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June 29, 2011

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Mark Gullick

"Great novels and films - works of fiction - can tell important truths."

I don't know if they can. I suspect they provide entertaining commentary to truths. The problem with the Hari/Bunting/Toynbee/Alibhai-Brown brigade is that they can't imagine themselves outside of their ideological comfort zone, can't abide too much reality. New Labour were really the first bunch to concoct reality via the media and feel relaxed about it, and now the leftish media - to paraphrase Nietzsche - can't see around its own corner. I agree with you completely; much journalism is appallingly written, dullard prose. It's a shame. Every time I flick through the Penguin collection of columnists [I forget its proper title] I wonder what happened to British journalism. Great post.

Stephen

Yeah but lets not forget the boy has , as it were , form on this one.

Claims about Noam Chomsky's views about the UK's military intervention in Sierra Leone brought forth a rebuttal from the linguist that included "his silly inventions -- which tell us a lot about him" and "The fact that he would resort to these idiotic fabrications tells us a lot about him"
http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=307:noam-chomsky-responds-to-johann-hari&catid=17:alerts-2003&Itemid=42


A piece years ago for the New Statesman about how drugs laws will have to change when his generation are running the country - because we are all drug taking party animals. Was hilariously debunked by Private Eye who gave accounts of desperate phone calls wherein he asked his friends what it was like to weel , you know , take drugs..

Another New Statesman piece about homophobia wherein Mr Hari broke down barriers by having sex with attractive skinheads and islamic fundamentalists - is difficult to refute - but didn't strike this reader as desperately plausible ...

Shuggy

Tim's post was good. I think he's making the point that Johann's cutting and pasting forms part of a more general pattern of sloppy journalism, which is often build on rather weak research. One would be inclined to be more tolerant but he took great exception to a certain blogger making a remark about him having a reputation for making things up - so much so, he got a lawyer and the offending post was taken down. But he *does* have a reputation for making things up and it seems now that this is at least partly justified. I like your art/reality point. It occurred to me when reading about this. Johann has written a couple of plays, I think? Maybe he should stick to that sort of thing because no-one is going to be able to believe his reportage anymore.

Cahal

You make a good point about the truth being messy and ambiguous, and I think if you look at the 3 best (or at least most influential) economics works: TWN, Capital and TGT, you will find that the authors appear troubled and are oftentimes ambiguous (although Adam Smith wrote with more clarity than the other two).

This leads me to believe that choosing truth over elegance doe snot impact your work negatively in the eyes of others, and may even do the opposite.

Abdullah

Agree with Shuggy about Tim's post. I believe Johann's degree is in PPE, the 'E' standing for 'Economics'. How can he be so sloppy? Is it a lack of education? Will Cameron, holder of the same degree, be the same?

By the way, Mark, I don't think misattribution or lack of attribution has anything to do with ideology - Bush's autobiog has plenty of nicked stuff - but if it makes you feel better to vent, vent away...

Grace

Interesting post!

Jonny R

I think Hari has little defence whatsoever, and it's much more simple. He's just a crap interviewer and has tried to embellish his interviews to give the impression that he has produced more interesting responses.

After-all if he was so concerned about helping his interviewees properly express themselves, why not just point this out to them in the interview; "do you mean blah blah as you said in your book, or has your position changed" etc etc. And, as plenty of people have also suggested, why not just actually point out where you get the quote from at the time?

Also, adding the "After saying this, he falls silent, and we stare at each other for a while. Then he says, in a quieter voice" is a bit creepy to me. This is all on purpose not a simple mistake. I mean, this is job, his profession. So, tough.

On another note, Mark, are you really saying right wing commentators are the only ones who can look 'outside of their ideological comfort zone'? If so, would you include mad Mel Philips and Richard Littletjohn in this enlightened group?!

MJW

Hari is a professional "opinionist" and has long since become a parody of himself with his repetitive and predictable whines. But that's what he's paid to produce so criticising him for being a bit of a fraud is pointless, better to simply say he simply got sloppy with his schtick and that is unprofessional.

Keith

On the other hand great historians often write brilliantly e.g. A.J.P. Taylor; with the statistics left to notes at the end with the graphs and tables. Hobsbawm too. Great descriptive prose and accuracy can go together. If you are good enough.

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