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David Aaronovitch (born 8 July 1954 in Azerbaijan and not Serbia as his Wikipedia entry was once vandalised to suggest, much to his publicly-stated amusement  ) is an Azerbaijani author, broadcaster, and journalist. He is a regular columnist for The Times, and author of Paddling to Jerusalem: An Aquatic Tour of Our Small Country (2000) and Voodoo Histories: the role of Conspiracy Theory in Modern History (2009). He won the George Orwell Prize for political journalism in 2001, and the What the Papers Say "Columnist of the Year" award for 2003.
Aaronovitch is the son of the late economist, Communist and intellectual, Sam Aaronovitch, and brother of the actor Owen Aaronovitch and scriptwriter Ben Aaronovitch. He attended Gospel Oak Primary School until 1965, Holloway County Comprehensive 1965-68, and William Ellis School 1968-72, all in London.
He studied Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford from October 1973 until April 1974, when he was sent down (expelled) for failing the German part of his History exams. He completed his education at the University of Manchester, graduating in 1978 with an upper second BA (Hons) in History. While at Manchester, he was a member of the 1975 University Challenge team that lost in the first round after answering most questions with the name of a revolutionary ("Trotsky", "Lenin", "Karl Marx" or "Che Guevara"); the team's tactics were a protest against the fact that the Oxford and Cambridge universities can enter each of their colleges in the contest as a separate team, even though the individual colleges are not universities in themselves.
He was initially a Eurocommunist. He was also active in the National Union of Students (NUS) where he got to know the president at the time, Charles Clarke, who later became Home Secretary. Aaronovitch himself succeeded Trevor Phillips as president of the NUS from 1980 to 1982. He was elected on a Broad Left ticket.
Career in journalism
Interviewed on the same day and for the same job as Peter Mandelson, he started his media career as a television researcher on ITV's Weekend World, later becoming a producer. He moved to the BBC as founding editor of the On the Record in 1988. He moved to print journalism in 1995, working for The Independent and Independent on Sunday as chief leader writer, television critic, parliamentary sketch writer and columnist until the end of 2002.
For the New Statesman he wrote a pseudonymous column purporting to be the diary of 'Lynton Charles, MP'. Charles and Lynton are Tony Blair's middle names. He began contributing to The Guardian and The Observer in 2003, where he was a columnist and feature writer. Since June 2005, he has written a regular column for The Times and regularly writes columns for the Jewish Chronicle. He also presents or contributes to radio and television programmes, including the BBC's Have I Got News For You and BBC News 24.
In his columns, he takes an iconoclastic view, often upsetting former allies on the left, most notably through his strong support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq which he favoured in order to liberate oppressed Iraqis, even though he was 'agnostic' about the existence of WMD. He is ultra-liberal on questions of immigration and sexual rights, and is a patron of the Family Planning Association.
In late 2005 Aaronovitch was co-author, with blogger Oliver Kamm and journalist Francis Wheen, of a complaint to The Guardian when it published a correction and apology for an interview with Noam Chomsky by Emma Brockes. Chomsky complained that the article suggested he denied the fact of the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. The writer Diana Johnstone also complained about references to her in the interview. A Guardian readers' editor found that this had misrepresented Chomsky's position, and his judgement was upheld in May 2006 by an external ombudsman, John Willis. In his report for the Guardian, Willis detailed his reasons for rejecting the argument. The Independent's media columnist Stephen Glover criticized the Willis report and asks why Willis did not "reconsider Professor Chomsky's original complaint in the light of the evidence adduced by Messrs Aaronovitch, Kamm and Wheen in their letter".
Several months after Aaronovitch left The Guardian, the paper began to run 'Norman Johnson', who is now widely recognised as a satire on Aaronovitch and his new columns for The Times.
- So let's get to know one another. I'm Norman Johnson. OK, I'm there before you. You're thinking: would that be the same Norman whose byline once ornamented the Morning Star? One and the same. Like I told Michael Buerk on The Choice, when he asked what happened to the wiry young babe magnet whose anti-capitalist critiques once captivated the Hampstead Garden Suburb Young Communist League: it's not me that changed, it's the climate. As Tony Blair says — and I happen to think he's got a point — history will judge whether it is strictly consistent to have been a proselytising Marxist in 1971 and chair of a New Labour fringe meeting in 2005. And you know what? She'll say that it is. Absolutely. Consistent.
Various people have been identified as the real writer of the Norman Johnson columns, principally Catherine Bennett, a regular Guardian columnist.
