The Guardian, Issue 1573
[Got to be a 1 April, surely?]
kath-viner.jpg GUARDIAN editor Kath Viner is trying yet again to impose a ceasefire in the paper's civil wars over "gender identity". Last week she issued new guidelines warning that "it is never acceptable to criticise colleagues on social media either directly or indirectly", and hacks who do so can expect "disciplinary procedures" – though she didn't specify what the punishment might be.
Alas! Just one day later Grauniad columnist Hadley Freeman was attacked on Twitter by Nina Lakhani, the "senior climate justice reporter" at Guardian US, for arguing: "If US feminist organisations cannot say the word woman they cannot defend women's rights." Lakhani accused her colleague of spouting "a whole other level of utter bullshit". This rubbishing of Freeman was then "liked" by three other Guardian US hacks.
But never mind, the editor has another peacemaking scheme: the Guardian Dialogue Project, which aims "to build a common understanding around the issues of trans people's rights, gender critical feminism, and liberal progressive journalism in the Guardian". As one hack explains: "She's inviting the staff to see shrinks." Or, more precisely, Gestalt psychotherapists and executive coaches, who are "facilitating" 30 sessions at the office over the next month. The first was held this Monday.
At each event, a lone Grauniad employee is shut away for an hour with two of these advisers and invited to share "thoughts and perspectives on the issues". An anonymised account is then sent to Viner and her senior editorial leadership team, "to inform and support their ongoing reflection".
No one knows how much money the paper is spending on this truth-and-reconciliation exercise, but we do at least know who the facilitators are. They include Martin Vogel, a former BBC hack who is now an executive coach and "a trained instructor in mindfulness meditation". Then there's Charmaine Roche, founder of Lifeflowbalance Coaching and Consulting Ltd, whose CV boasts that she is "developing decoloniality as a systemic lens for creating solutions based on the liberating stance of working within the fissures and cracks of a broken system".
‘Dynamic of shame'
One of the Gestalt psychotherapists, Dr Eliat Aram, reveals that she specialises in "the dialectic between love, leadership, ethics and aesthetics" and enjoys "working with the dynamic of shame", which should come in useful at the Grauniad office. Another therapist, Simon Cavicchia, regularly hosts a two-day workshop "Playing at the Edge – Dancing with the Inner Critic", billed as "a creative inquiry into shame, spontaneity, freedom".
One satisfied customer posted a photo of multi-coloured strips of plasticine she had entwined at the event, "expressing my Inner Critic in clay". Alas, not all Viner's hacks are so impressed. "Plasticine!" says one. "Does Kath think we're five-year-olds?"
"We strongly encourage staff to regularly delete historical tweets and other social posts," say the Guardian's new guidelines. "We recommend using the Tweetdelete service to do this." And, oh happy day, hacks have been told that the cost of sanitising their whiffy Twitter history can be claimed on expenses!