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In defence of Johann Hari

I see from Twitter that this is apparently something for me to read.

Further, that Sunny actually refused to publish it: actual evidence of editorial standards no less.

The essential trope is that Johann\’s a lefty and should therefore be forgiven. Heart\’s in the right place therefore transgressions can only possibly be minor.

This amused though:

And yes, some of his economic statistics are occasionally wrong.

One way of putting it: it\’s actually rare to find one which is correct.

On tax evasion, too, he played no small part in the creation of UK Uncut – one of the most exciting activist groups set up in response to Cameron’s axe-wielding frenzy – taking the now-famous story of Vodafone’s 6bn pound tax rip-off from the pages of Private Eye, and writing about it in his column, later publicising the very first action on his twitter stream, telling people to look out for the famous ‘orange umbrella’.

For example, there never was a £6 billion tax bill and Vodafone didn\’t rip anyone off.

But, you know, he\’s a lefty and his heart\’s in the right place so that\’s OK then.

17 thoughts on “In defence of Johann Hari”

  1. NB – By “pervert”, I don’t mean the well-known fact that Johann is a fat poof.

    I mean the racist incest porn he wrote under his pseudonym.

  2. “taking the now-famous story of Vodafone’s 6bn pound tax rip-off from the pages of Private Eye, and writing about it in his column”

    You mean to say it wasn’t all his own work (as my English teacher used to say)?

  3. “The essential trope is that Johann’s a lefty and should therefore be forgiven.”

    Surely ’twas ever thus on all sides of the political spectrum? I seem to remember some commenters leaping to make light of the Daily Mail’s own Johann Hari moment, when it was found to have grotesquely misreported the verdict of the recent Amanda Knox trial because, they later conceded, they’d written the entire story in advance of the events it described.

    Could these excusing comments have been prompted by the same trope – the Daily Mail is right wing and therefore as far as right-wingers are concerned “heart’s in the right place and therefore transgressions can only be minor”?

    Tim adds: Well, no, not really, because as anyone and everyone who has ever worked in newspapers will (and has been saying in fact) tell you, every newspaper in the land had two feature stories ready to roll for when the verdict came out. One for guilty and one for not guilty. The Guardian also ran the wrong one……

    And yes, every single one of those stories also had quotes in them.

  4. @Tim: Well, I’m intrigued by your certainty that “every newspaper in the land had two features stories ready to roll” (how do you know?) and that”every single one of those stories had quotes in them” (given that, if you are right, half of them remained unpublished I’m even more intrigued by how you know the details of the content of unavailable material).

    As for those who did also initially publish an inaccurate report of the verdict – Sky News, The Guardian, and The Sun – I’ve only managed to trace the original verbatim announcements by Sky News and the Sun, and neither of them include any quotes at all.

    Anyway, this is all easily sorted by your providing evidence for your assertions. Otherwise it looks as though my previous post stands uncorrected.

    Tim adds: Try Roy Greenslade in The Guardian:

    “The Mail was not the only British news outlet to make the error. The Sun and Sky News did it too and yes – hands up here – so did The Guardian in its live blog.

    It would appear that a false translation of the judge’s summing up caused the problem, leading to papers jumping the gun.

    So why has the Mail suffered the greatest flak? In time-honoured fashion, echoing the hot metal days of Fleet Street, it prepared a story lest the verdict go the other way.
    However, though it is very embarrassing for the Mail, I do have some sympathy.

    I recall preparing two different front pages and two separate four-page pullouts for the Daily Star in 1979 when we were awaiting the verdict of the Jeremy Thorpe trial. The former Liberal party leader had been charged with murder and conspiracy.

    One set of pages would be published if he was found guilty and another were ready should the jury find him innocent.

    I blush to recall that my imagination ran away with me in describing his very different reactions to the different verdicts.”

    Charlie Beckett in The Guardian:

    “What really annoyed many people on Twitter and elsewhere was the fact that the Mail had prepared a whole series of articles including manufactured quotes and photographs captioned “imaginatively” to tell the story of a guilty Knox. This is journalism’s dirty secret. No, not that the Mail has made things up, but that journalism as a whole is often about process, not accuracy.

