Notes From the Margins…

Harigate and the Independent’s shameful cover-up

  • September 15, 2011
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After nearly two months of expectation and speculation, the Independent has announced the result of its ‘inquiry’ into the various accusations levelled against its columnist Johann Hari.

Yesterday Hari published a characteristically  self-serving apology, which admitted to plagiarism and conducting vicious ‘sock-puppeting’ campaigns against people he dislikes on the Internet, and yet still managed to suggest that such behaviour was motivated by essentially honourable and even noble intentions.

The end result is that Hari is not going to resign and the Independent’s editor Chris Blackhurst will not sack him.  Instead he will attend a journalism course in the US for ‘re-training’ and return next year, promising to footnote all his stories and publish his sources on the Internet.

Well,  two cheers for that.  Needless to say, Hari did not address the full extent of the allegations directed against him, which include not just massaging quotes to make them more comprehensible to the reader, as he insists, but borrowing whole chunks from other people’s books and articles and reproducing them wholesale,  fabricating stories, meetings and incidents that never happened and making some 600-odd Wikipedia edits using the pseudonym David Rose.

This is only to be expected from a writer whose arrogance, narcissism and dishonesty are only matched by his boundless self-pity when caught out.  His phony mea culpa is really something of a Hari classic,  from his claim that he edited Wikipedia to protect his friends to its suggestion that his unravelling was due to a conspiracy of ‘powerful people’ driven by animosity toward his ’causes.’

The fact that the Independent has gone along with this dismal charade is not entirely surprising – take away Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn and you aren’t left with much of a paper.  Andreas Whittam-Smith is a rather gormless fan of Hari’s and has clearly been less than  forensic in his investigation, or else he is determined to protect the Independent‘s reputation (not to mention that of its former editor Simon Kellner).

Either way, he and his newspaper have opted to  gloss over Hari’s complete absence of even the most basic journalistic standards and integrity and keep him on, when he should have been sacked.

This reputation-saving exercise is unlikely to have its desired effect.  Firstly,  there is clearly a ton of material out there on Hari’s misdeeds that will now come to light  as a result of his continued lies and evasions, and the Independent‘s apparent collusion with them. Secondly, the Independent has now compromised its own journalistic integrity still further,  after the years in which its editors  failed to monitor what Hari was up to.

So, all in all it’s not very pretty.  Hari’s many enemies will savage him in ways that his tattered reputation will probably not survive, and much of the slime that they throw at him will stick to the Independent too.

Hari’s pseudo-apology will no doubt bring a lump to the throat of his strange band of liberal-left devotees, many of whom are still coming out with the fatuous argument that what he did was somehow comprehensible and acceptable because it was all in a good cause.  Others will accuse his critics of witch-hunting, homophobia or politically-motivated victimisation.

Such defenders shame the left, allowing the Toby Youngs of this world to accuse it (rightly in this case) of  double standards   And in the end they will have done their hero more harm than good.  In his position, there was only one honourable thing he could have done: leave the newspaper that he had disgraced and try to rebuild his career somewhere else.  And if he refused to do that then the only honourable thing the Independent could have done was to sack him

He didn’t.  And the Indie bottled it.   And now Hari has no chance at all.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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