Saturday, 17 September 2011

Further thoughts on "David Rose"

This week it came out who "David Rose" was all along.

I wrote about it here, and - as I said there - I wanted to "draw a line" and "move on".

This was because of two things.

First: for although I believe in intellectual consistency - and so contend that secularist and liberal writers should adhere to the same standards one expects from religious and conservative writers - it has not been a pleasure to have been part of this exercise.

This lack of pleasure is not crude tribalism - I would not hesitate for a second to hold any other secularist or liberal charlatan to account. My discomfort certainly did not affect my work on "David Rose".

Instead it is a general sense that promoting secularism and liberalism should be essentially a positive endeavour, and not a negative one.

(Though, that said, I am currently working on a project to demonstrate and document the systemic dishonesty of another public figure.)

Second: I do not believe in retribution, but in rehabilitation.

That is why I suggested that the real "David Rose" should go to journalism school and that measures be put in place to give his future readers confidence in his journalism.

(I do not know if my suggestions had any actual impact, though I am reliably told they were considered carefully by the Independent's editor.)

What was important to me was that the evidence, and what what it showed, was frankly admitted. I did not want anyone to actually get the sack.

But the "David Rose" matter has not quite come to an end.

It has not been meaningfully resolved.

The adverse evidence has not genuinely been admitted.

In fact, the apology offered in respect of "David Rose" hardly even begins to cover the extent of the recoverable malice and deceit of that fictional construct.

And so that is why I am writing this one further post.

On this blog in July I did (with the fine help of excellent commenters) what I set out to do: which was to, in a measured and libel-safe way, identify "David Rose".

And, in the end, I did not even have to go to the extent of naming him: he had no alternative but to name himself.

For me there was one Wikipedia page and one blogpost which, more than the sad fact "David Rose" was editing the Wikipedia page of Richard Littlejohn on the evening of Christmas Day last year, shows just how wretched the whole business had become.

The Wikipedia page is here.

You will see "David Rose" spends several months in early 2007 convening and then participating in a Wikipedia mediation about whether someone is really the youngest ever nominee for the George Orwell prize (this was for the year before he won it in 2008), and whether a photograph is really that of the subject (which of course it clearly is, it is just a rather unflattering photograph).

"David Rose" even states:

"This is a bit surreal. That picture really isn't Johann. That was my suspicion when I first saw it, and when I e-mailed Johann, he said he doesn't own the clothes 'he' is wearing in the picture."

So "David Rose" was emailing the real "David Rose" to ask if the real "David Rose" has certain clothes, which the real "David Rose" denies, leading to an assurance from "David Rose" that the real "David Rose" doesn't own those clothes.

The blogpost to also look at was the only one which the real "David Rose" acknowledged the existence of his alter ego. (There is now no direct url, though I quoted it here.)

The last sentence of this is particularly interesting; but in its entirety it reads oddly now one knows who is the real "David Rose".

(Emphasis added.)

A friend has just e-mailed me a link to the comments section of the 'Daily Ablution', a blog by right-wing writer Scott Burgess. It's quite amusing. Check it out - it's the first comments box on the page.

Burgess is very fond of writing to left-wing newspapers and demanding corrections in print. Daily journalism written to tight deadlines inevitably involves errors - I make them myself, like everyone else - and all sorts of gadflies can be helpful in pointing them out, even when they have a pretty ugly agendas like Burgess. That's why I'm grateful to him for pointing out an error I made in citing Louis Emmanuel, the hurricane expert, a few weeks ago, for example. As soon as I found out about it I posted a correction, and thanks to him I won't make that mistake again.

But what's so funny is that when Burgess' own factual errors - real whoppers, like citing scientists who say exactly the opposite of what he claims, part of his total illiteracy on the question of global warming - were exposed by Alex Higgins on this website, Burgess posted no corrections. Nothing. Recently David Rose has been writing in his comments box, asking how to contact Burgess' readers' editor to request a correction.

And Burgess has been... totally silent. It has been left to barely-literate posters in his comments box to respond, accusing people like David with real scientific knowledge (a starred first from a degree specialising in environmental science at Cambridge, and extensive work in Antarctica observing the effects of global warming) of being "stupid" and "twerps."

David is quite right when he says, "If Scott doesn't respond to [Alex Higgins'] fair and accurate critique, then I'm afraid his ability to fact-check and critique others is simply shot to pieces."

Next time you read him trying to fact-check a liberal, remember that he has been proven to have no respect for facts - none - himself.

Yes, "David Rose" is actually being quoted in aid here.

Yes, a blogpost is actually being dedicated to praising what the author said as "David Rose" on some discussion forum.

But this Wikipeda page and that blogpost are relatively trivial examples in view of what else "David Rose" got up to.

My serious concern is that the failure of the person behind "David Rose" (and his supporters) to genuinely acknowledge the extent of what "David Rose" actually did means that this issue will not just go away; that the more serious abuses will keep coming out.

It would have just been far better had the ultimate apology not been so weasel-worded.

The apology should instead have been on the basis of full and frank admissions that "David Rose" didn't just make a couple or so errors, and was instead a deliberate and systemic on-going smear campaign and dishonest self-promotional exercise premised on the repeated deceits of (and contrivances by) "David Rose" over his real identity.

In the end, "David Rose" invented 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) which were simply not true; 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.

Ultimately "David Rose" was an intellectual fraud.

It was a structured and enduring enterprise to shape a false intellectual reputation by the deceitful means of over 800 Wikipedia edits (and by numerous online comments on blogs and forums, and also even emails to bloggers). This included the publication of serious libels against other working journalists.

