Full Text of Hari’s Mea Culpa


Guido doesn’t usually quote articles verbatim, but since this isn’t online and in the interests of doing a full “intellectual portrait” here it is:

The Lessons I Must Draw From These Attacks On My Journalism

It’s clearly not plagiarism or churnalism, but was it an error in another way? Yes. I now see it was wrong and I wouldn’t do it again

Yesterday on Twitter I was accused of plagiarism. This accusation is totally false – but I have reflected seriously on this and do have something to apologise for. When you interview a writer – especially but not only when English isn’t their first language – they will sometimes make a point that sounds clear when you hear it, but turns out to be incomprehensible or confusing on the page. In those instances, I have sometimes substituted a passage they have written or said more clearly elsewhere on the same subject for what they said to me, so the reader understands their point as clearly as possible. The quotes are always accurate representations of their words, inserted into the interview at the point where they made substantively the same argument using similar but less clear language. I did not and never have taken words from another context and twisted them to mean something different – I only ever substituted clearer expressions of the same sentiment, so the reader knew what the subject thinks in the most comprehensible possible words.

I stress: I have only ever done this where the interviewee was making the same or similar point to me in the interview that they had already made more clearly in print. Where I described their body language, for example, I was describing their body language as they made the same point that I was quoting – I was simply using the clearer words from their writing so the reader understood the point best. This is one reason why none of my interviewees have, to my knowledge, ever said they were misquoted in my nearly 10 years with The Independent, even when they feel I’ve been very critical of them in other ways. My critics have focused on my interview with Gideon Levy as supposedly distorted. So what does Gideon Levy say? These are his words: “I stand behind everything that was published in the interview. It was a totally accurate representation of my thoughts and words.”

This does not fit any definition of plagiarism. Plagiarism is presenting somebody else’s intellectual work as your own – whereas I have always accurately attributed the ideas of (say) Gideon Levy to Gideon Levy. Nor can it be regarded as churnalism. Churnalism is a journalist taking a press release and mindlessly recycling it. It is not a journalist carefully reading over all a writer’s books and quoting it to best reflect how they think.

Over the years I have interviewed some people who have messages we desperately need to hear – from Gideon Levy about Israel, to Malalai Joya about Afghanistan, to Gerry Adams about how to end a sectarian war. Just this week, I interviewed one of the bravest people I have ever met – Shirin Ebadi. I would hate people to not hear these vital messages because they incorrectly think the subjects have been falsely quoted. Every word I have quoted has been said by my interviewee, and accurately represents their view. I hope people continue to hear their words.

When I’ve been wrong in the past – as I shamefully was over the Iraq War – I have admitted it publicly, tried to think through how I got it wrong, and corrected myself. So I’ve thought carefully about whether I have been wrong here. It’s clearly not plagiarism or churnalism – but was it an error in another way? Yes. I now see it was wrong, and I wouldn’t do it again.

Why? Because an interview is not just an essayistic representation of what a person thinks; it is a report on an encounter between the interviewer and the interviewee. If (for example) a person doesn’t speak very good English, or is simply unclear, it may be better to quote their slightly broken or garbled English than to quote their more precise written work, and let that speak for itself. It depends on whether you prefer the intellectual accuracy of describing their ideas in their most considered words, or the reportorial accuracy of describing their ideas in the words they used on that particular afternoon. Since my interviews are long intellectual profiles, not ones where I’m trying to ferret out a scoop or exclusive, I have, in the past, prioritised the former. That was, on reflection, a mistake, because it wasn’t clear to the reader.

I’m sorry, and I’m grateful to the people who pointed out this error of judgement. I will make sure I learn from it.

UPDATE: Noam Chomsky has accused Hari of fabricating quotes from him supposedly spoken in conversation, calling them a “flight of the Hari imagination”.

UPDATE II: Rowan Wilson alleges that contrary to the blended “intellectual portrait” / interview / fictional account of a meeting with Antonio Negri “that there was no taxi called, I didn’t say the things ascribed to me, Negri wasn’t behaving arrogantly as suggested, there was no angry confontation with ICA staff” all of which “casts serious doubt on the veracity of anything that Hari says.”



