Former Guardian Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger reflects on controversial topics

When the old Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger left the media to become principal of an Oxford college, it seemed he was looking for a quieter life.

After overseeing stories such as the Wikileaks release of secret documents, the phone hacking scandal and the Edward Snowden surveillance saga, he had upset the White House, embarrassed Downing Street, and made enemies in his own. industry as well as many admirers.

But after six years in academia, he’s back and poking his nose into some of modern life’s most angry hornet nests. “I enjoyed my time in Oxford, but I’m a journalist at heart, he recalls, sitting in a high-ceilinged front room of the Grade II listed Westminster Townhouse which is his new home. .

In his first issue as editor-in-chief of the monthly current affairs magazine Perspective, Rusbridger launches head-on in the cancellation of culture and trans rights, two subjects fomenting the cultural wars which polarize so many contemporary debates.

Her first cover story, “How To Cancel Culture Became A Blood Sport,” features dozens of cases of people losing their jobs or not having a platform because of events due to negative perceptions of their opinions. Another article, “Gender Wars,” is a seven-page exploration of an inflammatory theme: the intersection of trans and women‘s rights. “I put on my tin helmet,” he says, although he has had “nothing but good feedback” on a dignified exchange in which feminist philosopher Kathleen Stock and transgender lawyer Robin White respond. to the same questions.

Rusbridger isn’t looking for fights. While other publications see culture wars as a means of amplification, Prospect will be a “voice of calm,” he says. “I feel exhausted by the culture wars. Much of it is being conducted at such a high volume and in such black and white terms and that is not how I see the world. It is often an attempt to silence, denigrate, or overturn arguments with which you disagree. I don’t find that very interesting.

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As a publisher he is drawn to tough issues because “I don’t like the feeling that things can’t be discussed.” He has no fixed position on gender wars. “I don’t feel strong on one side or the other and the only time I tweeted about it was to this effect and I was freaking out on both sides.” Reading the views from each side, Perspective readers “would have changed their minds to some extent” because the two positions are rarely juxtaposed.

Rusbridger, 67, edited the left-wing magazine Guardian for two decades but wants Perspective occupy different ground. “My feeling is that if, roughly, The spectator is law and the [New] statesman is left, Perspective doesn’t need to be either. I would like it to be a place where people without a strong affiliation can meet in a respectful dialogue.

He was hired by Perspective, Clive Cowdery, who made his fortune in insurance. Cowdery, Chairman of Resolution Life Group, attended a Bristol conference and the magazine is part of Resolution Trust, a non-profit organization promoting an equal distribution of wealth and power in society.

AT The Guardian Rusbridger enlarged the newsroom with such enthusiasm that critics accused him of debauchery. Now he has to operate with a staff of eight. His success will be determined by his ability to command original writers, such as the former French ambassador Gérard Errera, who gives a Gallic point of view on the rupture of the Entente Cordiale.

For PerspectiveIn the Lives section, he hired former England cricket captain Michael Brearley (to write on the sport) and actor Sheila Hancock (on “long life”). Other regulars include Doncaster-based asylum seeker Jason Thomas-Fournillier, Cambridgeshire priest Alice Goodman and East Anglian farmer Tom Martin. “I didn’t want it to be an elite metropolitan magazine,” says the editor.

His stylistic inspirations include the end Spectator editor-in-chief Alexander Chancellor, former Sunday opening hours columnist Anthony Holden and New York magazine. He hopes to emulate the narrative writing style of American periodicals such as Atlantic.

Rusbridger’s time away from the media has coincided with an increase in misinformation online. “Then you have this catastrophic government with a prime minister who is lying on purpose. It’s a total implosion of confidence, ”he says.

He wants to start organizing events from a 90-seat auditorium in the basement of the building. It’s “a seven-minute walk from parliament,” he said, before heading to tap a Prospect podcast with Irish writer Fintan O’Toole on the culture of cancellation.

For all the ambition of Rusbridger, Perspective will not emulate the breathtaking Fleet Street headlines that seek to influence politics through thunderous editorials. “It’s a huge relief for me not to have to think, ‘What is the magazine thinking?’ The magazine does not think! We’ve put together an eclectic range of interesting voices, ”he says. “It sounds very liberating.”

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