Tuesday, October 26, 2004

From the London Guardian’s viewpoint, Tuesday’s presidential election is the most important election ever, which helps explain why the left-wing newspaper began a campaign a couple weeks ago to turnout British citizens. The Guardian reasoned that “the result of the U.S. election will affect the lives of millions around the world, but those of us outside the 50 states have had no say in it — until now.” Named “Operation Clark County” after one of several highly contentious counties in the swing state of Ohio, British readers were asked to send letters to Ohioan voters to help them decide which candidate to vote for. The names and addresses were supplied by the Guardian.

Within days the newspaper bragged that it had received more than 11,000 requests for addresses and comments. Here are a couple of our favorites. From a writer in Dayton, Ohio: “I was adrift in a sea of confusion and you are my beacon of hope! Feel free to respond to this email with your advice … Please remember, too, that I am merely an American. That means I am not very bright. It means I have no culture or sense of history. It also means that I am barely literate, so please don’t use big, fancy words.” A less cordial one from a writer located simply in the United States: “Consider this: stay out of American electoral politics. Unless you would like a company of U.S. Navy SEALs to descend upon the offices of the Guardian, bag the lot of you, and transport you to Guantanamo Bay.” The Guardian, meanwhile, ended “Operation Clark County” prematurely, citing computer hackers.

Although there are several levels of humor in the Guardian’s campaign, there is the serious matter of sovereignty. Guardian editors and readers might have strong feelings about our presidential campaign, but they don’t have a right to intervene. As a respectable, albeit liberal, newspaper, the Guardian should have known this. That it went ahead anyway with an ostensibly serious effort to influence American voters not only displays a profound disrespect; it unveils extreme elitism. Ironically, it was those unsophisticated American letter writers who blew that elitism wide open with a simple message: It’s our country — butt out. Centuries of political philosophy couldn’t have said it better.

When the letter-writing campaign didn’t work, Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker resorted last week to an anti-Bush screed, concluding, “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinkley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?” According to Guardian editors, this was meant to be a joke. American sovereignty, however, is no laughing matter.

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