Ed Howker broke the news that Hari will be suspended for two months while he is investigated by former Indy editor Andreas Whittam-Smith. Polly, Kelner, Helena, Laurie, Sunny: your boy took a helluva beating.
As the outrage about journalistic practices spreads, it would be easy to forget the ongoing drama around the Independent’s Johnan Hari, and the investigation into his shameless plagiarism. Other bloggers have started to unravel Hari’s strange online antics, with lots of questions about Hari’s alternative personality online spinner “David R”. Who mysteriously shares an IP address with the Indy…
Currently having his 2008 Orwell Prize reviewed, Guido would like to point the committee to some alarming similarities between one of the articles that Hari submitted for the prize, and a feature in the German magazine Spiegel.
Though he goes on to credit Spiegel with having“documented a long list” mentioned later in the piece, Johann fails to mention he gutted the German introduction, stealing its narrative, facts and quotes. It relies on the same individual cases and lifts a quote from German Minister for Integration Armin Laschet, that was sourced by another journalist If the Orwell Prize committee haven’t read both pieces then they can find them here and here.
And it wasn’t just the Germans that Johann ripped off. In the piece Johann states:
“As the Iranian author Azar Nafisi puts it: “I very much resent it when people – maybe with good intentions or from a progressive point of view – keep telling me, ‘It’s their culture’ … It’s like saying the culture of Massachusetts is burning witches.”
“Cohen quotes the Iranian author Azar Nafisi: “I very much resent it when people – maybe with good intentions or from a progressive point of view – keep telling me, ‘It’s their culture’… It’s like saying the culture of Massachusetts is burning witches.””
It seems odd given how scathing Hari was of Cohen in the review that he would go on to quote “What’s Left” without crediting his source. Well it would odd if it was anyone but Hari…
N.B. Lest Guido should be accused of “doing a Hari”, the above points are largely based on original research by Hopi Sen, see also this comment from Hopi.
The sun isn’t going down on the Johann Hari scandal. The careless whisper that he was tidying up what the subjects of his “interviews” were saying, doesn’t cover all of his artistic prose. What about when the interviewee isn’t a writer, yet still gets a spruce up? How are we meant to find a little faith then?
Anna Raccoon and The Debrief have been pondering Hari’s “exclusive” interview with George Michael in the Indy back in 2005. The same interview exclusively appeared on Hari’s personal site the same day. Amazingly Hari seems to have blagged another interview with the troubled singer in 2009, this time for the Huffington Post. Except it’s not a new “exclusive” interview, it’s the same one – he simply changed the ages in the piece to reflect the time passed. A simple google from the HuffPo team would have proved that. Oh and of course there were bits of the original stolen from elsewhere. Wham!
Elsewhere around the web Archbishop Cranmer has his take, the Staggers’ notes Hari’s great affection for the Daily Mail. The HuffPo covers the scandal of the Indy journalist (Hari) who is a terrible fraud, neglecting to mention that Hari has written (or rather cut and pasted) for them, for years. Fancy that…
UPDATE: Guido understands that this week’s edition of Private Eye is going to be Hari-tastic.
A co-conspirator sent in this email this afternoon. If this is true and it was Helena Kennedy he overheard, she should recuse herself from the decision over Johann Hari and the Orwell Prize.
On Friday, mid afternoon I hopped on a train at Clapham Junction heading to Gatwick. Behind me was a softly Scottish accented lady who started to have a conversation on her mobile. There was someone quite upset on the phone and she was very consoling. She then announced that she was high up in the Media Standards Trust and started name-dropping her connections. I’d never heard of the MST till I read your blog today. She was clearly talking about the Hari story, which I had heard about, so I listened in. I don’t know who she was (their website is down* right now and didn´t see her), but she firmly came down on the side of Hari, and seemed to be suggesting that she’d be doing all she could to avoid the guy being treated badly. Who is she I wonder, and who was the person on the phone? She seemed to be being asked to give advice about what to do next, and kept on telling the person that she’d call them when she got home as she was on a train. It seemed rather urgent. I wondered if it might be Hari himself or someone being pulled down by the consequences. Kelner? I tried finding out who this Softly scottish accented woman was…
In a short time the co-conspirator and Guido came to form the opinion that it was Helena Kennedy. His second email continued:
Can’t be sure it was her because I didn’t see her (I was sitting directly in front of her and didn´t want to turn around). Her voice fits exactly. I’d never heard of the MST. In response to the call she received, she quickly declared her role in that organisation as well as some personal links some people associated with the Orwell Prize, and that was what pricked my ears up. If she’s the only “posh Scot” woman in that organisation, then it can’t be anyone else. The conversation that followed seemed to fit exactly as though she were talking about the Hari issue, and she was giving that defence of Hari I’ve read elsewhere. She didn’t actually mention Hari by name. She seemed to be travelling with two other people (men) as she was talking with them as I got off at Gatwick. I got on the train sometime around 3pm at Clapham if it helps.
