Wednesday, June 29, 2011

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.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Orwell Would Be Turning In His Grave
Hari Should Be Stripped of His Prize


Guido has just got off the phone with the Media Standards Trust, a charity “that fosters high standards in news on behalf of the public”. As sponsors of the Orwell Prize they funded the award to Johann Hari of the prestigous prize in 2008. Orwell is the giant of British political writing, the inventor of the Ministry of Truth and creator of Winston Smith who had the job of “rectifying” the past. Johann Hari has done far too much “rectifying” of quotes and facts to have the honour of holding a prize named after Orwell.

The Media Standards Trust tell Guido that procedure has to be followed, that the governance process for the Orwell Prize council involves worthies and due process has to be seen to be done. It is farcical for a charity that aims to foster the highest standards of political journalism, in the name and tradition of Orwell, to have as a recipient of their highest award a journalist who fakes interviews.  George Orwell once wrote “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” Johann has been caught deceiving, it is time for them to act…

UPDATE: Guido just spoke on the phone with Hari (like a real journalist, not one who just pretends to interview the sources of his quotes) to ask him “Will you be giving back the Orwell Prize?”. He hesitated for a moment before saying “I have an article in the Independent tomorrow… thank you.” He then put the phone down…

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fake Gay Girl in Damascus Humiliates Guardianistas

How much more right-on can you get than a blogging gay girl in Damascus? An oppressed lesbian fighting for Arab liberation and lipstick lusts? Well it is pretty unbeatable in the right-on victimisation stakes, sure enough the Guardian and the BBC went overboard. When she was supposedly arrested by the Syrian authorities, her cause celebre exploded… before it unravelled under scrutiny.

Tom McMaster, a left-wing, bearded, middle-aged American, married to an academic specialist on Syria, living safely in Edinburgh had taken in the liberal-left media completely. He used his wife’s pictures to illustrate his blog.

Both the Guardian and the BBC’s Newsnight have lashed out at McMasters, insinuating that he is some kind of pervert. Could that be because they are bitter that they were taken in? (For a comprehensive cataloguing of the Guardian’s risible “authentication” of the Gay Girl see the Les Politiques blog.) The Guardian’s Brian Whitaker, for the last seven years its Middle East editor, now editing Comment is Free, admits he regularly consulted the blog and he had “no reason to doubt that the author was a westernised Arab lesbian”. That the author of Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East fell for the “Gay Girl in Damascus” fake is revealing. And a bit humiliating.

Guido wonders if they were happy to believe in the “Gay Girl in Damascus” fantasy in part because she/he promoted a hardline anti-Israel line? They wanted to believe it was an authentic voice rather than a fiction. Do you think a pro-Israel gay girl in Damascus would have been as widely read in the newsrooms of the BBC and Guardian?

UPDATE: According to the excellent Biased BBC blog “MacMasters studies at St Andrews University where his wife works in their Centre for Syrian Studies, as an Associate Fellow, partially funded to the tune of £105,000…” Saif Gaddafi was donating to LSE to study good governance before he started shelling his own citizenry, St Andrews studies the Syrian dictatorship with sponsorship from the regime? What the hell is going on?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How Journalism Works (Part 94)


Yesterday we reported exclusively that Bob Roberts will be appointed as Ed Miliband’s news spinner. The Guardian followed it up with “There were unconfirmed reports today that Bob Roberts, political editor of the Mirror, is to become Miliband’s director of communications…”, note the lack of attribution to the unconfirmed report. The FT’s Jim Pickard went with it, having apparently troubled himself to get a non-denial from Bob, the Daily Mail just went with it – again without attribution. They can’t bring themselves to give credit, because then their editors would ask them why they were beaten – again – by a below-the-salt blogger?

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Left-Wing Tax Hypocrisy from Richard Murphy

In what is a bid to soothe ruffled LibDem feathers, rather than in response to the looter’s protest, the government has just announced a new clamp down on tax avoidance. Guido mentioned at the weekend how quiet the left were about the Guardian’s tax avoidance in contrast to their attitude to Philip Green. There hasn’t been a squeak from the likes of left-wing millionaire Richard Murphy, a Rowntree and TUC funded, self-styled “fair tax” expert. But then he did give the Guardian Media Group accounts his seal of approval, after GMG made a £302 million profit in 2008 and paid not a penny in corporation tax.

Murphy, of the Toynbee school of hypocrisy, seemingly wears his principles on his sleeve and argues for anti-avoidance measures and crucially that the philosophy behind tax collection should be judged by the spirit not the letter of the law. However has Murphy  always practised what he preached?

Before he discovered the cause of “Tax Justice” between 2001 and 2003 he wrote technical articles for The Guardian advising how to minimise tax on employing a nanny, how to minimise tax for the self employedmaximise your tax allowance through taking out a stakeholder pension and attacking legislation which requires accountants to report tax evasion. On second reading Murphy’s recent line that he was just highlighting the holes doesn’t really wash, especially when his own tax practises are examined.  Although Murphy puts his home address on all his business literature – it is the registered address for all his companies – he does not pay business rates on the property. Not quite within the spirit of the law now is it…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

“Make It Up” Macintyre Tweets Another “Exclusive”

James Macintyre no longer has a column in the New Statesman in which to share his insights. He now has only his Twitter to pass on wisdom. Yesterday he had a ground breaking “Twitter Exclusive” revealing that Gordon’s new book makes no mention of Tony Blair.

For Macintyre it is an exclusive from “a top Whitehall source”, for the rest of us it is a month old story we read everywhere. Wonder how his book is coming along?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Feck Off Euro-Socialists

Euro-Socialist and Green MEPs have tabled a motion calling on Ireland to double corporate tax rates as part of a quid pro quo for a bail-out. Not a single Irish MEP has supported the motion. Ireland should just tell them to “feck off”…

Douglas Carswell is right, Ireland should decouple and default. Coupling the Celtic Tiger to the euro was a disaster, it was inevitable that when economic cycles were asynchronous the big core EU countries would set interest rates to suit themselves. The ECB kept rates too low for Ireland’s over-boiling property market, which predictably bubbled over. Exactly as Euro-sceptics from Farage to Redwood predicted would eventually happen.

The Irish property crash has destroyed the banks, none more so than Anglo-Irish Bank, a bank run by corrupt allies of the governing Fianna Fáil party. The state guarantees proffered in the panic of 2008 to Irish banks gave them the backing of the state’s ‘AAA’ credit rating. Those guarantees have now sunk the state’s credit rating.

A World Bank report from back in May 2009What Went Wrong in Ireland? written by Patrick Honohan, Professor of International Financial Economics at Trinity College Dublin, put the blame squarely on joining the euro and having the wrong interest rates:

…the underlying cause of the problem was … too much mortgage lending (financed by heavy foreign borrowing by the banks) into an unsustainable housing price and construction boom. The boom seemed credible to enough borrowers given sharply lower interest rates with adoption of the euro … it was Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) entry that really started the housing price surge by sharply lowering nominal and real interest rates, thereby lifting equilibrium asset prices…

Honohan isn’t some obscure professor, since writing that report Honahan has been made the new governor of the Irish Central Bank. Left-wing British commentators like the Fabian’s Sunder Katawala, the Indy’s Ben Chu and even Polly Toynbee are trying to blame Ireland’s woes on low tax rates and free market reforms. No serious Irish economist attributes Ireland’s crisis to low tax rates. The reason Polly, Sunder and Chu want to present that argument is to stick it to those of us on the right who praised Ireland’s supply-side economic policy reforms, which is why they point the finger at the likes of George Osborne, Dan Hannan, John Redwood and Nigel Farage. It is intellectually dishonest of them to cite derisively the British right’s praise for Ireland’s successful free market micro-economic reforms and ignore warnings from the same about the macro-economic systemic risk of joining the euro. That is exactly what the left-wing commentariat is trying to do.

The micro-economic reforms that led to the Celtic Tiger pre-date Ireland entering the euro and were designed to improve the supply-side potential of the economy, make markets and industries operate more efficiently and thereby contribute to a faster rate of growth of real national output. Low taxes and freer markets achieved that objective – incidentally many of those reforms were championed in the 80s and 90s by the Progressive Democrats – the party of which Guido was a member. After joining the euro in 2000 Ireland had negative real interest rates, sparking an out of control property bubble.

