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What the heck is going on?

Blog-Journos from 3 sources

Loved the extra bit that appears about Greenpeace employee writing (unbiased of course) reports for IPCC

- then they caught a press officer for another Green organisation writing in the comments sections (influencing your minds)

If you can't see what a complete money skimming scam this is on all of you - well

Johann Hari hounded me for years: all he gets is four months' unpaid holiday from the Independent. But the truth will come out

By Cristina Odone Telegraph Politics Last updated: September 15th, 2011

For months I have been waiting to be contacted by the "Inquiry", conducted by Andreas Whittam Smith for the Independent, into Johann Hari's professional misconduct. I thought the Indy would wish to speak to me for two reasons. First, as Deputy Editor of the New Statesman, I had worked closely with Johann and observed him in a number of situations – from investigations to expenses claims. Second, I was one of the victims of Johann Hari's most vicious attacks. He accused me of being an anti-Semitic bully on his website (and took it down after I wrote to him threatening legal action). On Wikipedia, in his guise as "David Rose" he frequently vandalised my entry, accused me of being a liar and tried to make out I was fired from my job at the Catholic Herald – a complete lie. I strongly suspect that Hari was also behind the (completely anonymous) edits of the entry that accused me of being an anti-Semite.

Two days ago I decided to take the initiative and contact Andreas Whittam Smith directly. I admire Whittam Smith, founder of The Independent, and volunteered to help his inquiry. He answered immediately: he had just handed in his inquiry documents to Chris Blackhurst, the new editor of the Independent. He regretted, he told me, the fact that I had been dragged into the row.

I regret it too – especially now that I find the Indy is ready to drop any pretensions to journalistic integrity and recycle Johann Hari next year. I have received no personal apology from Hari; nor have any of his other victims. I have received no direct apology from the Indy, which defends him. Hari's front page article in the Indy yesterday read like a J'Accuse rather than an apology: he defends his disgusting lies and libels by arguing that he was protecting his friends – Polly Toynbee, George Monbiot, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. He elevates the defence of Left-wing hacks into a moral crusade that justifies publishing slurs against his critics. No newspaper in the world should print such nonsense – certainly no paper that claims to be liberal.

I have, however, received a great deal of support from those who, like me, were the targets of Hari's duplicitous and vicious cyber-attacks. One, a volunteer for a charity that took Hari to Africa, is ready to publish a devastating document of allegations against the journalist. Watch this space.



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 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?

By Pointman



Fisking Johann Hari's 'apology' in today's Independent

By Toby Young Society Last updated: September 15th, 2011

Johann Hari: A personal apology Yet more shoddy excuses

I've written so many articles over the years laying bare and polemicising against the errors and idiocies of other people. This time, I am writing an article laying bare and polemicising against the errors and idiocies of myself. If you give it out, you have to take it. If you demand high standards of others, you have to be just as damning when you fail to uphold them yourself.

You're implying that you've only failed to live up to the "high standards" that you hold others to. In fact, you've failed to live up to much more basic journalistic standards than that.

I did two wrong and stupid things. 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.

Balls. You just couldn't get them to say anything as inflammatory or sensational or newsworthy as they'd said before so you took those things they'd said and pretended they'd said them to you. It wasn't "clarity" you were after. It was personal glory.

But I was wrong. An interview isn't an X-ray of a person's finest thoughts. It's a report of an encounter. If you want to add material from elsewhere, there are conventions that let you do that. You write "she has said," instead of "she says". You write "as she told the New York Times" or "as she says in her book", instead of just replacing the garbled chunk she said with the clear chunk she wrote or said elsewhere. If I had asked the many experienced colleagues I have here at The Independent – who have always been very generous with their time – they would have told me that, and they would have explained just how wrong I was. It was arrogant and stupid of me not to ask.

Who's the audience here? Your disillusioned readers or your disgruntled colleagues? Not sure either group is going to buy the excuse that you simply didn't know the form. In any event, your crime wasn't to write "she says" instead of "she has said", but to write "she says, looking me in the eye" instead of "she told the New York Times". You didn't merely allow readers to form the impression that your interviewees had said things to you that they'd said to other people; you deliberately misled them.

The other thing I did wrong was that several years ago 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.