Helena Kennedy is on the boards of both The Independent newspaper and the Media Standards Trust. Guido will caveat this by saying he has yet to speak to Kennedy to get her confirmation or denial. Prima facie this doesn’t sound like the beginnings of something that is going to be transparent and accountable. Hari deserves due process, not a liberal-establishment stitch-up…
*The Media Standards Trust website is currently down.
Dylan Jones, editor of GQ, is telling people that Johann Hari was dropped from writing for the magazine because he concocted copy that mixed fact and fiction. You don’t say…
Elsewhere more left-wing men of letters are breaking cover and saying openly what they have been muttering over the olive ciabatta in Hampstead and Islington. Martin Bright, who was an Orwell Prize judge this year, has come down hard tempered with mercy. In a tone which echoes Guido’s headmasters before a caning he writes:
Simply put, Johann Hari has let the side down. Several sides in fact. He has let down his fellow journalists, he has let down fellow liberals and he has let down the Orwell Prize… I feel a genuine sympathy for him on a personal level. There is something psychologically peculiar about attributing quotes in the way he did. And now through his arrogance he has drawn his editor and the Orwell Prize into this appalling mess. Johann Hari has disgraced himself. The Orwell Prize must come to its own decision about his prize. I hope his career survives this because he would be a loss to journalism. But if anyone is to believe what he writes in future he has to stop making excuses and simply explain his mystifying behaviour, honestly and openly. That is a piece I would read.
Elsewhere the novelist Jeremy Dun demands Hari admit he is a plagiarist and is scathing about Mark Lawson’s defence of Hari in the Guardian, which reads as if Lawson isn’t aware of the fullness of the allegations. Guy Walters in the New Statesmen (where Hari got his first break and had problems with deputy editor Christina Odone over his expenses) identified 42 cut ‘n pastes from Malalai Joya’s own book. Not all were in inverted commas, making them a problem of attribution, much of the text is presented as Hari’s own words. Classic plagiarism.
Left-wing academic Professor Norman Geras is balanced yet mildly scolds Hari’s defenders. Worth reading the Telegraph’s Damian Thompson for his take on events. He reckons it was the Kindle wot done For Hari…
UPDATE: The blogger who caught this little scene-setting Hari lie in 2009 made Guido laugh, it dates back to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference: “Johann Hari Hates Big Macs But Tells Whoppers“. In itself a trivial lie to sex up an anti-capitalist piece. These kind of lies are the reason why Polly Toynbee and Laurie Penny et al are so keen to excuse him. Shame on them.
Johann Hari has made a living out adding a little first person je ne sais quoi to his articles, also known as bullshit. Day after day new evidence emerges of his Matilda-ish tendency towards fakery and deception, and it appears to be a trick that he picked up early in his career. In October 1999 he was sacked as News Editor of Cambridge University’s Varsity student newspaper. He told friends at the time it was because the editor was “jealous of my intellect”. Another pure fabrication.
Hari was sacked after his sexed up copy, printed in the October 29, 1999 edition, included the made up fact that 1,500 students had taken part in a protest against tuition fees. It turned out to be a ridiculous exaggeration and when the editor discovered that the figure was way out, it was the final straw amidst a growing suspicion that Hari had an unfortunate tendency make up things to spice up his copy.
At least his then editor had some spine…
The Orwell Prize Council revealed yesterday that:
“Prior to presenting the award, as part of our due diligence, one of the judges contacted Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent, who expressed his full confidence in the Hari articles”
Other former winners have confirmed to Guido that this was a one off and did not happen regarding their submissions, as far as Guido is aware no other editors have been contacted in this way to vouch for their hacks. What was suspicious about Hari’s work? His reputation for embellishment was known well enough in newsrooms to make the judges nervous.
The Orwell Prize Council pointedly claimed this week that they had, since awarding Hari the Orwell Prize in 2008, tightened up the rules regarding attribution of quotes. Did they have anyone in mind when they made that rule change?