And, until this is admitted in the round, and properly (and sincerely) apologised for, then one suspects the ghost of "David Rose" will not finally be put to rest.

(Postscript: Christopher Snowdon has analysed some of what "David Rose" did here. It isn't pretty.)


No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.


Neil said...

Couldn't agree more with this. The reference to the 2 stupid mistakes wasn't anywhere near satisfactory enough. As a friend of mine said, it was many mistakes which fall into two categories.

Yet only one of those categories of mistakes can be seen, in the best possible light, as stupid. There's no escaping the David Rose category of mistake was downright malicious and egocentric (ego obviously underpins the other category of mistake). There has been no genuine acknowledgement of (and no redress for) this whatsoever.

vjohn82 said...

I agree that rehabilitation, as opposed to retribution, is a sound call for the issues raised with Hari's journalism.

The question is, even with a full and frank apology for the David Rose alter ego can anyone really see Hari being taken seriously ever again?

Granted, it would be an ad hominem fallacy for anyone to disagree or challenge Hari on these activities in place of a logical argument but this compromises him so much it's difficult to see him recovering professionally.

Hari could have nipped this in the bud when issuing his previous apology; the healing could have started. Instead, his reputation takes hourly nosedives the longer this drags out.

Steve Jones said...

I think you have the answer to Johann Hari's future career right there in your column. He clearly has an interest in creating characters and dialogue.

Johann Hari is surely destined to write fiction. He is, after all, half way there. That way people could admire his writing without needing to get concerned over its veracity.

SteveNayeeve said...

As you say

"It has not been meaningfully resolved."

When you consider the effort and skill that clearly went into managing the David Rose avatar and then hold that consideration in your head when you read the apology, I think a person should realise that there is huge gap somewhere. Many things are not being dealt with.

All the apology did is artfully admit enough to limbo under the bar of evidence that had already been helpfully pulled together in the discussions in the last 4 months.

Yet still you see a surprising number of apparently intelligent people who seem to think this alternate personality - I mean the person who managed and created Rose - is something now to forget about, and the person depicted in the apology is the reality. It is the ultimate in denial.

I am interested in what is considered as accountability. Is it doing or saying? I can't help being fascinated by what I am learning about the role of some of the people who take up a lot of space in the media. I don't want to see anyone sacked but I do hope that a lot of the people who clearly think that reality is only what gets to be printed in the right places need to be ridiculed and exposed.

As I saw somewhere tweeted earlier, now that David Rose is barred from editing on wiki, we now know that wikipedia has a better editorial process than the Independent ;)

Thriding said...

Hopefully someone will go through the near-five-years' worth of David Rose Wikipedia edits and make a thorough examination of what he was attempting. I think we need to know in what proportion plain untruths were to (mere) attempts to portray people in a poor light.

Certainly Hari's apology is in no way proportionate to his activities on Wikipedia

Nickyb said...

The apology was exceptionally well crafted, making it look to those who had not really understood the full extent of his misbehaviour that he had made a couple of technical errors and was punishing himself extremely harshly. It oozes self-congratulatory self-flagellation and it is this, more than anything, that suggests that he has no appreciation of the enormity of his misdeeds.

The extraordinary extent of the actions of the David R alter ego, and the almost crazed vindictiveness of his wiki-editing should certainly give rise to very serious concerns about his moral capacity to continue to work at a serious broadsheet newspaper with a reputation for integrity and high-quality journalism.

Chris McCray said...

Steve Jones has got it in one - Hari's excelled at fiction and he should refocus his career and become a fiction writer. He even has a well-known, even infamous, pseudonym already defined.

I await with interest to see the first novel written by "David Rose" and fully expect it to be serialised in a national newspaper - how about in The Independent.

Thriding said...

I've started to look through the David R contributions to Wikipedia.

What muddies the water is that Hari didn't just use the one account. WP lists a few suspected sockpuppets:

Sometimes Hari uses four accounts at once to create the impression that he has a consensus for an argument - and then berates the editor he is arguing against for accusing him of sockpuppetry:

All four editors from 23 Oct 06 15:26 onwards are Hari sockpuppets (according to WP's estimation)

One of these sockpuppets ("thelionforreal") is further used in the discussion at the "mediation cabal"

It is worth looking through these tedious arguments between editors because it shows just how much Hari was lying, bearing false witness, etc

Stuart Brown said...

I see no point in trying to analyse the authenticity of the apology, only the man once known as David Rose knows that.

I do think that the Rose stuff moves Hari far beyond the occasional bit of "sleight-of-hand in representing quote sources" that the most generous interpretation of his interview technique would see. Having indulged in systematic and self-serving deceit on such a scale, I just cannot see how anyone can take him seriously again, even as a polemicist as Jack suggests.

For instance, a while back I heard him on a podcast (Little Atoms, I think), being pretty good on the anti-cuts agenda, and he was throwing out stats and info to back it up. One little item which stuck -- and which I have repeated to others now -- was a demonstration of exactly how out of touch Cameron is, in that he once said of Samantha that (I paraphrase) "people think she's very establishment but she's actually quite unconventional: she went to a day school." A nice quote showing that Cameron is so absorbed in the elite that simply "not boarding" is unconventional to him. I now have no idea whether this quote is true or not. Polemicists need facts around which to hand their polemics: they often need to be, like the above, slightly away from the boring newsy data-facts, because such is the nature of polemic. And so you have to be able to trust a polemicist as much on his quotes as an ordinary journalist. And with Hari we just can't.

