Here’s Sally Bercow:
That he might have failed to address everything that he has done hardly matters when compared to something else (the war, the war!), because he campaigns for particular causes, because he’s ‘better than other journalists’, or because he is a “brilliant writer” anyway.
This time Hari has admitted to two things ‘over the years’, reusing quotes (my response in italics):
The first concerns some people I interviewed over the years. When I recorded and typed up any conversation, I found something odd: points that sounded perfectly clear when you heard them being spoken often don’t translate to the page. They can be quite confusing and unclear. When this happened, if the interviewee had made a similar point in their writing (or, much more rarely, when they were speaking to somebody else), I would use those words instead. At the time, I justified this to myself by saying I was giving the clearest possible representation of what the interviewee thought, in their most considered and clear words.
This was debunked last time, and Hari is failing to recognise what he has done. He has also repeatedly lied about the context of quotes, which he has recorded as being given to him – complete with scene-setting little details. See, for example, Jeremy Duns’ comments.
He is also failing to recognise the import of taking a quote from up to five years before and transposing it into a different context, sometimes taking and people’s words and changing the meaning.
and anonymous, sometimes malicious, editing of Wikipedia:
I started to notice some things I didn’t like in the Wikipedia entry about me, so I took them out. To do that, I created a user-name that wasn’t my own. Using that user-name, I continued to edit my own Wikipedia entry and some other people’s too. I took out nasty passages about people I admire – like Polly Toynbee, George Monbiot, Deborah Orr and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
I factually corrected some other entries about other people.
But in a few instances, I edited the entries of people I had clashed with in ways that were juvenile or malicious: I called one of them anti-Semitic and homophobic, and the other a drunk. I am mortified to have done this, because it breaches the most basic ethical rule: don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. I apologise to the latter group unreservedly and totally.
Does Hari really think that professional journalists, whom he has admitted to systematically smearing in the most public arena where their biographies appear, and whose careers he has deliberately sought to damage, are going to walk away quietly when he can’t even bring himself to mention names?
(These above are Cristina Odone and I think Nick Cohen, but there are plenty of others. There’s a lot of mileage in 890 contributions.)
Hari is taking some precautions, though, and has deleted certain articles from his own website- for example the one in November 2004 entitled “Johann accused of being part of a conspiracy by Cristina ‘madwoman’ Odone”, from his website.”
He has also excluded the whole thing from the Internet Archive, but you can read it all here.
Here, I’ll stay off Hari’s spamming of dozens of Wikipedia articles to promote his own website.
And Johann Hari says that the “worst part of this is for me” is the detriment caused to readers and fellow-campaigners:
The worst part of this for me has been thinking about two sets of people.
The first are all the readers over the years who have come up to me and told me they like my articles and believe in the causes and the people I’ve been championing. I hate to think of those people feeling let down, because those causes urgently need people to stand up for them, and they need their defenders.
Personally I’d say that’s partly the readers’ fault, especially where they believed alleged facts in opinon pieces uncritically, but it’s certainly true that there are a lot of deceived individuals out there. There are dozens of them posting “it’s all admitted, now lets move on” messages on Twitter this morning.
and to his work colleagues:
The second are the people here at The Independent, whom I have watched for the past eight years working phenomenally hard to get their stories right and to produce world-class journalism.
I am horrified to think that what I have done has detracted from the way they get it right every day. I am sorry.
That’s fair enough, if he means it, though the ‘new Indy guidelines booklet‘ will make them remember him every time they fill in an audit form.
But nary a mention of the real people who feature in his articles.
Though I’d say that the worst aspect is Hari’s complete non-concern for ‘little people’ and interviewees he has sensationalised, and into whose mouths he has put words they did not say.
How many of these have received blowback – from security forces or enemies – as a result of Hari’s inventions?
Johann is returning the Orwell Prize, but stands by his articles:
So first, even though I stand by the articles which won the George Orwell Prize, I am returning it as an act of contrition for the errors I made elsewhere, in my interviews.
Dishonest, and a mere gesture.
The last time I checked, 3 of the 5 submitted had been comprehensively demolished, and a fourth (about a trip to Greenland) contains at least one quote culled from a Guardian Report from around 2005.
[Update: My memory here was actually the 3 pieces Hari submitted for the Martha Gelhorn Prize – The Eevils of Dubai, Greenland/Global Warming, and British ex-Jihadis. Of these, the Dubai piece has been demolished, and the Greenland piece contains the stolen Guardian 2005 quote. I have not seen an examination of the British ex-Jihadis piece.]
He’s going on a Journalism course:
I am going to take an unpaid leave of absence from The Independent until 2012, and at my own expense I will be undertaking a programme of journalism training. (I rose very fast in journalism straight from university.)
Possibly useful, as far as it goes, but you do not rehabilitate a decades long faker by sending him on a course, and it is not the qualification that creates the character or the drive to report accurately, objectively, and honestly. That only helps.
Laurie Penny has a journalism qualification – an NCTJ, and look at how vivid imagination she often has on display.
Does Hari have the personal character?
And he’s going to ‘footnote his articles’ when he returns:
I will footnote all my articles online and post the audio online of any on-the-record conversations so that everyone can hear them and verify they were said directly to me.
This is the one aspect I find encouraging, but that is a matter for the Independent, which published perhaps 1000 articles by Hari.
When he wrote them he was acting as their employee; when they published them they took responsibility.
When Jayson Blair, the New York Times faker who was of nowhere near Hari’s seniority, and worked there for 4 years not a decade, and had a comparatively small quantity of 600 articles published, imploded, the New York Times put on a major investigation and published a 7000 word front page story. And that what when they’d found only about 40 articles with problems.
The NYT called it “a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.”
And the Independent are calling it “a private matter“.
Overall that isn’t going to hack it, nor should it.
It’s still all about Johann. It’s all about his friends, his colleagues, and his fellow travellers. It’s about saving face for the Independent, covering Simon Kelner’s – the editor throughout Hari’s employment – backside, and letting business continue as usual.
Hari appears not to give a toss about those who are the real victims of his journalism – the people who’s words he has invented or sensationalised.
He has specialised in campaigners as well as celebrities. How many of his interviewees, whether for set pieces, or ‘little people’ he identifies by name as props in his stories, have had sensationalised words they did not say read back to them in police stations?
An Independent colleague can mope over the new ‘guidelines’ at the local pub; not so the people in the stories.
The Independent itself has said nothing about Simon Kelner’s dodgy editorial practices. They didn’t have in place systems to stop the paper publishing so much imaginary, exaggerated or simply made-up material.
And Simon Kelner himself has said nothing about his statement on National Radio (Radio 4, the Media Show) that the Independent had never received a complaint about Hari’s articles. This statement is untrue, or as Splintered Sunrise puts it a little more strongly, a Black Lie:
Simon Kelner’s assertion that, in ten years, nobody had ever complained about the Hari column is a black lie.
So where does that leave it?:
- Hari is not facing up to everything, and does not seem to have even perceived what he’s done.
- The Independent is – so far – attempting to cover up the damage.
- Simon Kelner is cowering in his office with a dictionary down his trousers.
Does it matter? One question:
Do 1500 articles riddled with unidentifed misrepresented facts, made up or copied quotes, and untrue smears, in a national newspaper, by a columnist who has been treated as an authoritative source (by some people) across the world, matter?
All this exists in the Independent’s archive, and on their website, but they seem – so far – not to care, and not to think that it has anything to do with them.
And Hari will – again – be held to account by media people who care about standards, and legal people who care about law, not by political allies who care more about their political causes.
Meanwhile, he keeps digging down in the hole where he buried his reputation.
Perhaps he should take his journalism course in Australia.
[Update: Johann Hari supports this article]