You imply that creating a fake identity to correct your own Wikipedia entry is entirely normal and that your only mistake was to retain this identity while editing Wikipedia entries about other people. Er, no. Creating the fake identity in the first place was an act of deception and it went on from there. Your behaviour didn't simply fail to comply with the Golden Rule – most of us are guilty of that – but breached a much more basic rule: Don't tell lies. Again, you're implying that your behaviour was less sinful than it was.

If it was the other way round – if a journalist I disapprove of had done something analogous – I'd be withering. I'd say, it's not hard: get your quotes right, and don't be mean about other people in a way you find painful when it's directed at you. Spare me the self-pitying excuses. Plenty of people have your problems and pressures and none of your privileges, and they don't do anything half as awful.

Hang on a second. What self-pitying excuses? Is this a reference to excuses you've made in conversation with Chris Blackhurst and Andreas Whittam Smith? If so, what were they?

After it emerged that I had done this, some defenders of the powerful people I had taken on over the years for their wrongdoing saw an opportunity to try to discredit what I had written about them. Amid legitimate criticism of what I had done wrong, there were lots of untrue statements, but I'm hardly in a position to complain that some people saw it as an opportunity to take a free kick.

Oh pur-lease. The reason you've been put through the wringer by various bloggers and journalists isn't because they're the paid lackeys of the military-industrial complex. It's because you're a sanctimonious little prig and there are few things in life more satisfying than discovering that people who set themselves up as morally superior to the rest of us have feet of clay.

In 2007, I travelled through the Central African Republic to report on the fact the French government had been bombing the country. An anonymous claim was made that I had exaggerated the extent of the French bombing, and that I had fabricated a quote from a French soldier on the ground. Two representatives of the NGO that I travelled with came forward to The Independent's investigation into my journalism and they said my description of the bombing damage was entirely accurate, and that they have photographs of it. They also explained that they witnessed me speaking to several French soldiers when the person making these charges was otherwise occupied.

So you're actually a conscientious and ethical reporter after all? My mistake.

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.

The causes I've been championing are noble, therefore I am noble. No, really, I am. All I'm guilty of is being slightly over-zealous in my promotion of those causes.

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.

More oiling up to your colleagues, hoping they won't kick up a fuss when they discover you haven't been sacked. Good luck with that.

But offering words of apology is not enough. Christopher Hitchens once wrote: "If you don't want to sound like the Pope, who apologises for everything and for nothing, then your apology should cost you something." I agree. 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. But this isn't much, since it has been reported that they are minded to take it away anyway. (I apologise to them for the time they've had to spend on this.)

Is this why the Independent asked the Council of the Orwell Prize not to announce the outcome of its own internal investigation until after Andreas Whittam Smith had concluded his investigation? Because you hoped to pre-empt the announcement by "voluntarily" returning the prize? Yet, by your own admission, this attempt at damage control is too transparent to be effective. So why bother to go through the motions? Why not just let the Council strip you of the prize? This is symptomatic of the way in which you and the Independent have fumbled the PR challenge presented by this scandal. Amateur hour.

So second, 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.) And third, when I return, 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.

Is this the journalistic equivalent of wearing an electronic tag? Spare us. More fundamentally, the suggestion that all your sins are attributable to the fact that you've never had any formal journalistic training is risible. Many, many journalists working for broadsheet papers have never been to journalism school or done a stint in the provinces or worked their way up from the regional news pages, but – somehow – they've managed to grasp that making stuff up and creating false identities in order to trash your rivals is wrong. It's not that you're ignorant of the rules, Johann. You knew what they were and you broke them anyway.

In my work, I've spent a lot of time dragging other people's flaws into the light. I did it because I believe that every time you point out that somebody is going wrong, you give them a chance to get it right next time and so reduce the amount of wrongdoing in the world. That's why, although it has been a really painful process and will surely continue to be for some time, I think in the end I'll be grateful my flaws have also been dragged into the light in this way. I would like to apologise again to my readers, my colleagues and the people hurt by my actions. I know that some of you have lost faith in my work. I will do everything I can now to regain it. I hope, after a period of retraining, you will give me the chance.

All very high-minded Johann, but not particularly convincing. What you've left out of this account of why you behaved in the way you did is your galloping careerism. It's that, more than anything else, that led you to take all these short cuts. You're an unscrupulous little hustler and your continuing efforts to disguise this – even in the face of overwhelming evidence – is an insult to our intelligence.



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