I never saw him as a great stylist, but for those who did, I think the only route for him to keep on as a writer in the public eye is to turn to fiction. Proper fiction, that is.

Thriding said...

For people who don't wish to spend time looking through those links here's a typical example of David Rose's wounded indignation:

'The only bully here is you, who is trying to insert false smears into an entry about an honest journalist who risks his life to report on human rights abuses and who has been given awards for his "courage" by Amnesty International, just because you think he is "self-publicising" and "a careerist".'


Matthew said...

Contrary to DAG & several other commentators, I *do* think Hari should have lost his job. He's shown a failure of Journalistic ethics so brilliantly he will probably be used as an example of what not to do when people teach journalism.
I am more involved in the academic world, and perhaps standards and norms are slightly different there, but there if people are found to have fiddled experimental results or messed around with the peer review system (rather analogous to what Hari has done), you get rather more than a slap on the wrist. If it's a single instance of stupidity, you might be forgiven and be able to retain your job (NB might, far from guaranteed). But if a scientific academic went on a calculated 5 year campaign of flouting ethics they would simlpy never work again. End of. No one would go near them.
And I don't understand why any reputable newspaper would employ such a dishonest, nasty reporter.

Mike Hypercube said...

If he writes a novel it will have to be a post-modernist one. With de Selby footnotes (a la The Third Policeman).

Fiona Hanley said...

My impression of the mealy-mouthed apology is not that Hari admitted to as little as possible in order to keep his job, but rather that he still doesn't really believe what he did was all that bad. He cheated and deceived on a grand scale and not because he didn't go to journalism school. This is common or garden morality a five year old understands. This 'children carrying their parents' severed heads' business, I remember the original article, it was horrifying. Did he make this up? Who would do such a thing? A close reading of his apology shows that he skirted around the allegation.

Val said...

I appreciate the fact that you did not want anyone to be sacked, but ending his employment was surely the only honorable solution, given the overwhelming evidence of his deception and his very limited acknowledgement of what he has done.

If I were his friend I would urge him to pursue another career altogether and I find it rather hateful and cynical that the Independent have kept him on, presumably for profit, given that his mental health issues have been mentioned frequently (by him and others) and I don't think that the inevitable continued focus there will be on this issue will help him in any way. I find it shocking that the Independent behaved as they did, am horrified that months of reflection ended with his shamefully self-serving and partial apology, and that so many people are now making light of it, or are even, incredibly, praising him for his honesty. I know there are many more important issues in the world, and many other dishonest journalists but that does not mean that this should be ignored - he himself wrote 'So whenever you hear the cry "But what about...!", you can reply: what about we ignore this crude attempt to change the subject, and focus on the subject in hand?'.

I am grateful that you haven't finally drawn the line as it counters the lie that the only people who are very disturbed by this matter are right-wing horrors and jealous hacks. A lot of people are like me - we share many of Hari's political positions and have appreciated his highlighting of various issues in the past, but think that his behaviour and the Independent's reaction to it have badly harmed journalistic standards and the integrity of the liberal left.

Yonmei said...

Stuart Brown is right - the key problem here is not the appalling debacle on Wikipedia with David Rose and his trained army of sockpuppets (Thriding is right too - there were quite a number of them, and thanks to Wikipedia policies it is unlikely that all of them will be banned) but that Johann Hari wrote and said so much about issues I care about, and I have now absolutely no idea what part of what he wrote was true and what was fiction.

For example, in an article he wrote before the 2010 elections, Hari illustrated a description of the Hammersmith and Fulham borough, "Cameron-land", with a couple of telling anecdotes - a youth club that had been founded in the 19th century for the children of the area in perpetuity, now closed down: a public running track now closed part of the year as a polo ground.

Even at the time, I wondered about the youth club, because the only references I could find to it online were via Hari's article, and that struck me as odd - as did the lack of a founding date "built in Dickens' time" is not terribly precise. But it never occurred to me that Hari might simply have made it up.

Now it does. As now I wonder how much of that strong article against modern Toryism was true and how much was fiction. I want to know. I liked that article. Now it makes me angry.

Peter Preston wrote a short piece today for the Observer in which he named Hari "a bit of an ass" and seemed to think the problem was limited to Hari's theft of quotes from his interviewee's books. But that isn't even the half of it, as anyone who's been following the situation knows.

Ann Kittenplan said...

Hari's deceits are well documented and the apology/excuse and response exposed here and elsewhere as inadequate


is this all in perspective? In particular don't large sections of the press treat the public with total contempt?

This is one example
which has been doing the rounds again recently.

This may be one rogue reporter from a while ago (the NoW defence) OTOH it may be systemic, and, anecdotally, it seems to be.

I watched here the remarkable efforts that went in to exposing David Rose and part of me wished *some* of this talent and energy was aimed at what may be a much bigger story.

One slightly more emotive blog on a similar theme here

With an outline solution here

To reiterate: what Hari did was wrong and the apology/excuse and response are being exposed as inadequate but AISI there are bigger uglier more dangerous monsters out there. Should they be pursued?

I've posted extensively on this elsewhere so I feel at (increasing) risk of becoming a monomaniac but ISTM the left has a propensity for infighting, I hoped instead/as well to see these swords of truth* wielded in the direction of the kind of journalist/journalism in the Mail-related blog above.

*(C) Jonathan Aitken

Jacques Hughes said...

I think a lot of people are missing the obvious here - perhaps charitably, as the obvious is regrettable and sad.

