright coercion, naked in its narcissism.
The campaign is being advertised as "How you can have a say in the US election" ! Even Presidential Daily Briefings from Aug. 6th don't get any clearer than that in their titles. Really, it's disingenous to pretend that its just Putin-endorsement level.
And the tone of the letters has been defined by celebrities explicitly recruited to set an example, such as John Le Carr�, who pleads in his letter, "Give us back the America we loved, and your friends will be waiting for you." Exactly what relevance does Le Carr�'s professed love of America have to how anyone should vote? The sentence encapsulates an arrogant self-absorption that is simply beyond my ability to communicate.
So what if someone writes to me asking me to vote for X? I can read it or do what I do what any sort of spam and junk mail: file it in the bin. The only reasonable objection is that the paper got hold of voters emails and mailing addresses in some dubious way.
For the record, the addressses of undecided voters were purchased by the Guardian. I find that in itself objectionable, verging on an invasion of privacy.
On another issue, TheBit writes:
And it was Lings who put forward the 'theory' regarding Shakespeare not the newspaper (who were 'reporting' it). This is no different from Lunxenburg's 'theory' regading virgins and raisins which was trumpeted around
I've re-read the article, and TheBit is correct, the article was actually a report ON someone with the hare-brained idea that Sufism could underlie William Shakespeare's inspiration, constructed on such flimsy evidence as the line "We are such stuff as dreams are made of" (which could just as easily reflect inspiration from an ABBA song, IMHO). Some of my ire has thus cooled. Still, would it have been too much to ask Madam Arts Correspondent to do a little bit of extra work to find a Shakespearean scholar who could at least offer the opposing view? This isn't journalism, nor is it an arts critique (since the author writes in news style and does not undertake any literary criticism of the content).
I find the comparison to the virgins/dates issue (hinging on whether the word houris derives from Arabic or Aramaic) rather strained, though. That's an actual literary and scholalrly study; this Ling fellow is a bit too enamoured of his suibject matter to be even capable of a rigorous analysis. Note that he proffers not a single example of a Sufi text or source material to offer as comparative proof of a similarity, relying instead entirely on inference and assumption. Neither does the Guardian piece ask for any, which is by far the worse offender.
If the Guardian seeks to just be an opinion rag, that's its prerogative, but this changes my opinion of the magazine not one iota.