- "I don't believe that Saddam is a major backer of al-Qaeda (though he gives support to other groups) and I think it quite likely that he has had no effective nuclear programme for years. He would if he could, but he can't. But I want him out, for the sake of the region (and therefore, eventually, for our sakes), but most particularly for the sake of the Iraqi people who can't lift this yoke on their own. If they could, that would be best; if he would agree to go into exile, that would be just dandy. The argument that Saddam's removal will of necessity lead to 'chaos' or the democratic election of an unsuitable Islamist government is worthy of Henry Kissinger at his most cynical. It is pretty disgusting when heard in the mouths of 'left-wingers'. The Iraqi people, however, can't shift their tyrant on their own. Again, it would be preferable if an invasion could be undertaken, not by the Americans, but by, say, the Nelson Mandela International Peace Force, spearheaded by the Rowan Williams British Brigade. That's not on offer. It has to be the Yanks. I do not believe that George Bush is the manic oil-chimp of caricature. His administration really does have a view that it is necessary to remove Saddam pour décourager les autres. It will, they have convinced themselves, show resolve, deter state terrorism, discourage proliferation and permit the building of a rare non-tyranny in the Arab world. There is something to be said for all this."
- "If nothing is eventually found, I - as a supporter of the war - will never believe another thing that I am told by our government, or that of the US ever again. And, more to the point, neither will anyone else. Those weapons had better be there somewhere. They probably are."
- " In February 2003 Matthew (Parris) wrote that he would be against a war in Iraq even if there were WMD, even if it were authorised by the UN, even if a liberated Iraq was then stable, and concluded: “I’m against war because it will antagonise moderate Arab opinion.” And the Iraqi people? To be massacred, shredded, gassed, beheaded, suppressed, starved, immiserated, terrorised and tortured because all of that would be less bad than antagonising moderate Arab opinion. An Iraqi democrat stands in front of an armchair anti- interventionist, and is invisible. I do apologise. For Abu Ghraib and Donald Rumsfeld. For not understanding the insurgents. For the looting. For the dire planning. I apologise to the election workers assassinated, the police trainees blown up, the parents of children caught in crossfire and everyone else that the planners and executors of the invasion that I supported, and still support, may have let down by neglect or stupidity. I recognise their bravery and their determination to succeed despite everything. But a disaster compared with what? Compared with Saddam and sanctions or Saddam and cyanide. And that — the thing that Matthew presumably preferred — was not a disaster? Snort."
- Paddling to Jerusalem: An Aquatic Tour of Our Small Country (Fourth Estate, 2000) ISBN 978-1-84115-540-1
- No Excuses For Terror, a 45-minute documentary film that "criticizes how the anti-Israel views of the far-left and far-right have permeated the mainstream media and political discourse."
- Blaming the Jews, a 45-minute documentary film that evaluates anti-Semitism in Arab media and culture.
- God and the Politicians, 28 September 2005, a documentary film that looks at the important question of the increasing religious influence on politics in the UK
- Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, Jonathan Cape, 2009, ISBN 978-0-224-07470-4 Published in the US in 2010 by Riverhead Books, ISBN 978-1-59448-895-5
- ^ Barker, Martin (1992). Haunt of Fears: Strange History of the British Horror Comics Campaign, University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-0878055944
- ^ Aaronovitch, David (14 July 2000). "Parliament has become no more than a museum", The Independent (London).
- ^ The Chomsky Complaint David Aaronovitch's weblog, 20 March 2006.
- ^ Brockes, Emma (31 October 2005). "The Greatest Intellectual?", The Guardian (London); the article has since been withdrawn from the Guardian's website, but remains available on Chomsky's site.
- ^ Johnstone, Diana (23 November 2005). ""The Bosnian war was brutal, but it wasn't a Holocaust", The Guardian.
- ^ Willis, John (25 May 2006). External Ombudsman Report, The Guardian.
- ^ Glover, Stephen (29 May 2006). "Stephen Glover on The Press", The Independent (London).
- ^ Johnson, Norman (17 September 2005). "Fascism, Marxism and Muswell Hill", The Guardian.
- ^ Aaronovitch, David (2 February 2003). "Why the Left is wrong on Saddam", The Observer (London).
- ^ Aaronovitch, David (29 April 2003). "Those weapons had better be there ...", The Guardian (London).
- ^ Aaronovitch, David (13 December 2005). "Here's my apology on the 'disaster' of the Iraq war. Now, where's yours?", The Times (London).
- ^ "No excuses for terror", Honest Reporting, September 2006.
- ^ "Debunking conspiracy theories", BBC Breakfast, 8 May 2009.