Another body floats by.
The Japanese have a proverb; if you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by. In the year and a half since climategate, it’s been happening with increasing frequency. The latest one is a main stream media (MSM) journalist called Johann Hari who works at the Independent among other places.
He is, or should I say was, a real darling of the left-wing media machine; never afraid to swiftly descend self-righteously like a ton of bricks on anyone dissenting from the one true path to the coming socialist utopia and absolutely uncritical of the heroes and heroines of the movement. He really told the brothers and sisters how it was. Yeah, man. He’s the kind of journalist who habitually compares global warming skeptics like my good self to holocaust deniers. They loved him. They showered him with the usual incestuous journalism prizes, especially the coveted Orwell Prize. Even the Gays, a hard lot to satisfy at the best of times, awarded him a Stonewall. It seemed like it was only a matter of time until he got his Nobel Prize like Al or at least a Pulitzer as a consolation.
It’s just been discovered that he’s been salting his interviews with quoted passages. What’s wrong with that you might ask? Well, the quotations weren’t made by the subjects in the interviews in question. They were made by them in books, articles and other places. He even polished up the English a bit. To tyre lever in a good quote, he’s even gone as far as to do things like prefix it with his own appropriate question.
Basically, his interviews of people whose politics he approves of have been PR for those people. They somehow always emerged looking thoughtful and good after a Hari interview. I suppose this begs the question of how accurate his quotes were of people whose politics he didn’t approve of but I rather suspect such interviews were few and far between. No platform for dissent, the science it settled etc etc. When one of these deceptions was spotted, people went looking for more and lo and behold, they sure found them. It’s become one of the more wittier twitter sensations and some wag has even done a version of Downfall called Hari Downfall on youtube.
It’s difficult to pigeon-hole this particular deceptive practice. It’s not quite plagiarism or churnalism but it’s definitely dishonest. I’m tempted to name it Johannism but I’ve an old friend with the same name whose integrity is way above question, so I’m forced to go the full hog and christen it Johannharism.
There are two interesting things about this sordid and tawdry episode.
The first is that it was uncovered, yet again, by the blogosphere. As far as I can determine, the scandal was first broken here. I’ll use an appropriate quote here from my previous blog. “Investigative journalism is alive and well; it’s just moved location”. Notice the explicit attribution Mr. Hari? If you’re up for a bit of a hunt gentle reader and have time on your hands, you can join in yourself; just google some quotes from a Hari piece against the internet. Lord knows what you might find.
The second point of note is the reaction to the scandal. He’s penned a slightly contrite piece here with a rather luke warm apology; he’s guilty of a slight misjudgment, learnt his lesson and won’t do it again. Promise. As for his employers and editors, they don’t appear to have marched him out of the building holding his bits in a cardboard box; he’s got away with it. Give it a few months of wound licking and he’ll be back up on his podium holding forth as if nothing has happened.
There are even elements of the MSM rallying around him. How dare the blogosphere uncover the MSM’s rotten underside? It’s the MSM’s job to root out scandals about other people, they’re pristine and above criticism. Instead of dealing with what is a gross and public lapse of journalistic integrity, they’re attacking the discovery and going after the motives of the people who made it. This is the mentality of an establishment that is totally inward looking and degenerate.
Another example of this mentality manifested itself in the aftermath of a piece I wrote on the parlous state of investigative journalism. It was prompted by the blatant conflict of interest (COI) in the revelation that a lead author to the IPCC’s renewables report was actually employed by Greenpeace. Another blogger did a piece which mentioned it. As it turns out, he is or was a journalist who now appears to be teaching others how to do it…
The piece is here. In itself, it’s pretty anodyne, just the usual unimaginative pastes of selected paragraphs of other people’s work with an attendant bitchy comment. What is of interest though, is what happened in the comments under the piece. A commenter added a link to an off topic paper produced by a green organisation called the Climate Change Media Partnership. Another commenter followed the link and discovered that the original commenter was one of the authors of the paper. If he’d dug a bit further, he’d also have found out that the original commenter was employed by the organisation as a press officer. Understandably, the angry commenter added a comment in turn, letting the PR bod know exactly what he thought of such an undeclared COI.
What was the reaction of the blog’s author? Why, he just turned around and admonished the discoverer of the COI. That reaction on a blogosphere furore caused by a COI? You couldn’t write comedy like that. It’s tragedy really. If I’d ever caught an undeclared PR person, masquerading as a commenter, plying their trade for their employer on my blog, his feet would not have bloody well touched the ground.
Orwell is a writer I greatly admire both for the simplicity of his prose and the honesty of his writing. Integrity is like virginity, once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Hand back the prize Mr. Hari, so it can be awarded to someone who earned it without resorting to being dishonest with their readers.
Not going to happen though, is it?
ps. In the days since I wrote this article, several more examples of Mr. Hari’s style of journalism have come to light. His transgressions appear to be getting less venial by the moment. See here.
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