    Of course, the Mail went much too far. It broke the sacred bond between a journalist who reports and the audience who trusts them as a witness. But we know that just about every other news organisation had similar versions ready to run. It is standard practice in broadcast journalism to prepare alternative versions – often with pre-filmed “reaction” quotes. The real sin here is that in the rush to be first, so many were simply first to be wrong.”

    And yes, there are believable (sure, this depends upon your reading of believable) stories that the quotes actully were from the prosecutors, on a “If the verdict is guilty then yes, I would say this” basis.

    Believe me, I hold no candle for the Mail (bastards are the only national newspaper never to have employed me for a start) but in this particular case, this specific instance, they’re just showing their naked arse more than anyone else, not having done anything different than anyone else.


  5. @Churm, it’s easy to work out why newspapers have two version of an article for very important stories. Look at how quickly the article gets published after the event. If it’s minutes then the article must have been written prior. And journalists are not clairvoyants (or Sally Morgan) so they must be hedging their bets with multiple version of the story to cover all eventualities.

    Any quotes in the article wil be more like placeholders or text that the person will most likely have said which can be easily updated as events progress.

  6. @ Tim – In my post, I point out that in addition to the Daily Mail report, an incorrect verdict was also published by The Guardian, The Sun amd Sky News. In response you direct me to Roy Greenslade’s article, which reports that in addition to the Daily Mail report, an incorrect verdict was also initially published by The Guardian, the Sun and Sky News. Well, yes, there’s no disagreement here. I already said that, so I don’t really understand the point you’re making.

    The difference between the Mail’s report and the others is that (for example) the full extent of Sky News’ report was a brief statement that “Amanda Knox loses appeal against (her) conviction for murdering Meredith Kercher”. OK, let’s excuse that as an honest mistake. The Mail, however, said “As Knox realised the enormity of what judge Hellman was saying she sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears…(and so on)” Now that, it seems to me, was just a big fat lie, and was subsequently acknowledged by the Daily Mail to be 100% untrue.

    The interesting point here is why you, and perhaps SadButMadLad, should be so anxious to excuse the Daily Mail for publishing entirely fictitious material, but at the same time reserve the right to attack Johann Hari for doing exactly the same thing.

    I myself have nothing to say in defence of Mr Hari, nor indeed of the Daily Mail. My original post was simply intended to point out that it works both ways.

  7. Oh, and @KmC: I’ve worked in the world of Fleet Street too, and you’re absolutely right that newspapers have to be prepared for alternative outcomes. But that has nothing to do with publishing detailed reports of events which never happened. That’s what Johan Hari stands accused of and (in my view) is being quite rightly reviled. So, again, why do you seem to excuse the Daily Mail for the same? But your post is ambiguous – maybe you’re suggesting that he can be excused on the same basis.

  8. So Much For Subtlety

    Steve – “NB – By “pervert”, I don’t mean the well-known fact that Johann is a fat poof. I mean the racist incest porn he wrote under his pseudonym.”

    Got a reference or a link? Suddenly I warm to the guy.

    Although I think it is fair to say that any fat Leftist who publishes about how he likes being bummed by neo-Nazi boot boys is either a pervert or a malicious liar. Possibly both.

  9. Unimportant Quibbler

    @Subtlety: For the sake of tim’s legal fees:
    I’m not going to say that Hari was responsible for the incest fantasy; I don’t think there’s conclusive evidence of that anyway. But it was certainly associated with “David Rose” and the email address [email protected].

    But the (largely crap, and certainly overprovocative) blogger Milo Yiannopoulis did have something you might find interesting at

  10. @ JuliaM: Well I did check this out. In both cases apologies were made and explanations were given, and in both cases the newspapers concerned set up internal enquiries. Where exactly were the “differences”?

    But none of this detracts from my main point, which is basically to agree with Tim that reactions to these sorts of events tend to be tribal rather than objective, detached, and evidence based – hence all the attacks on Hari above, and the attempts to excuse the Daily Mail.

    A plague on both their houses, say I.

  11. I’ve not noticed a whole lot of excusing of the Daily Mail (granted I haven’t been looking very hard.)

    I did see a large amount of pointing and laughing though.

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