Salon's Treatment of Sam Harris is Shameful

A supposedly serious media outlet with a real operating budget, real reporters, and a host of nationally syndicated columnists took out bits of an interview with a highly respected public intellectual because it didn't like them.
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A supposedly serious media outlet with a real operating budget, real reporters, and a host of nationally syndicated columnists took out bits of an interview with a highly respected public intellectual because it didn't like them.
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We have gone after Salon over the years for their relentless campaign to destroy liberalism in America from the inside. The site's incessant screeching over hugely important issues like inherent transphobia of Roald Dahl's Maltilda and Patricia Arquette's non-existent racism has relegated the once reputable outlet to the status of a left wing version of Breitbart.com.

In recent months the site has been cutting back on the lunacy by reducing the output of their worst offenders and bringing on talented writers like Bob Cesca (our former managing editor). But behind the scenes, the site is still seemingly run by the same shrill leftist activists who insist on promoting their world view at the expense of objective reporting or intellectual honesty -- a truth glaringly highlighted by a recent journalistic atrocity that should cause the owners to seriously think about extending the purge further up the editorial hierarchy.

Having boycotted the site for wildly distorting his views on religion and Islam, atheist thinker Sam Harris relented recently and agreed to do an interview with Sean Illing on a broad array of topics, including his thoughts on ISIS, Islam and atheism. Harris went forward with the interview with two explicit stipulations that he would get final approval of all the words attributed to him, and he would be free to say whatever he wanted about Salon.

The interview, conducted over email and by phone, is extremely interesting and well worth reading. But it can only be read in full on Harris's own website. Why? Because Illing's editors decided to take out anything negative Harris had to say about Salon. Here was the lengthy part Salon removed, supposedly in the name of "clarity and length":

As long as we’re talking about the regressive Left, it would be remiss of me not to point out how culpable Salon is for giving it a voice. The problem is not limited to the political correctness and masochism I’ve been speaking about—it’s also the practice of outright deception to defame Islam’s critics. To give you one example, I once wrote an article about Islamist violence in which I spoke in glowing terms about Malala Yousafzai. I literally said nothing but good things about her. I claimed that she is the best thing to come out of the Muslim world in a thousand years. I said she is extraordinarily brave and eloquent and doing what millions of Muslim men and women are too terrified to do, which is to stand up to forces of theocracy in her own society. I also said that though she hadn’t won the Nobel Prize that year, she absolutely deserved it—and deserved it far more than some of its recent recipients had. And in response to this encomium, Salon published a piece by the lunatic Murtaza Hussain entitled, “Sam Harris Slurs Malala,” which subjected my views to the same defamatory and dishonest treatment that I’ve come to expect from him. And this sort of thing has been done to me a dozen times on your website. And yet Salon purports to be a forum for the civil discussion of important ideas.

Most readers simply don’t understand how this game is played. If they read an article which states that Sam Harris is a racist, genocidal, xenophobic, pro-torture goon who supported the Iraq war—all of which has been alleged about me in Salon—well, then, it’s assumed that some journalists who work for the website under proper editorial control have actually looked into the matter and feel that they are on firm enough ground to legally say such things. There’s a real confusion about what journalism has become, and I can assure you that very few people realize that much of what appears on your website is produced bymalicious freaks who are just blogging in their underpants.

I’m not saying that everything that Salon publishes is on the same level, and I have nothing bad to say about what you’ve written, Sean. But there is an enormous difference between honest criticism and defamatory lies. If I say that Malala is a total hero who deserves a Nobel Prize, and Salon titles its article “Sam Harris Slurs Malala,” that’s tabloid-level dishonesty. It’s worse, in fact, because when one reads about what a nanny said about Brad and Angelina in a tabloid, one knows that such gossip stands a good chance of not being true. Salon purports to be representing consequential ideas fairly, and yet it does this sort of thing more often than any website I can think of. The latest piece on me was titled “Sam Harris’ dangerous new idiocy: Incoherent, Islamophobic and simply immoral.” I don’t think I’m being thin-skinned in detecting an uncharitable editorial position being taken there. Salon is telling the world that I’m a dangerous, immoral, Islamophobic idiot. And worse, the contents of these articles invariably misrepresent my actual views. This problem isn’t remedied by merely publishing this conversation.

As of today, Salon has yet to publish or put forward any rational explanation as to why this portion was removed. The article, excluding the portion removed by Illing's editor is roughly 7,500 words long. The portion removed is only 541 words long, and notably the only part of the article directly critical of Salon. Furthermore, it was explicitly stipulated by Harris that he be free to criticize Salon in return for doing the interview.

To call this shameful would be a gross understatement. A supposedly serious media outlet with a real operating budget, real reporters, and a host of nationally syndicated columnists took out bits of an interview with a highly respected public intellectual because it didn't like them.

Of course rather than help Salon in its eternal ambition to spread liberal outrage, it did the exact opposite. Wrote Harris of the ludicrous debacle:

I’m actually happy that his editors decided to help make my case for me by further demonstrating their lack of integrity. Salon is irredeemable. I urge the few talented writers left there to flee a sinking ship.

There may be still time to turn the ship around, but Salon needs to move fast if it wants to retain any modicum of respect from others -- and itself.