Yesterday I wrote a sceptical article on the subject of plagiarism allegations against Johann Hari. I distrust online witch hunts on principle, and one quote doesn’t qualify as a basis for condemnation. Now far more serious allegations have emerged
New information from Brian Whelan, editor of Yahoo Ireland, indicates materials related to an interview with Hugo Chavez in The New Yorker contains materials similar to Hari’s much later interview with Chavez. An interview with a gay football player called Thomas also contains materials related to an earlier interview.
What’s strange about this situation is that anyone could find these things in a few seconds on Copyscape. I had no trouble. It’s routine procedure to check for use of materials which are, after all, commercial properties. So why aren’t the original sources howling about it? The most likely reason is that it would reflect badly on them. They should have noticed, and they didn't.
The situation is bizarre:
1. Some of Hari’s interviewees stand by him regarding the use of their own materials. That’s OK. If the original source of materials gives the OK, it’s still truly lousy form not to attribute the exact source, but it’s not a hanging offence.
2. The editors of major league publications like The New Yorker haven’t said a word. Is this just typical media apathy, or are these guys so far behind the times they don’t know what to do about it?
3. There are a few stooges who are saying every chance they get, as they do in all media about plagiarism, “Everyone does it”. No, they damn well don’t. If you can’t produce your own materials and do your own bloody work, go back to being an office boy/girl, and get the hell out of the business. More parasites are not required.
God knows that the global “news media” isn’t exactly an example of professional stringency and ethical achievements. It’s a corrupt, inept, unthinking slopfest most of the time. It will forgive itself for anything, as long as materials sell. Hari, however, is standing on top of a large pedestal, and it’s a long way down.
Hari’s left wing orientation is another issue. The guy is verbose, like many of his ilk, and has been accused of pretentiousness by some, but this situation casts a shadow over his ideology and by default over the left. This is a gift to the online rednecks, who can now divert attention from their own ultra-hackathon and disinformation campaigns to Hari’s apparent blunders and indiscretions.
Hari has now been placed in a position requiring him to answer the allegations clearly and unequivocally. These allegations have to be answered, and answered convincingly, including an OK from the original sources to clarify exactly whether the use of materials was sanctioned.
The situation isn’t looking good for Hari, but with a caveat- I have my own doubts about some of the materials of Hari’s that I’ve seen, a few of which look very much like “editorial piecework”, paragraphs in dubious alignment with not-overly-fabulous continuity and erratic flows of information. It is possible that there have been inputs from researchers or other sources into these pieces.
It should also be remembered that content checking is the responsibility of editors, not journalists. Someone has to be looking out for breaches of copyright, so why weren’t they? The Independent and other news media for which Hari writes should have spotted these issues, and obviously didn’t. If there’s a problem, Hari isn’t the only problem.
One thing about my earlier article on this subject holds true- The mob rule element on the net is a risk to free speech, where allegations take the place of facts. The original allegation, one quote from an un-cited source, was a storm in a non-existent teacup, and it produced a horde of vilification. That’s not healthy, and it has to be countered by those who value facts above innuendo.
One more thing- This guy Hari remains innocent until proven guilty. He has the right to mount a defence, and should be allowed to do so.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com