I guess I’m kinda sad that Johann “Harvey” Hari will not be returning to “The Independent” (dread term, as its former, most well-respected columnist Wallace Arnold would say). I was looking forward, perhaps over-gleefully, to seeing exactly what the Great Plagiarist would come up with that would in any way atone for his previous frauds to his loyal followers. Equally, I wanted to see how the Independent (“It once was. Are you still?”) would once again weasel its way around the fact they let him get away with these frauds for so long: indeed, would promote him way above his journalistic capability – which many seasoned journalists had called into question before the balloon finally went up – his intellectual honesty or his educational ability (Tim Worstall was calling him out on his inept economic analysis long before his plagiarism came to light).
But, having returned from his New York journalism re-education camp…sorry, I mean retraining course…(hang on, he never had journalism training in the first place, so how does that work?) he has decided to cop out. Fleet Street Blues puts it kindly: “Fair play to him for falling on his sword…” Well, far enough, except that it was a sword he fashioned himself from the ploughshare used by more honest, less ambitious and glory-seeking journalists than he.
Is there a lesson to be learnt from the Johann Hari affair? Yes, there is, and it is, in the portentous tones of Laurence Rees, it’s “A Warning From History”. The rise of Hari roughly coincides with that of Tony Blair and New Labour, and it’s difficult not to recall Peter Oborne’s verdict on the relationship between truth vs falsehood during that regime, in The Rise of Political Lying:
It is not unreasonable to speculate that the prime minister has a strong tendency to fall victim to a common conceptual muddle: the failure to understand the distinction between truth versus falsehood and truth versus error. Tony Blair, and many colleagues, consistently seem to feel that they are lucky enough to have been granted a privileged access to the moral truth. This state of grace produces two marvellous consequences. It means that whatever New Labour ministers say or write, however misleading or inaccurate, is in a larger sense true. Likewise whatever their opponents say or write, whether or not strictly speaking accurate, is in the most profound sense false.
Hari’s apologists (Polly Dutt-Pauker, Caitlin Moran etc) have all tended to forgive the Blessed Hari’s venial sins – misrepresentation, plagiarism, making up direct quotes – because he represented a Cardinal virtue: a “moral” truth, though not one supported by anything so mundane as facts, reality or common sense. It’s as though he and they have taken the example of Evelyn Waugh’s Shumble, Whelper, Pigge and Corker in Scoop and learnt exactly the wrong lesson. But then right-wing satire is always a bit too subtle for the lefties’ more clod-hopping tastes.
So Hari is off to write a book
“on a subject I believe is important and requires urgent action. To be done properly it needs international travel and …in depth focus…”
Hmmm. “The Ethics of Journalism – An International Study”, perhaps? The Plagiarist’s Progress, perchance, following our hero from the City of Destruction (a rather ungenerous way to describe the Independent, but I wouldn’t know; I’ve never worked there), up Hill Lucre, to the House Beautiful and down into the Slough of Despond and the Valley of Humiliation? A novel called…oooh, I don’t know, something along the lines of “The Fabulist” perhaps, about a reporter on a respected national publication who throws it all away by making stuff up? Oh, that’s already been done (and had the Hollywood treatment, too).
Maybe it’s a biography of Polly Dutt-Pauker he’s thinking of doing. Now that would require in depth focus – and international travel, of course (and Tuscany is so beautiful this time of the year, too).
Good luck, Johann, whatever you do. Just stay away from journalism, all right?
And now you’re out of the way, you snivelling little creep, it’s time to go after bigger buggers. Time to turn up the screws on Simon Kelner. Stay tuned, fact fans.
The Telegraph seems to be starting a health-news nonsense war with the Daily Mail:
Millions of couples who share a bottle of wine over dinner are unwittingly putting their lives at risk by underestimating the dangers of alcohol, a report has warned.
Some eight million British adults drink more than what is considered safe by experts, the study claims, raising their chances of suffering conditions such as cancer and stroke.
Many of those at risk are middle class drinkers, who are unaware that regularly drinking wine with their evening meal is damaging their health.
Women are at greater risk if they evenly share a bottle of wine with their partner because their alcohol tolerance is lower than men’s.
Tim Worstall makes the pertinent points about these “research” findings here. Of course, it’s not hard to see it as part of the Great Wowser Offensive, which started against smoking, continues with alcohol and “obesity”and will, if the usual puritan history repeats itself, end with targeting some modern form of witchcraft. It’s hard to know what the latter will be, but if I were Prince Charles, I’d be worried.
But this sort of pseudo-scientific reporting of press release flatulence has become increasingly common in the Telegraph over the last year or so (see Louise Gray et al) – to such an extent it really should be called the Daily Churnograph.
Personally, I don’t think the paper’s been the same since it was taken over by those mysterious oriental Barclay twins, Chang and Eng. I wonder what they’re up to, plotting in that mysterious opium den that is the isle of Brecqhou?
Today is Venezuelan Independence Day, and no doubt Ken Livingstone’s good mate Hugo Chavez will be celebrating in style.
He should enjoy it while he can. Apart from his associated corrupt henchmen, heads of goon squads and other assorted “progressives”, it’s probably few other Venezuelans have much to celebrate. As Tim Worstall notes, when even the Guardian notices a socialist revolution has made the food supply go tits-up, your days are probably numbered.
What many people don’t figure as a root cause of Venezuela’s problems is: it is insanely jealous of Bolivia.