Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Earthquake In Blogdom, Not Many Care.

Recently there has been a minor furore among a small section of the British left wing commentariat. Essentially Nick Cohen (who often talks bollocks) was attacked by Johann Hari (who always talks bollocks) in an extremely dishonest way, some of the lies were gone over by Oliver Kamm (who only rarely talks bollocks). The capacity of the left for infighting is spectacular but predictable.

Not riveting stuff so far as I'm sure you'll agree, however it does get interesting, the left wing blog Harry's Place put up a post going into the debate and suggested that journalists who develop a reputation for making things up, as Hari clearly did, will find that it damages there careers.

I would link to the post or the follow up, but that is sadly impossible as they have been threatened with a libel suit by the fraudster It is a disgusting attempt to stifle criticism and it is noticeable that many others who have brought up Hari's penchant for fiction have not been sued. They include:

Private Eye:
a) Documented his lies about taking ecstasy
b) Ditto about seeing a protester being shot dead in Genoa
c) Talking to the Iraqi public before the war when in fact he admitted elsewhere that he couldn't get anyone to talk him, well hardly anyone.

Oliver Kamm:

"I've never admitted, or even merely stated, any such thing - and note that that's an attributed statement, not a paraphrase. To advance his criticism, Johann has just made up the evidence.".

Counterpunch's Carol Lipton: "
"Joseph was "explaining that his trip had shocked him back to reality"
. Yet Hari never states to whom Joseph did the "explaining", or where. He recounts Joseph's story as if it were his own"

National Review's Jay Nordlinger:

Highlighted the similarities of Hari article to an old Stephen Glass piece who was later exposed as a fraud. Suggested The New Republic's editors had been worried about it.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting:

a) Reported distortion by Hari about Palestinian infant mortality rates, Hari implied that they had risen dramtically under Israeli occupation when in fact they had fallen substantially. As they say "facts do not get in the way of Hari's need to tell a good story about alleged Jewish callousness.".

b) They add "Fo
r Hari, a gripping story trumps a truthful representation of the situation. He relates how the Islamic Jihad terrorist he interviews “described how he slashed the throats of four female Israeli soldiers in an illegal settlement in 2002, and he chuckled as he described how they cried for their mothers.”

However, the terrorist’s gruesome deed appears to be an idle boast; no such incident occurred. "

Nick Cohen:

"My book What’s Left? is about deceit and the rich world’s left, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the most deceitful piece to be written about it in any journal in any country should appear in a magazine of the intellectual left produced in New York (“Choosing Sides,” by Johann Hari, Dissent, Summer 2007)."

All of these people have made accusations about Hari lying that are far clearer and unambiguous than anything that was said at Harry's Place. All of them have access to the funds needed to fight a frivolous libel action. Therein lies the difference, this is an attempt to bully critics into silence and it should not succeed.

Hari not only lies a lot he even lies about how he conducts libel suits on people who highlight his lying. He claimed that " I'm glad the site accepts that what they said has abolutely no evidence for it at all, and had to be withdrawn immediately". He knew full well that they removed the post because they could not afford to defend a frivolous suit. He even lies about his attitude towards libel laws claiming that "I've always defended the libel laws if they are used properly - to prevent people saying outrageously, howlingly untrue things about you.". In fact less than a month prior to this contretemps he had written that "The only legitimate restriction on free speech is where it involves a direct incitement to kill.". Sadly Harry's Place have made no attempt at causing Hari physical harm.

I'm not particularly worried about suffering a libel suit myself for the simple reason that there is a 99% probability that he is lying about that also.

Update: Dumbjon has also written about this, including Hari's boasting about getting people to drunk to refuse sex.


Anonymous said...

And that missing Harry's Place Post in full (before the cache goes):


Nick Cohen v Johann Hari

You'll probably have read Oliver Kamm's and Gene's response to Johann's review in Dissent of Nick Cohen's "What's Left".

You will probably also want to read Nick Cohen's forthcoming response, which will also be published in Dissent:

My book What’s Left? is about deceit and the rich world’s left, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the most deceitful piece to be written about it in any journal in any country should appear in a magazine of the intellectual left produced in New York (“Choosing Sides,” by Johann Hari, Dissent, Summer 2007). As readers were not given an honest account of its contents, I should begin by saying that I ask how wealthy socialists, liberals, and feminists in Europe and North America came to turn their backs on the victims of movements that in their misogyny, homophobia, and racism represented everything the left is against–or says it’s against. I ask whether the betrayals are merely a product of a justifiable revulsion against the Bush presidency that will go when he’s gone or whether there are deeper and more uncomfortable causes that call into question what it means to be left wing today.
When presented with an uncomfortable argument, serious editors usually invite a critic to present a clear account of what is said, correct mistakes, and argue with interpretations and extrapolations. The trouble with looking for a critic in the British media is that normal intellectual standards are collapsing over here. At this writing, even the once-respected BBC has admitted to fixing competitions and deceiving its viewers as a matter of routine. The behavior of much of the press is worse, and if you trawl what used to be called Fleet Street for a reviewer you run the risk of picking up Johann Hari, who from almost the first paragraph of his piece in your last issue, misleads your readers.
I was, I am told, brought up by left-wing parents who raised me “to see Orwell in Catalonia as his moral archetype.” Their indoctrination, apparently, makes me confront all great issues with the question, “what would Orwell do?”

As if.

I make clear in the introduction that my parents were ex-communists who remained conventional members of the late-twentieth-century left. They didn’t “raise me” to see Orwell as “a moral archetype.” Indeed, I’m not sure that they ever read Orwell themselves. If they had, they would have hated his argument about totalitarianism because, as I say again in the introduction, they did not see a moral equivalence between communism and Nazism. For my part, it’s true that I did start Homage to Catalonia a few years ago, but to my shame I never finished it. I would no more ask “What would Orwell do?” than I would “What would Jesus do?”

Hari makes up these stories about my mother and father solely so he can declare that I am an “ostentatious claimant of George Orwell’s mantle.” This would indeed be a preposterously self-aggrandizing claim to make if I had ever made it. But I haven’t, in print or in private.

Having misrepresented my parents, he goes on to misrepresent my book.

Oliver Kamm's criticisms of the review are in a similar vein.

I hadn't really wanted to join in the fray, and by now, most of what I'd want to say has been said.

Basically, I think that bloggers and tabloid journalists are entitled to be a little bombastic, and to get things wrong: as long as they're happy to to correct their errors when they become clear.

However, if you aspire to be a serious academic commentator or non-tabloid journalist, a reputation for making things up should spell career death.


Ross F said...

Thank you. In context it makes Hari look even more absurd for threatening HP but not Nick Cohen.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Hari, vile little anti-semite

JuliaM said...

"In context it makes Hari look even more absurd for threatening HP but not Nick Cohen."

Hands up anyone who didn't think that was even possible...

DumbJon said...

These guys have a screenshot of the original post: