David Aaronovitch

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David Aaronovitch
David Aaronovitch Guildford SitP (cropped).JPG
David Aaronovitch at Guildford Skeptics in the Pub
Born (1954-07-08) 8 July 1954 (age 59)
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
University of Manchester
Occupation Journalist/Broadcaster/Author
Parents Sam Aaronovitch
Awards Columnist of the Year;
Orwell Prize for Political Journalism

David Aaronovitch (born 8 July 1954) is a British journalist, broadcaster, and author. 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 Orwell Prize for political journalism in 2001, and the What the Papers Say "Columnist of the Year" award for 2003.

Early life[edit]

Aaronovitch is the son of the economist, communist and intellectual[1] Sam Aaronovitch, and brother of the actor Owen Aaronovitch and scriptwriter and author 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[2] until April 1974, when he was sent down (expelled) for failing the German part of his History exams. He completed his education at the Victoria University of Manchester, graduating in 1978 with a 2:1 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 Marxist ("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 Left Alliance[disambiguation needed] ticket. He has written that he was brought up "to react to wealth with a puritanical pout".[3]

Career in journalism[edit]

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 remaining there 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 2004 he presented The Norman Way, a three-part BBC Radio 4 documentary looking at régime change in 1066.

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. Since the invasion he has taken the view that it liberated Iraqis, and he has played down the significance of Iraq's putative weapons of mass destruction, of which he wrote in 2003: "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."[4] Aaronovitch has responded negatively to criticism of Jews who oppose Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.[5]

In late 2005 Aaronovitch was co-author, with Oliver Kamm and journalist Francis Wheen, of a complaint to The Guardian after it published an apology to Noam Chomsky for an interview by Emma Brockes in which she asserted that Chomsky denied the Srebrenica massacre.[6][7] A Guardian readers' editor found that the newspaper had misrepresented Chomsky's position on the Srebrenica massacre, and his judgement was upheld in May 2006 by an external ombudsman, John Willis,[8] In his report for The Guardian, Willis detailed his reasons for rejecting the argument put forward by Aaronovitch and the others.

In his column of 5 September 2013, Aaronovitch criticised the Labour leader Ed Miliband for providing no alternative to military intervention, after the use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta attacks of 21 August, an action presumed to have been made by the Bashar al-Assad regime in the Syrian civil war. For Aaronovitch, "politically [Miliband] is not a presence at all, he is an absence" and "is neither hunter nor prey, he is scavenger. He is a political vulture."[9]

During 2013, Aaronovitch will become the chairman of the human rights organisation Index on Censorship, succeeding Jonathan Dimbleby in the role.[10] Aaronovitch lives in London with his wife and three daughters.[11]


  • 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."[12]
  • 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[13] Published in the US in 2010 by Riverhead Books, ISBN 978-1-59448-895-5


  1. ^ Barker, Martin (1992). Haunt of Fears: Strange History of the British Horror Comics Campaign, University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-0-87805-594-4
  2. ^ Aaronovitch, David (14 July 2000). "Parliament has become no more than a museum", The Independent (London).
  3. ^ Stephen Byers and the sad ghost of new Labour[dead link]
  4. ^ David Aaronovitch "Those weapons had better be there ...", The Guardian, 29 April 2003
  5. ^ David Aaronovitch (2 June 2011). "What did he hope to achieve?". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 8 June 2011. 
  6. ^ The Chomsky Complaint[dead link] David Aaronovitch's weblog, 20 March 2006.
  7. ^ Brockes, Emma (31 October 2005). "The Greatest Intellectual?", The Guardian (London); the background was that Chomsky complained that Brockes' article was defamatory in implying he denied the fact of the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. The article has since been withdrawn from the Guardian's website, but, as Chomsky is opposed to censorship, it remains available on the official Chomsky website Chomsky.info.
  8. ^ Willis, John (25 May 2006). External Ombudsman Report, The Guardian.
  9. ^ David Aaronovitch "Ed Miliband is no leader. He is a vulture", The Times (subscription), 5 September 2013, cited by Fraser Nelson "David Aaronovitch: Syria vote shows Ed Miliband is a ‘vulture’ not a ‘leader’", The Spectator (Coffee House blog), 5 September 2013
  10. ^ "Winners – Index Awards 2013", Index on Censorship, 21 March 2013
  11. ^ About David Aaronovitch, from penguin.com
  12. ^ "No excuses for terror", Honest Reporting, September 2006.
  13. ^ "Debunking conspiracy theories", BBC Breakfast, 8 May 2009.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Trevor Philips
President of the National Union of Students
Succeeded by
Neil Stewart