Hari: Knave or Fool?

Journalists Johann Hari has been exposed as using others work in his own without acknowledgement, and maliciously editing Wikipedia.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

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Greenslade argues fool:

I admit that, having written that I didn’t believe Hari guilty of passing off somebody else’s intellectual work as his own, it did give me pause for thought.
But I concluded, in company with other sympathetic journalists – of left and right and centre, such as Deborah Orr, Ann Leslie and George Brock – that Hari had been a fool rather than a knave.

And I’d be prepared to lean that way, if it wasn’t for this part of Hari’s apology:

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 find it interesting that most journalism commentators skim over, or completely ignore, this part of the story, as Greenslade did. To me, that violation of basic web ethics makes Hari a troll and a knowing troll at that. Hence: a knave.

Update: Tom Chivers delves deeper into Hari’s alternate identity:

At one stage Johann Hari quotes David Rose in his blog, giving him biographical details like “a starred first from a degree specialising in environmental science at Cambridge, and extensive work in Antarctica observing the effects of global warming”, to support a point Hari himself is making. Green counts “at least fifteen biographical facts (from a lawyer girlfriend in Walthamstow and subbing jobs at the Independent and Spectator, to a principled and noisy opposition to the invasion of Iraq)” about David Rose, none of which were true, because there is no David Rose. “[It] was a fluent stream of lies contrived just so that the systemic smear campaign and dishonest self-promotional exercise could carry on and never be exposed”, he says.

Perhaps Hari should just admit that he’s a fiction writer rather than a journalist and move on…?

[via Shane Richmond]

ethicsJohann Harijournalisttrollswikipedia

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 25. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.