German economic advisers from Frankfurt have been in the Irish finance ministry and central bank for nigh-on a year. Last month the ECB in Frankfurt mandated the Irish government to pay off European holders of Irish bank bonds – the European bail-out of Ireland is really a bail-out of European lenders to Irish banks. In joining the euro Ireland’s economic sovereignty was surrendered by Fianna Fáil with the support of almost the entire political class, consequently the next generation of Irish taxpayers have had their future mortgaged. Guido could cry for what the europhiles have done to his country…

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yazz v Rod Liddle

Commentariat celebrities Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Rod Liddle are duking it out in column inches.

She has a letter in today’s Sunday Times objecting to Liddle calling her “boring” and “stupid” last week.  To think that if only Rod hadn’t been convicted by the PCC thought-police of casual racism he could have been editor of the Indy and Yazz’s boss.

This is one of those feuds where Guido hopes the evenly matched bloviators fight to the death in a commentariat version of MTV’s Celebrity Death-Match. Merely saying this will no doubt feed Yazz’s paranoias and provide more material for her columns. Based on past form it may even lead to a waste of police time…

Friday, October 29, 2010

Finally An A-Polly-Gee

In a rare move for the belligerent and hyperactive columnist, Polly Toynbee this morning apologised for the inflammatory language that Guido highlighted the other day, when she compared a slight tweak in government benefits policy to the slaughter of six million Jews. On her “final solution” comment she said:

“Yes, it was over the top, a slip of the pen, made worse by the fact that it was put in the headline. I regret it.”

Savour the moment, Guido doesn’t imagine we will get another half-apology any time soon…

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Open Letter to Paul Dacre

The Cellar
House of Commons
London
SW1 0AA

Mr Paul Dacre,
Editor the Daily Mail


Dear Mr Dacre,

I would like to apply for a job as one of your columnists. As you will see below your current columnist Andrew Pierce has deemed my work worthy of your hallowed pages, he will no doubt be happy to provide a reference.

In the last few weeks Mr Pierce has found my website a wonderful resource for his columns:

Since the beginning of October Mr Pierce has seen fit to lift an entire story concerning William Hague’s former Special Advisor Christopher Myers, he didn’t even try to find a new angle on it. Two days later my story concerning the Tories putting a press officer on Newsnight was lifted almost word for word. And just this morning exactly the same happened with my exclusive concerning Steve Hilton and Rageh Omar.

Given Mr Pierce appears to simply lift my copy and scoops without any payment, perhaps you should simply cut out the middle man and get your stories from the source? You may be unaware that Mr Pierce has a magpie-like long track record of cutting and pasting the most sparkling stories that would shame those avian thieves, as indeed Private Eye reported several years ago. Despite this Pierce continues to deny he is even a reader of my “ugly and boorish” website. You will no doubt agree the evidence suggests otherwise.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Yours in middle class solidarity,

Guido Fawkes Esq.


Seen Elsewhere

Inside an Islamist Takeover Plot School | Newsnight
Ed Heads to Scotland | Sun
Assad’s New Chemical Weapon Attacks | National Review
Jason Groves New Mail Deputy Pol Ed | MediaGuido
Cocaine Conservatives | Standard
Jezza Browne Responds to LibDem Haters | LibDem Voice
Why Britain Needs to Leave the EU | Douglas Carswell
Who Tells Ed When He’s Wrong? | Speccie
Hands Off Our Cojones, Mr Clegg | Laura Perrins
London Live Averaging Just 2,400 Viewers | Forbes
Ed’s Constitutional Failure | ConHome


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Dan Hodges on Team Miliband:

“‘Poisonous’, was the picture painted by one former senior advisor. ‘Dysfunctional,’ said one shadow cabinet member. ‘A bunch of medieval courtiers, not an office,’ said another. The most positive description I could get was ‘It’s a work in progress. They’re learning. Slowly. But they are learning.’”



Nick Clegg says:

Do you want lies with that?


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