I disagree with Hari on so many things. But he was a bright, articulate and engaging commentator, whose intelligence allowed him to come a long way against longer odds.

But what has been revealed goes well beyond ordinary nastiness or loss of perspective. This is the behaviour of a young man with a profound personality disorder. Sadly, these things are often beyond treatment, but in the first instance at least, treatment is what he needs. Not a journalism course in the USA. Of course, denial is usually a symptom of this sort of disorder. He needed to be made to confront it. The whitewash at the Independent has allowed him to put off the inevitable day. My guess is that, eventually, that will be exposed as a very cruel kindness indeed.

BDH said...

Great piece and comments. I'm for rehab over retribution but that can’t begin before a full and frank admission of systematic deceit. His sensationally stupid attempt at repairing the damage completed the destruction of his entire back catalogue and that’s a shame. As commented, the faintest whiff of BS in a polemic renders it worthless. It’s a matter of trust.

Christine Burns said...

I could put the issue of quoting interviewees down to a lack of experience, which training and mentoring would address in time.

However, the confirmation of sockpuppetry is in a wholly different league.

If a person is found to have adopted (and denied) false online personnae, used for shilling oneself and denigrating others, then it is hard to escape the conclusion that they have a fundamental personality flaw that no amount of training will eradicate.

As someone else has said above, it casts doubt on everything Hari has written and may go on in future to write.

Hari's stock in trade has been to appear to speak truth to power. But now we can never be sure that it IS truth in future. The more 'exclusive' his revelations, the more we will always have that niggling doubt.

That is such a tragedy .. for him and for us.

Graeme said...

I have to disagree that rehabilitation is better than retribution in this case. In my opinion, there is something profoundly wrong with the personality of someone who would go to such an extent to deceive people. This isn't going to go away so easily with retraining.

I'm not a psychologist but I think Hari may have some form of narcissistic personality disorder. Read this article:

Many of the behaviours described remind me of Hari's. Consider the last paragraph:

"Narcissistic individuals are skillful in the ways of social influence, capable of feigning an air of justified innocence, and adept in deceiving others with charm and glibness. Lacking any deep feelings of loyalty, they may successfully scheme beneath a veneer of politeness and civility. Their principal orientation is that of outwitting others, getting power, and exploiting them "before they do it to you." They often carry a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude and have a readiness to attack those who are distrusted or who can be used as scapegoats. A number of these narcissistic individuals attempt to present an image of cool strength, acting tough, arrogant, and fearless. To prove their courage, narcissistic individuals may invite danger and punishment. But punishment only verifies an unconscious recognition of deserved punishment and reinforces exploitive and unprincipled behaviors."

Maybe I'm reading too much into this but I just don't want to see people taken in again by frauds and liars like Hari who may seem nice and principled and contrite but really are truly nasty, deceitful people who only care about themselves.

Yonmei said...

Actually, reading back through DavidR's patterns of interaction on Wikipedia has a really horrid fascination now. I feel I should quit, but I have to share this particular gem from 2007.

An editor using the handle FelixFelix had got into hot water with Johann/David R because Felix had tried to introduce a reference to Private Eye putting Johann Hari on Hackwatch twice. (This too has happened to no other journalist, but apparently wasn't one of the things that Johann Hari wanted people to know about.)

Johann Hari complained to an administrator over a relatively harmless change Felix had made to an account of a "dispute" that Johann had posted up on his wikipage - Felix had changed the wording from Johann's own report of his own words, to a slightly shorter summary. And the administrator blocked Felix for doing that, based on Johann's complaints and those of his sockpuppets that Felix had a pattern of attacks and malice towards "David R".

(The dialogue between Johann Hari and the administrator can be found here.)

Wikipedians are reluctant to be self-referential - there isn't much history of Wikipedia to be found on Wikipedia - and in this case, where Johann Hari gamed their system for so long and with such success, it's really not surprising. But at least they never throw anything away: old Talk pages where Johann Hari complained about those mean, mean people who were claiming that he was a self-publicising self-aggrandising liar, are all still there on Wikipedia and only need to be searched for.

Thriding said...

[1/2: background]

Here are David R's suspected sockpuppets as listed by WP:

User:Robblackhurst - Oct 06 only on Talk:Johann Hari

example: "I've just stumbled across the Johann Hari entry which, as a reader of his work since his first pieces in the New Statesman, seems to me to be balanced and accurate. There's hardly a shortage of critics of his work displayed in the links here. I do however think that references to criticisms of Hari's "journalistic practice/integrity" are appalling. As far as I know, none of these criticisms have appeared outside the pages of Private Eye - not even in a media diary of a mainstream publication. Since Private Eye are curiously immune from libel laws, I hardly think this is evidence of any genuine question marks over Hari's conduct"

User:Thelionforreal - Oct 06 to Feb 07; Aug to Sep 07 only on Talk:Johann Hari

example: "Charles, I really appreciate your saying, above, that accusations of sockpuppetry are not helpful. Such accusations are also very frustrating (a frustration that is exacerbated by the fact that all of us are devoting considerable time to the issue of the accuracy of Hari's entry) given that the nature of the net is such that none of us know who anybody is (though I must admit I am becoming increasingly curious as to who Felix-felix is and why he seems to desire to edit the entry in order to present a negative impression of a perfectly respectable and many would say middle of the road journalist) and a certain assumption of good faith is, it seems to me, necessary from all parties for an enterprise like Wikipedia to work. Just as it seems wrong to accuse Hari of lacking integrity on the basis of a comment in Private Eye, it seems wrong to accuse people of being sockpuppets just because they all happen to hold different views from you."