Tip offs: 0709 284 0531
team@Order-order.com

Quote of the Day

Andy Burnham, an MP at Westminster since 2001:

“I’m not a Westminster politician. Never have been.”

Top Posts This Week

Guidogram: Sign up

Subscribe to the most succinct 7 days a week daily email read by thousands of Westminster insiders.

Facebook

WELSH FIRST MINISTER CONDEMNS STEEL WORKERS WELSH FIRST MINISTER CONDEMNS STEEL WORKERS
MOAT CLEANING EXPENSES SCANDAL MP AWARDED PEERAGE MOAT CLEANING EXPENSES SCANDAL MP AWARDED PEERAGE
CHICKEN TORIES CHICKEN TORIES
1 IN 5 CORBYN SUPPORTERS VOTED FOR CLEGG 1 IN 5 CORBYN SUPPORTERS VOTED FOR CLEGG
CORBYN ESCAPES #LABOURPURGE CORBYN ESCAPES #LABOURPURGE
VOICE OF AN OIL DRILL VOICE OF AN OIL DRILL

Wind Turbines: Subsidised Sun Beds Wind Turbines: Subsidised Sun Beds
FLASHBACK: EVERY DAY SEXUAL SEGREGATION FLASHBACK: EVERY DAY SEXUAL SEGREGATION
Control the Camera on this 360° Crossrail Video Control the Camera on this 360° Crossrail Video
Flashback: Labour Leader Vote Hijack, Could Rivals Do a Balotelli? Flashback: Labour Leader Vote Hijack, Could Rivals Do a Balotelli?
Andy Burnham Everyday Sexism Andy Burnham Everyday Sexism
Burnham Threatens to Quit Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet Burnham Threatens to Quit Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet
GORDON DOOMS YVETTE (?) GORDON DOOMS YVETTE (?)
MPs’ Deleted Tweets Twitter Don’t Want You to See MPs’ Deleted Tweets Twitter Don’t Want You to See
Corbyn: ‘I Don’t Support Putin, But…’ Corbyn: ‘I Don’t Support Putin, But…’
Foreign cash funding In campaign should be illegal Foreign cash funding In campaign should be illegal
Corbyn v Train Jihadi Corbyn v Train Jihadi
JEREMY CORBYN EQUATES ISIS TO US MILITARY JEREMY CORBYN EQUATES ISIS TO US MILITARY
MILIBAND’S TRIBUTE BEARD MILIBAND’S TRIBUTE BEARD
CORBYN AT PMQS CORBYN AT PMQS
JEREMY CORBYN’S SENSIBLE JUMPER ADVICE JEREMY CORBYN’S SENSIBLE JUMPER ADVICE
DWP FAKE OUTRAGE DWP FAKE OUTRAGE
ALIBHAI-BROWN TRIES TO SNIFF OUT BRITISH JEWS ALIBHAI-BROWN TRIES TO SNIFF OUT BRITISH JEWS
GRANNY BASHER LABOUR MP CANDIDATE BACK IN COURT GRANNY BASHER LABOUR MP CANDIDATE BACK IN COURT
BBC World News Broke Broadcast Rules by Running Green Propaganda BBC World News Broke Broadcast Rules by Running Green Propaganda
TOM WATSON WANTED TO ABOLISH THE DEPUTY LEADERSHIP TOM WATSON WANTED TO ABOLISH THE DEPUTY LEADERSHIP
Rich’s Monday Morning View Rich’s Monday Morning View
TELEGRAPH CALL AMAZON CEO A BOZO TELEGRAPH CALL AMAZON CEO A BOZO
DIANE REVEALS MORE THAN INTENDED ON NEW CAMPAIGN GRAPHIC DIANE REVEALS MORE THAN INTENDED ON NEW CAMPAIGN GRAPHIC
GORDON PROWLS GORDON PROWLS