Wednesday, 29 June 2011

That other great voice of the left, Johann Hari ...

... may be in a spot of bother (1).

The 'official' charges against him are rather flimsy, IMHO. He's accused of substituting interviewees oral attempt to explain something with their previous, more lucid, written statements, while still presenting them as the words spoken to him.

This isn't plagarism: he isn't claiming the credit for something someone else said; the words are still clearly identified as being those of the interviewee.

His crime, on this count, is simply not identifying that he's replaced something someone said to him with something the same person said or wrote previously, when they phrased it more succinctly or more beautifully.

It's a venal sin, though does create an unsettling feeling when reading his work. Did David Irving really say that when talking to Hari about his disabled daughter? Or did he say it on another occasion when he was just talking about disabled people in general, and Hari interpolated it for effect?

Still, if that was all there was to it, I'd be tempted to dismiss the fuss building up around his pudgy, oleaginous face as predictable rightwing excitement at being able to finally squash the wasp that's been sting them for so long; but it isn't.

It has been claimed - back in 2004, but now being eagerly reheated - that he misrepresented and invented events in at least one of his columns. Writes one Rowan Williams Wilson, appending his own observations to a letter published-or-possibly-not-published in the Independent:
I was the so-called ‘publicist’ mentioned in the article(I work for Continuum, the publishers of ‘Time for Revolution’,and was innvolved in organising the ICA event). A few minor, but incorrectly reported, details that I have personal knowledge of (eg,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, etc) casts serious doubt on the veracity of anything that Hari says. (2)
Williams might say the details are minor, but I think they are actually pretty devastating; he's implying that Hari is changing things to make himself look bolder, braver, and more incisive.

If true, Hari has some very big explaining to do.
1 - "When does licence become invention?," by Guy Walters. Published in the New Statesman blogs, 28th of June, 2011. (http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/guy-walters/2011/06/hari-interview-truth-quotes)
2 - The quotation is a footnote to a letter submitted to the Independent, which was either published or not published by that paper, depending on which bit of the interweb you happen to be looking at. The original letter was written by Matteo Mandarini and Alberto Toscano, in 2004, in response to a piece Hari had written on the Italian communist, Toni Negri. (http://www.driftline.org/cgi-bin/archive/archive_msg.cgi?file=spoon-archives/aut-op-sy.archive/aut-op-sy_2004/aut-op-sy.0409&msgnum=232&start=21394)

2 comments:

Matt Wardman said...

>Rowan Williams

That would be 'Wilson' perhaps?

:-)

lurgee said...

Ooops. Didn't mean to implicate the Arch Bish in this. though I'm sure Johann Hari would have had no problem inveigling him into his story if it suited.

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