User:Quinefan - October 2006 only on Talk:Johann Hari

example: "I strongly agree with what Thelionforreal says as regards the Private Eye and Littlejohn criticisms. It seems to me that criticisms of a subject should be included, with appropriate context, if they have been part of a reasonably substantial debate, and not if they constitute mere mud-slinging or muck-raking. Incidentally the Private Eye allegation seems at best unverifiable...?"

From the same conversation as these three here is some of David r: "Do you see what I mean, Charles? Now Felix has been proved wrong in his bizarre idea that everyone else is Johann Hari, he now becomes convinced everyone else is a sockpuppet... Why not check the IP addresses of these various posters? I think you will find they are from computers in totally different places, probably different countries. Can we have a serious discussion of the article, rather than Felix-Felix's endless paranoid accusations? Whenever the consensus is against him he imagines a vast conspiracy. Could it just be, Felix, that most people disagree with you?"

David R was banned indefinitely from WP on 18 July 2011

Thriding said...

[2/2: new development]

There is another user - User:Zafio - who from Nov 07 to May 08 contributed mostly to Talk:Johann Hari.

Zafio's first - and very long contribution - to WP was a post on Talk:Johann Hari which started: "I wonder if a fresh perspective might be useful? I stumbled upon, some months ago and quite by accident, the dispute over this page. As a relative newcomer to Wikipedia, I found the whole process fascinating, and at times good theatre. However, it also has had a more serious, and at times quite nasty side. At least one contributor, as it seemed to me, was pushing quite an aggressive line, which sometimes looked like an attempt to smear the subject."

The whole is here:

In 2009 and 2010 Zafio made only 16 edits, mostly such as Norman Mailer.

On 12 July 2011 Zafio made his/her first edit of the year - on Talk: Johann Hari []: "I agree with most of Yonmei's suggestions here. I was involved in discussions of this page some years ago, and agree that Dave R may have some COI. I doubt very much that he is Hari, however, accusations that have resurfaced elsewhere on the web.....The Private Eye accusations are of a different nature than the plagiarism charges, and seem only to be included here to establish that Hari is an inveterate liar. I've thus removed them as tendentious and unsubstantiated."

Compare Zafio's "I stumbled upon, some months ago and quite by accident, the dispute over this page" with Robblackhurst's "I've just stumbled across the Johann Hari entry "

Since then Zafio has made a hundred edits, all to Talk:Johann Hari, Johann Hari or the Usertalk pages of editors working on the Hari page
[contributions:] These were made on the following dates: 12 & 15-18 July, 16-17 September

Snowdon said...


I'm not at all convinced that Zafio is Hari. The style of writing is very different (better, frankly) and he would be very brave to continue trolling after all the news coverage.

However, I am 99% sure that Thelionforreal was Hari, as was suspected at the time. Take this, from November 2006, after a WP editor pointed out that Hari's entry was much longer than George Orwell's. Thelionforreal's response was...

"I don't agree with the idea that historical figures of long established interest should be more widely covered in Wikipedia than contemporary, active writers. There are many, many other sources, encyclopaedic and otherwise, in which one can read about Orwell, but few sources for young, up and coming writers such as Hari. One of the joys of the internet is the immediacy and contemporary social relevance of the medium. Wikipedia surely ought to participate in this joy by providing a forum for describing and discussing the work of today's controversial figures, whether or not they are going to be remembered by posterity. The fact that so many people have posted here about the content and editing of the Hari article amply demonstrates, to my mind, the value of the article."

Hari, with unusual humility, does at least concede that Orwell might have been a slightly more important writer than himself.

"Had the internet and Wikipedia been in existence when Orwell was active as a writer, I would imagine his entry would have been far longer and his discussion page far more heated than Hari's."

Snowdon said...

I should add that the reason the Hari article was longer than Orwell's is that 'david r' had spent months building it up with every bit of trivia that came to mind.

And the reason "so many people have posted here about the content and editing of the Hari article" was less a testament to the public interest's in "young, up and coming writers" and more to do with the fact that Hari was using multiple sockpuppets.

Snowdon said...

One more from Thelionforreal, who views Hari with the same awe as does David Rose.

"Hari is clearly a highly intelligent thinker and gifted writer who has been lucky enough to have his intelligence and gifts recognised at an age (his mid twenties) when many similarly gifted people have struggled in obscurity. This has generated a considerable amount of resentment against him in the journalistic profession and further affield from those who were not so lucky, and view him as a pretentious upstart, or 'little tyke'."

And a pearl from 'david r', who we know beyond all doubt to be Hari—the 'free speech obsessive' who is too busy to muck about on Wikipedia.

"It is clearly slanderous to falsely accuse Hari of editing his own wiki entry (and bizarre too, since I imagine he has better thigns to do than post critical things about himself!), so I have deleted that too. Wiki has strict rules about libel."

@adambanksdotcom said...

I agree with Christine Burns that the David Rose posts are damning where the interview-tweaking was not.

I was among those who defended Hari, with caveats, when the accusations of plagiarism first emerged. At that time the issue of "David Rose" had yet to be raised.

As a journalist who has also taught journalism, I made the point that any form of plagiarism is unacceptable in academia because it results in credit being wrongly attributed (and sometimes qualifications wrongly awarded), while in practical journalism what matters more is the end result, and the issue is whether the reader has been substantially misled, not whether some sort of "cheating" may have taken place.