On discovering yesterday that Hari entered work this year for the 2011 Orwell Prize, Guido asked the director of the prize to list the articles Hari had entered, he declined. They are it seems to go down the Orwellian memory hole. Jenni Russell won the prize this year, Hari’s continuing claim to be a former prize winner tarnishes the name of the prize. Guido knows for a fact that other prize winners feel genuine anger that Hari is among their prestigious number.
Hari defended himself in his mea culpa article using his own unique definition of plagiarism. To the charge of plagiarism we can add passing off, fraud, deception, profiting from the work of others and lying. He should be asked by the Orwell Prize Council to return the £3,000 prize money and to refrain from describing himself as a former Orwell Prize winner. As for Hari, he should note what happened to Matilda:
Matilda told such Dreadful Lies,
It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth,
Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
Attempted to Believe Matilda:
The effort very nearly killed her,
For every time she shouted ‘Fire!’
They only answered ‘Little Liar!’
And therefore when her Aunt returned,
Matilda, and the House, were Burned.
Chris Blackhurst was announced as the new editor of The Indy today…
“The Independent columnist’s award-winning work included pieces on a cruise with American rightwingers, a report on Saudi Arabia, multiculturalism and women, and another on France’s “secret war” in the Central African Republic. Johann Hari’s work combines courageous reporting and forceful writing with honest analysis,” said Orwell Prize judge Albert Scardino, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.” More…
“The Orwell Prize became aware of allegations concerning Johann Hari, the winner of the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2008, on Monday 27th June. (Johann Hari has also been shortlisted for the Prize in the past, and entered this year’s Prize.) Given the seriousness of the allegations that have been made, we feel we have no choice other than to investigate further.
The Council of the Orwell Prize takes the integrity and reputation of the Orwell Prize, and the rigour, fairness and transparency of the entry and judging process, very seriously. As stated on Tuesday 28th June, there is a process to follow in such situations, which we have been following since Monday and continue to pursue …
Since 2008 the entry process has been made more robust still. The governance of the Prize has been reformed, and all entrants are required to sign a disclaimer, declaring that the submitted work ‘is wholly or substantially that of the named author or authors, and does not contain any plagiarised or unacknowledged material.”
If they want a proper investigation then they should allow some open sourced scrutiny of the pieces. Seems to have worked so far…
Guido is fairly sure Johann Hari has breached Article 1 of the PCC Code. He has admitted misleading his readers. Despite the desperate attempts by his editor, Simon Kelner, to spin that his favorite son is being attacked for political reasons, the Hari-wagon is coming off of the tracks.
The Telegraph are coming down on him heavily. Firstly there is Brenden O’Neil rightly pointing out that “the notion that one can reach “the truth” by manipulating reality should be anathema to anyone who calls himself a journalist.” Janet Daley weighs in with a valid arguement:
“Many, if not most, of his interviewees were people whom he admired and whose political views he shared. By replacing what he admits were often their less-than-articulate responses to live questions with text from their published works, he was performing a service to their reputations which was worthy of a spin doctor or a professional propagandist.”
Toby Young points us to the career ending decision:
“His fate now turns on whether the committee that awarded him the Orwell Prize for Journalism asks him to return the prize (and the £3,000 prize money). It is hard to see how they could do otherwise, given that Hari still doesn’t seem to think his cut-and-paste habits are anything to be ashamed of.”
And in a slap to Kelner’s face and reputation, this issue goes beyond any left or right divide. The New Statesman is being particularly thorough in making sure the golden child of the left is held to the level of accountability that his platform and reputation deserve. The most damning revelation of the day so far comes from the Staggers, who reveal that Hari directly lifted other peoples work for an “interview” he did with Chavez in 2006. The dictionary definition of plagiarism.
Meanwhile The Guardian have provided a helpful poll on whether you think Hari’s apology was enough, needless to say it’s not looking good for him. Guido is digging around rumours of Hari being fired from his student paper for “making things up in order to make a story stronger”. He also bought you two more accusations of plagiarism earlier and Forbes have compiled cases of Hari getting his facts completely wrong, deliberately perhaps. Hilariously historian Guy Walters has found Hari lifted text Ann Leslie’s biography for his own interview with her. No wonder she said he wasn’t “a real journalist” on Newsnight last night. Brian Whelan, who triggered this onslaught has found another smoking gun.
Right now hundreds of articles by the disgraced bard are being scrutinised, fact-checked, cross-referenced and flagged up. You shake one branch….
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:
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.”
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Before Miliband spoke, a school choir sang ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay. The first verse of which goes like this:
“When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse”