Benedict Brogan writes paradoxically…
“Britain’s bond yields are the sheet anchor keeping us afloat in the storm.”
Gaddafi provided support over the years to not just the IRA but a rag-bag of left-wing fringe groups. There were many on the left who were not keen on taking on the tyrant in Tripoli. The New Statesman’s Mehdi Hasan was lamenting the dictator’s demise and the “imperialist war” waged by the West last night. That kind of thinking is common on the left.
Guido has a sense that the Indy has, post-Hari, improved under the new editor Chris Blackhurst, the news values seem to have sharpened up a bit. It is somewhat questionable however that it is really as free from proprietorial interference as it claims on the masthead. Chris Bryant seems to have replaced Richard Ingrams as an Indy columnist, sadly his column isn’t quite as good as Ros Taylor’s parody of him, over which he threatened to sue the Guardian. Coincidentally Chris is a friend of Lebedev’s son Evgeny and was at a recent dinner party with the oligarch’s offspring. Evgeny “speaks regularly” to Chris Blackhurst, no doubt about the weather…
It is also said that the new editor is looking at the cost of the strip cartoon by Sally Ann Lasson. The current editor doesn’t find her as funny as the old editor Simon Kelner did, but then he is married to Sally…
Elsewhere the Telegraph is said to be contemplating hiring the Guardian’s feminist writer Tanya Gold for their political team. It would never have happened in Heffer’s day…
The FT’s cerebral editor Lionel Barber gave the Fulbright Lecture last night about media matters of concern to the chatterati (“The Future of News and Newspapers in the Digital Revolution“). Barber joins the chorus for a Media Standards Commission, with teeth, to replace the discredited Press Complaints Commission.
Of interest to Guido was that he wants the regulator’s remit to cover blogs:
Should the new system embrace new media such as the Huffington Post UK or individual political bloggers such as Guido Fawkes? My answer is Yes, not simply in the interests of a level playing field but also because the distinction between old and new media are rapidly becoming meaningless in the new digital eco-system. New media is moving into reporting. Old media is blogging and tweeting, and using social media to promote and distribute news and analysis around the world.
If bloggers don’t cooperate he wants “a statutory levy on advertising revenues for non-participants, with such levies being used to fund the new body”. Good luck with that, because it will require some extra-territorial innovations in international law. It is never going to happen, you’ll have to prise the keyboard out of Guido’s cold dead hands…
Guido has often highlighted the magpie tendencies of Mail columnist Andrew Pierce. He has been known to shamelessly lift content from this blog, now however after regular highlighting of this habit, he has stopped. It seems however that Andrew has found new pastures for “inspiration”. Pierce writes today:
The excellent BBC Radio 4 series The Reunion brought together five past pupils of The Courtauld Institute Of Art, whose most famous director, Sir Anthony Blunt, was sensationally exposed as a Soviet spy.The former Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures was unmasked by Margaret Thatcher’s government as a member of the notorious 1950s Cambridge spy ring. Blunt’s pupils told listeners that they were worried Blunt would be remembered not as an art historian but as a spy. Most people, surely, will remember him for what he really was — a traitor.
Which strangely reads just like a letter from yesterday’s Telegraph:
The Blunt fact
SIR – A group of worthies on Radio 4’s The Reunion were concerned that Anthony Blunt may be remembered not as an art historian, but as a spy.
They need not worry. Although his Soviet controller was indeed a spy, Blunt himself was not.
He was a traitor.
At first Guido thought this was just a coincidence, but then he had a look at some of the other snippets that would have been filed after lunch yesterday. Pierce writes:
The ludicrous Sally Bercow has entered the Big Brother House. What are the odds now on her husband soon being evicted from the Speaker’s House?
A good point, well made, in Saturday’s Telegraph:
SIR – Sally Bercow has entered the Big Brother house. The smart money is now on her husband being evicted from the Speaker’s House.
Petts Wood, Kent
As a previous Assistant Editor of the Telegraph, Andrew should know about the audience crossover with the Mail…
Guido has read the News of the World since he was a paperboy in West London over 30 years ago. Those who don’t read it think “The Screws” is all titillation, randy vicars and soap stars. It is that and also great popular campaigning journalism at its best, reflecting the concerns of people other than Islington Indy readers.
Politicians, the corrupt and evil feared it, today is a good day for them. Unfortunately when the drive to get the story crossed over into illegally hacking the phones of victims of tragedies, the good guys became bad guys. It has always been the case that the best stories often have a dubious legal provenance involving deception, subterfuge or law breaking, that is done to get at the truth that wrongdoers are hiding. Investigative journalists everywhere, including this blog, do it because it is the only way to get the truth. Using the dark arts to sell more newspapers with ghoulish tales is, as many have said, disgusting and unacceptable.
Momentum is building for press regulation, politicians of all parties are keen to tame the feral press. Public opinion is shifting towards them. This would be a mistake. The rich and the powerful in this country would like nothing better than to have a craven and beholden press. In many countries this is exactly what they have and ordinary people are worse off for it. Privacy laws are a trojan horse for censorship.
Privacy from intrusion by the state or journalists who break the law by stealing photographs, hacking, climbing over the wall into your back garden, that should be protected. Privacy laws should not be a means to hide embarrassment for those who can afford to hire Schillings. That way lies an untouchable ruling elite.
In the end Murdoch closed the News of the World because he feared an advertiser and consumer boycott (plus to try take the heat off the Sky takeover). If you disapprove of a newspaper don’t buy and read it. That is simply the most powerful restraint you have on newspaper proprietors in a free democracy. Even Rupert Murdoch fears his customers.
Restrictive press laws will be circumvented in the borderless internet age, however Guido would rather not have to try to expensively fight the good fight from permanently offshore. Meantime Guido wishes both his friends and enemies at The Screws the best of luck for the future. Oh, and thanks for paying the kids’ school fees.
Yesterday Peter Oborne in The Telegraph blasted Cameron for being in the sewer with Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and James Murdoch. It was a terrific piece that Guido and everyone in the Westminster politico-media Village enjoyed immensely. Tim Montgomerie reminded us that it was just over a month ago that Oborne thought Cameron was on the verge of attaining “heroic status”. Guido is second to none in admiration for Oborne, his books The Triumph of the Political Class and The Rise of Political Lying are the most compelling analyses of the failings of the British political class and client media. If he has a failing it is that he is a man who hopes for better and expects better of our political class, it is this that leads him to lavish praise on politicians whom he has high hopes for, thus he lauded praise on Cameron and then when Cameron, inevitably, disappointed him he turned and lashed him. When it comes to this hope and disappointment cycle he has previous.
At the begining of the Brown premiership when David Miliband mulled over a coup he wrote an article explaining Why none of them are fit to fill Gordon Brown’s shoes, in which he argued that “The Labour Party’s only hope is to rally behind the man it idolised for so long when he was Chancellor”. Within a year he was warning of Brown’s “Hubris, hoopla and claims that were false, cynical and very, very dangerous“, calling Gordon Brown a cynical, dishonest liar. Quite a volte face.
Oborne gets into this situation because he wants to think the best of men, Guido on the other hand starts with the view that politicians are probably lying or crooked, or at least venal. This policy towards politicians makes for fewer about turns.
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.
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.”
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…
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?
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?
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 employed, maximise 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…
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?
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 2009 “What 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…
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…
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…
House of Commons
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.
Guido is off to the Institute of Economic Affairs to debate the whats and wherefores of the “liberal elite”. As is traditional whenever Guido goes head-to-head with Sir Michael White, Guido is wearing national dress tonight (pictured).
The Free Society and Liberal Vision will be discussing:
Who holds the liberal torch in 2010: Libertarians, Lib Dems or the “liberal elite”?
Tuesday June 29, 2010 Chaired by Mark Littlewood (Institute of Economic Affairs), speakers include Julian Harris (chairman, Liberal Vision), Chris Mounsey (leader, Libertarian party), Brendan O’Neill (editor, Spiked!), Paul Staines (aka blogger Guido Fawkes), James Delingpole (writer, journalist and broadcaster), Mark Pack (co-editor, Liberal Democrat Voice) and Michael White (assistant editor, Guardian).