Debate will continue on that. Slandering others in a public forum under a false name is a different matter. Knowingly removing facts from and introducing falsehoods into a reference work is yet another. There are no excuses for these actions; they're over a line, not along a continuum.

Whether or not Hari suffers from a recognised mental illness, his actions were self-serving, vindictive and deceitful. Taking a course in journalism is not even a step towards regaining the trust of an employer, editor, fellow hack or reader after this. I don't see how the Independent can accept future copy from Hari, or continue to archive previous copy, without a health warning and a comprehensive fact-check.

The question then is why it would want to subject itself to that kind of compromise. Hari is, for all his lethal failings, a skilled prose stylist and heartfelt polemicist, and those are hard to come by these days - but not impossible.

He'll still be good on Question Time.

vjohn82 said...

Get's better and better doesn't it? There's definitely something wrong with Hari.

To be writing in this way demonstrates some personality disorder of some kind. I can't think of anything else that would explain such behaviour?

Carl Eve said...

For me it underlines yet again the value of proper journalism training, starting in the classroom and then moving into the newsroom.
While Greenslade boasts that journalists on nationals now come from places like his special little factory
and so don't need to do anything as tiresome as the old NCTJ, then work on a local or regional because they've been in the presence of a Jedi master like himself, Hari proves that this special treatment for old fellows from the "right kind of schools" (which is more akin to the entry system for the upper echelons of the civil service) is a recipe for disaster. It's like reading about Boot from Scoop, whose benefactor has a word in the ear of a newspaper proprietor. Admittedly, Boot came up trumps, but in Hari's case it proved his weak grasp of journalistic ethics.
Perhaps if Hari had learned at the foot of others, digging in the dirt to learn the basics - like not fucking lying - perhaps the Indy wouldn't have so much egg on its face.

And yes, I am a local reporter and would love to have trained at Columbia uni (probably at the Indy's expense). If you must know, Southend Poly...

SteveNayeeve said...

Wow Looking at that Zafio link I see yet another tenacious defender of Hari from a familiar mould, I don't feel I am hearing a unique voice.

"he would be very brave to continue trolling after all the news coverage"

I see your reasoning there. I wouldn't say brave though, I say it would be amazing woudn't it? Has Hari ever done anything amazing like this before (adopts Bill hicks sarcastic idiot pose with finger on bottom lip).

I am a stranger in the garden where Kttenplan plays "whataboutery" unironically, but this is what I said above about "the ultimate in denial."

I can tell Peter Preston and Sunny Hundal are unique different people who defend Hari and not just because of their byline photos. But sometimes when Zafio says so many things that are redolent of other things that I've already heard previously in defence of Hari... I wonder ;)

Also, I've just notice that someone has piped up on the latest CiF Nick Cohen thread with an, admittedly, interesting zinger, who had recently been a regular on another recent Hari CiF thread. I think I'm beginning to develop a six sense that may be an evolutionary dead end - I see Hari people...

If the challenges in the Congo case are ever resolved in public, (are Odone and Hannan talking crap here?) then we may be onto something quite significant - I note that in Hari's apology he castigated the singular accuser by emphasising her anonymity and by further rebutting it with the "evidence" of a numerically greater amount of people (two) who "say they have photos" to show otherwise. Should we forget Hari forgets these two people have an anonymous status too?

To reiterate I have no care about retribution, I am not a lefty media luvvie so you can understand I am a good 'ol boy I enjoy seeing so many fish in the barrel I can't help pointing them out to the other good 'ol boys.

"It has not been meaningfully resolved."

There is no law that says that this has to be meaningfully resolved. We all know that loose ends are all over the place and will be forever ;)

SteveNayeeve said...

I said

(are Odone and Hannan talking crap here?)

Apologies for mixing up my Telegraph polemecists I meant Damian Thompson not Daniel Hannan

so it should have been:

(are Odone and Thompson talking crap here?)

Ross McD said...

The following, from Hari's masterpiece of obfuscation, particularly irritates me:

"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."

Hari doesn't actually say that Cristina Odone isn't an anti-Semite and homophobe, and that Nick Cohen isn't a drunk - he only apologises for stating it publicly. Since this "latter group" comprises only "one... and the other", the reader is left with the impression that Hari maliciously edited the pages of no more than two (unnamed) people. And these were only a "few" instances, vastly outnumbered by Hari's noble edits to his own pages and those of admirable people. He even manages to drag in the Golden Rule.

By the end of Hari's 'apology', as he recounts "dragging other people’s flaws into the light", "reducing the amount of wrongdoing in the world", and his sorrow at those followers who "have lost faith in [his] work", the conclusion that he is an unrepentant narcissist is hard to avoid. I only hope that when the stone rolls away in four months, and Hari is risen again, that nobody is there to greet Him.

Zafio said...

Its galling that I have to come here again to assert that I am not Johann Hari, who I don't have any personal connection with, but there it is. Thanks to Snowdon for his sensible comments. But over and above stylistic considerations and the fact that returning to this article just after having apologized for malicious editing on Wikipedia would be, not brave, but *suicidal* for Hari - over and above this there are good reasons to think that it is unlikely that he and I are one on the same.

I have already explained some of this here: But the matter has moved along since July, since Hari has now admitted making malicious edits on Wikipedia articles from the "David R" account. Its important to note that my Wikipedia account has never made any attacks or edits on the articles of Johann Hari's enemies. This is vital, because the really scandalous aspect of the sockpuppet affair concern the malicious edits. My account can be fully recused of that at least.

Moreover, my admittedly scanty contribution history expresses sentiments and identifications that are highly unlikely to be those of Johann Hari. For example, in February 2008 I posted a comment on Morrissey's talk page about cultural Catholic identity, part of which reads "Few of my catholic friends, nor myself, practice or even believe particularly; but indeed catholics is what we are."

I've never seen any evidence that Hari has identified as a Catholic (though I guess its possible he was brought up in the faith). On the contrary, he has been relentlessly critical of it, without reference to any Catholic identity of his own, even a mild one. Can anyone imagine Johann Hari writing that catholicism is "in the blood", as i do?

To believe that Hari made this edit on an article that has nothing to do with Hari or his enemies is to believe not simply that he lied (as he did on David R), but that he was covering his tracks on unrelated articles to prepare for just this eventuality (i.e. the David Rose persona blowing up). It stretches all credulity to think so. Its possible, I guess, given the elaborateness of the David Rose fiction. But highly unlikely, and not really good evidence of sockpuppeting.

I think thats all I want to say on this for now. Thanks.

james said...

I second Val's comment above (not because I myself am Val, I suppose I should add, given the subject matter).

I agree with much or most of Johann Hari's politics. But the evidence is plain. He's long been a systematic and shameless liar, fuelled by vanity and contemptuous of the truth.

Like the other commenter above, I read and valued his pre-election article about the Tories - I now suspect that this was posturing backed with lies. I suspect this of many of his articles.

Are there more important evils in the world? Yes. Do Hari's actions even matter? Yes, to me. If you set yourself up as a moralist and a stern critic of other people's words and deeds, then you'd better at least attempt to live up to your own professed standards. Or expect ridicule and revulsion for your hypocrisy.

Hari's 'apology' was transparent in its narcissism and insincerity. Even if it hadn't flatly contradicted his two previous 'apologies'.'Such guts & honesty' tweeted Stephen Fry. Can anyone really make themselves believe that?

Thriding said...

Zafio writes: "Moreover, my admittedly scanty contribution history expresses sentiments and identifications that are highly unlikely to be those of Johann Hari."

One of the few areas other than Hari himself that Zafio has contributed to is the Norman Mailer page (Feb 08, July 09, Aug 09, Feb 10, May 10)

Hari wrote on Mailer in Nov 07:

Stuart Brown said...

I have to add say that I'm a bit disturbed the number of people willing to assign a 'personality disorder' to Hari, and especially those for whom it would appear then to be a stick with which to beat him. Armchair speculations on the state of his mind seem to me unnecessary, and almost certainly inaccurate; just as I see little point in attempting to unpick the sincerity or lack thereof in his apology. The questions to me are: what moral value do we assign to his actions, and do we consider him a capable moral agent? The systematicity and maliciousness of the David R deception I think place those actions easily within the reprehensible domain. Should you choose to see the plagiarism as just "misguided," fair enough. I would argue though that, as some of the purloined quotes were preceded with descriptive commentary specifically indicating it had been said in the interview this is clear deceit as well. Having adjudged the actions reprehensible, do we then consider Hari a capable moral agent: do we transfer the approbation to him? Well, because I think speculations as to his mental health are just that -- purely speculative -- I think we must accord him the same agency as we do anyone else, and presume him fully responsible for his actions until such a time as he may plead otherwise. Should this happen, and should we choose to believe him, any mental health problems should not then be used as rods for his back. Whatever he may have done, if he has a personality disorder, he deserves as much help and sympathy for it as you would expect for yourself.

The proposed "journalism training course" as rectification strikes me as ludicrous. I can see, perhaps, how David might have suggested it: for David's line of work is one in which ethical decisions are far less clear cut, and trainees have to be guided through difficult moral scenarios. But we learn at school not to copy other people's homework, and most of us learn not to lie even younger.

Thriding said...

Zafio has said: "I actually challenged "David R" on a few edits, back in the day, though given the elaborateness of his fiction this is possibly not beyond Johann Hari!"

Here is an example of one of Hari's socks, David R, leaving a message on the talk page of another of his socks, Thelionforreal:

"Hi. This is a quick note about the editing of the [[Johann Hari]] page, which I know you've helpfully intervened on in the past. As reading though the page's history will show, the user Felix-Felix has described Hari as "a self-publicising careerist, and an especially unpleasant one at that", accused him of being in favour of "the destruction of Untermenschen" (when in fact he is an Amnesty International award-winner), inserted fictitious claims he went to the most exclusive public school in Britain when in fact his father is a bus driver, and, most crucially, inserted poorly sourced claims that he "fabricated" a story he wrote about. This is a pattern of falsehood and animus that really worries me. This user is now insisting on his right to reinsert the claims that hari farbricated a story, sourcing them to a magazine that wiki administrators have already said is not reliable. What can I do in this situation? - DavidR"

bensix said...

How about "Niko"?

Robert Lamb said...

My only experience of editing Wikipedia was when I happened across the Johann Hari entry in late 2007 and couldn't believe what an awful piece of self-promotion it was. I spent three months trying to fix it fighting with Dave R/Hari - under the name of SamuelSpade when I remembered to sign in. By December I was worn down, got bored, gave up. I have been reading the recent discussions on the talk page of the entry and I am entirely convinced that 'Zafio' is David R/Hari. His style of argument is exactly the same with a preference for passive-aggressive posts, hysterical faux-offence at the posts of others and, most crucially, a bizarrely thorough knowledge of Hari's positions and corresponding tendency to define them in highfalutin theoretical terms (witness the lengthier version of the comment 'zafio' has posted here on the Wikipedia page where he classifies the disgraced hack as 'a radical anti-theist').

