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David Aaronovitch

David Aaronovitch
File:David Aaronovitch Guildford SitP (cropped).JPG
David Aaronovitch at Guildford Skeptics in the Pub
Born (1954-07-08) 8 July 1954 (age 61)
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
University of Manchester
Occupation Journalist/Broadcaster/Author
Parent(s) 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 and education

Aaronovitch is the son of communist intellectual and economist Sam Aaronovitch,[1] and brother of actor Owen Aaronovitch and scriptwriter and author Ben Aaronovitch. He has written that he was brought up "to react to wealth with a puritanical pout".[2]

Aaronovitch attended Gospel Oak Primary School until 1965, Holloway County Comprehensive (now Holloway School)[3] until 1968, and William Ellis School from 1968 to 1972, all in London. He studied Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford from October 1973 until April 1974, when he was expelled for failing the German language section of his history exams.[4] Aaronovitch completed his education at the Victoria University of Manchester, graduating in 1978 with a 2:1 BA (Hons) in History.

While at Manchester, Aaronovitch 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 tactics were a protest against the fact that Oxford University and Cambridge University were allowed to enter each of their colleges into the contest as a separate team, even though the colleges were not universities in themselves.

Aaronovitch was initially a Eurocommunist, and was active in the National Union of Students (NUS). There 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 ticket.

Career in journalism

Aaranovitch started his media career in the early 1980s as a television researcher and later producer for the ITV program Weekend World. In 1988 he began working at BBC as founding editor of the On the Record.

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 until the end of 2002.

He began contributing to The Guardian and The Observer in 2003 as a columnist and feature writer. Since June 2005, he has written a regular column for The Times. He also writes a regular column for The Jewish Chronicle. Aaronovitch has also written for a variety of other major British news and opinion publications, such as the New Statesman. He also written for New Humanist, and is an "honorary associate" of its publisher, the Rationalist Association.

Aaronovitch 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.

Aaronovitch also hosted the BBC series The Blair Years (2007), which examined the prime ministership of Tony Blair. The BBC selection of Aaronovitch to interview Blair was criticized by the Daily Mail‍ '​s Peter Oborne, who stated in July 2007 that "over the past ten years Aaronovitch has never... ceased to extend a helping hand to Tony Blair... Whatever his merits as a journalist, Aaronovitch cannot be regarded as an independent figure who could be trusted to interrogate a former prime minister on behalf of the British public."[5][6]

Political perspective

Aaronovitch gave strong support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Since the invasion he has taken the view that it liberated Iraqis, and has played down the significance of Iraq's putative weapons of mass destruction. However, 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."[7] He remains a strong supporter of Prime Minister Tony Blair.[8]

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 had denied the Srebrenica massacre.[9][10] A Guardian readers' editor found that the newspaper had misrepresented Chomsky's position on the Srebrenica massacre, and that judgement was upheld in May 2006 by an external ombudsman, John Willis.[11]

In his column of 5 September 2013, Aaronovitch criticised the Labour leader Ed Miliband for providing no alternative to military intervention in Syria, after the use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta attacks of 21 August 2013.[12][13] 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."[14]

During 2013, Aaronovitch became the chairman of the human rights organisation Index on Censorship, succeeding Jonathan Dimbleby in the role.[15]

In May 2014 Aaronovitch criticized Glenn Greenwald's involvement in the Edward Snowden NSA revelations, and characterised Greenwald as "a stilted writer of overlong, dishonest and repetitive polemics."[16]

In August 2014, Aaronovitch was one of 200 public figures to sign an open letter to the people of Scotland urging them to vote 'No' to Scottish Independence in the Scottish Referendum on 18 September 2014.[17][18]

Personal life

Aaronovitch lives in London with his wife and three daughters.[19]


  • 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."[20]
  • 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[21] 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. Stephen Byers and the sad ghost of new Labour[dead link]
  3. The Old Camdenians Club. Retrieved 31 January 2015
  4. Aaronovitch, David (14 July 2000). "Parliament has become no more than a museum", The Independent (London).
  5. Peter Oborne "Forget the Queen fiasco, it's the BBC's love affair with the Blairs that is so disquieting", Daily Mail, 13 July 2007
  6. Other journalists were also unimpressed with Aaronovitch or dismissed the series. See Rachel Cooke in the New Statesman ("A great big rip-off", New Statesman, 22 November 2007) and Mark Lawson ("Economical with the candour", The Guardian, 17 November 2007).
  7. David Aaronovitch "Those weapons had better be there ...", The Guardian, 29 April 2003
  8. David Aaronovitch: Syria vote shows Ed Miliband is a ‘vulture’ not a ‘leader’The Spectator, 5 September 2013
  9. The Chomsky Complaint[dead link] David Aaronovitch's weblog, 20 March 2006.
  10. 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
  11. Willis, John (25 May 2006). External Ombudsman Report, The Guardian.
  12. Sellström, Åke; Scott Cairns; Maurizio Barbeschi (13 September 2013). "United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic – Report on the Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Ghouta Area of Damascus on 21 August 2013" (PDF). United Nations. Archived from the original on 18 September 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  13. "UN Chemical Weapons Report Will Confirm Sarin Gas Used in Aug. 21 Attack". 16 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013. 
  14. 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
  15. "Winners – Index Awards 2013", Index on Censorship, 21 March 2013
  16. David Aaronovitch "After Snowden, do you feel less safe?" New Statesman, 28 May 2014
  17. "Scottish independence: Celebrities call for Scots No vote", BBC News Scotland, 7 August 2014
  18. Peter Dominiczak "Sir Mick Jagger joins 200 public figures calling for Scotland to stay in the UK", The Sunday Telegraph, 10 August 2014;
  19. About David Aaronovitch, from
  20. "No excuses for terror", Honest Reporting, September 2006.
  21. "Debunking conspiracy theories", BBC Breakfast, 8 May 2009.

External links

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

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