When Hari Met Reality: The First Time Hari Got Sacked for Making Things Up

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…




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Quote of the Day

The FT’s Wolfgang Munchau on the “fake maths” of economic forecasts:

“The truth is that our ability to forecast the future beyond the current quarter is limited… The curse of our time is fake maths. Think of it as fake news for numerically literate intellectuals: it is the abuse of statistics and economic models to peddle one’s own political prejudice… The fakeness of the maths lies in an exaggerated inference. Economic models have their uses, as do opinion polls. They provide information to policymakers and markets. But nobody can see through the fog of the future.”

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