The argument that old Johann would have to be nuts to post under a pseudonym again and act in the same way he did before doesn't convince me. After all, he was barmy enough to do it the first time. Thankfully, it is a losing battle, trying to salvage his reputation, even on Wikipedia.

Dave Timoney said...

I first encountered Hari on BBC2's Late Review 2 or 3 years ago, and was struck both by his enthusiasm and his ability to sound like he believed what he said, even when it was (harmless) nonsense.

Out of curiosity I looked him up on the Guardian online (not being an Indy reader) and found this: Forbidden love. As I read, I experienced a sense of familiarity. Not in respect of the subject, but in terms of the style. This was a perfect replica of a readers' letter to a porn mag: giddy, hackneyed and utterly incredible. For a brief moment I thought it might be an ironic pastiche, until the horrible truth dawned. He was just making it up.

The admission that he is guilty of "errors" of judgement, re unattributed quotes, and juvenile "idiocies", re online smears, is self-serving and perpetuates his Munchausen-like delusions. He has displayed a contempt for the truth, an obsession with his own self-aggrandisement, and a petty vindictiveness towards others.

What has gone largely unremarked in this affair is the apparent credulity of his employers at the Indy and elsewhere. Hari doesn't need to go to journalism school (surely 10 years on the job has taught him both the mechanics and the ethics), but perhaps his editors need to upgrade their bullshit detectors. The Indy's judgement (serve your time and all shall be forgiven) indicates that they still don't have the measure of the man.

Johnian said...

Someone a few posts ago talks about attributing to Johann Hari the same degree of moral agency as anyone else. I strongly agree.

Hari's behaviour is completely rational. He is not a fantasist, but a calculating careerist self-publicist. He used wikipedia sockpuppets, and the Indy's libel lawyers, to promote and prolong an unduly positive public image. It subserved his interests to libel and discredit any single person who got in his way: the teachers who punished him at Cambridge, Christina Odone, or anyone else, so he just went on and did it.

He will keep on lying and libelling (read his goddamn "apologies") until he is forced to stop.

Confused of Cheshire said...

He mistakingly signed one of his sockpuppets as Johann here:

Jacques Hughes said...

Re Zaffio: is there any significance to his misuse of the word "recused" - I assume he means "excused"? One would think that a professional writer of Hari's academic intelligence (assuming his academic achievements to be genuine) would know the correct meaning of the term, which may suggest that Zaffio is distinct. Is "recused" a term which Hari ever uses? Outside legal circles, it's quite an unusual word.

Matt Wardman said...

I agree that Simon Kelner is/has a huge problem, and that much of the national media have missed that aspect amongst others.

Roy Greenslade is being gently educated on his thread about the 'pology at present.

For me, the single most telling point in the latest apology was that the focus is on colleagues and readers, and not on interviewees who may have suffered when JH sensationalised their words. For JH and Simon Kelner it is all about themselves.

On how JH went down this route, I'd point to his gradually withdrawal from interaction with readers and critics, going back as far as the early 2000s, and getting progressively more wrapped up in himself:

* first removing the reader forum on his website,

* then stopping readers making comments on,

* then later stopped responding to questions from 'interviewees' (unforgiveable) and emails from the public questionting his assertions.

* recently (last few months that I checked) he seemed to only respond to critique from national journalists. An example would be Fraser Nelson. An NS columnist might get a response, a blogger would not.

That running in parallel with self-promotion from a writer at NS/Harrys Place to a prominent national columnist, with the Wikipedia self-promotion and opponent-denigration in parallel.

One thing also missed is that seeding links to your own site into Wikipedia is powerful as a promotional tool in the eye of the public, and there are currently around 300 back to JH's personal site.

There are also basic questions around JHs journalism, even in the couple of pieces he published immediately before he was suspended.

For JH himself, if it doesn't all come out he's in no position to make a fresh start.

Kelner needs to explain why he was willing to tell what I believe to be a straightforward terminological inexactitude on National Radio about the lack of complaints, why he is not willing to take responsibility for cleaning up the archives of the articles he published, and what the **** happened with his newspaper's mentoring processes.

I have other reasons why I'm pursuing this to do with Hari's campaigning on particular questions, but that's off topic here.

Hodgey said...

Wikipedia isn't getting its house in order. It's trying to delete a half-finished page of evidence about Hari/david r's use of IPs for editing - turns out 'David r' edited as an anonymous IP user as much as a logged-in one. So is Wikipedia investigating and banning and removing dodgy edits? No, it's trying to delete the evidence of Hari's misdeeds instead. Make a copy of this , people.

Confused of Cheshire said...

The Hari/David R wikipedia sockpuppet investigation is ongoing here:

Most of the investigation focuses on the user "Zafio" because of the implications of Hari continuing to use a sockpuppet (or a friend) after July 2011.

There is mention of "Zafio" offering to meet "yonmei" in Edinburgh to prove he is not Hari.

He could simply be an over-enthusiastic defender of Hari but it would be interesting for "yonmei" - if he does meet Zafio - to compare notes with Richard Seymour on his meeting with the mysterious "David Rose" ( )

Mick Turatian said...

I just the other day helped one of my children, a journalist, move house. Among the stuff I carted was a large cardboard box full of used shorthand pads.

It is apparently and understandably standard practice among journalists to keep such reference material for a number of years.

Have Simon Kelner or Andreas Whittam-Smith examined any of Johann Hari's notes of his interviews, I wonder?