Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Johann Hari: Plagiarism confession will do him the world of good

Someone called Johann Hari, a columnist on the UK Independent and a gadabout for various other up-there publications, has confessed to lifting quotes to beef up his celebrity interviews. If his star subject is not making much sense, Hari will pinch a better quote on the point-in-hand, truffled from the written work of the interviewee (uncredited), and pass it off as part of his own splendid cross-exam. Naughty!

Blogger scorn and fainting have greeted this confession: why, it's even trending on Twitter as I write.

Hari's problem, one of many I fear, may arise from what he thinks an interview is for. He imagines his interviews are 'intellectual portraits'. Oh dear, I wish he'd spoken to Madame Arcati first. A newspaper 'interview' is nothing more than entertainment whether it's in the Sun or Le Monde Diplomatique. The object of the exercise is to bring to vivid life an encounter of usually short duration. The good writer-interviewer, as the ruthless, opportunist carnivore he or she must be, will be alert for signs of weakness in the subject, ie for signs of entertainment material that makes a mockery of the PR or of the book/film/whatever that whorishly accounts for the interview in the first place.

If, say, a star interviewee-author coughs up blood and dies while boring the shit out of us on atheistic conformity in British journalism then there's your money shot. Readers are not interested in ideas or lectures, not even godless ones. Alas, Hari imagines his role to be that of transcriber of great words - or great words obtained by others' efforts if needs be. Reality check: any collection of his interviews will struggle to sell 500 copies (100 of those flogged to friends and relatives), eBook or otherwise.

Has Hari damaged his career? Absolutely not. He has already done the essential thing and made a name for himself. Once you're a name, it is very hard to self-immolate, professionally. What may look like public scorn and contempt now is nothing more than glamour-enhancement without sequins. Readers just love a name, and harmless notoriety goes down well with editor-scrotes desperate for promotional material (eg names).

If I were Hari, I'd go to the Independent editor - while he survives - and ask for a pay rise. A daytime TV show hosted by Johann Hari cannot be far away.

Click here to read his confession.

32 comments:

Jon Peake said...

I suppose that's what happens when a large ego is at play.

Madame Arcati said...

'You must think like a whore and never lose the moment' - Wise Sayings R Us.

Anonymous said...

How horribly cynical

Anonymous said...

Hari is a fucking arrogant twat promoted beyond his talent. He's not a smart writer, he's not clever, just a silly cunt. I feel better for saying it.

Madame Arcati said...

That's right, poppet, let it steam out. I can't imagine what Johann has done to create such tension.

Elly said...

i think you are spot on madame A.

But I find Hari pernicious because he is also a 'spokesperson' for 'gay rights' and a particularly sanctimonious one at that. Which has an impact at the level of the content of his turgid articles as well as his 'role' as a celebrity journalist.

And I am more in the Anti-Gay/Metrosexy (to keep it up to date) camp than the boring, narrow, 'gay' rights camp.

Bad journalism is depressing but Hari is not alone in producing that. He does stand out though as a 'preacher' of hugely overblown proportions though.

Anonymous said...

The day of th e print interview is dead. They are all super-controlled glorified press releases these days

Ian Shuttleworth said...

Well, I dunno about Anonymous, but here's one thing he's done to me. He begged some quotes from me for a profile piece on someone I'd worked with years before, ran them in a snide tone 180º opposite from mine, credited me ostentatiously whilst the article itself was anonymous, and thus ruined my most prestigious professional contact. When I kvetched about it to mutual friends, they said, "Oh, that's just Johann," as if that mitigated matters rather than aggravating them with pattern-of-behaviour evidence. On subsequent meetings he seemed to imagine we were still friends.

The late Tina Brown said...

But your Liz Brewer interview was nothing but piffle Madame.

Madame Arcati said...

Thank you Ian. I hadn't thought of the actual damage...

S Moore said...

Is Elly homophobic or just a poor writer?

Anonymous said...

It's hard to tell if this piece is serious or not. It reads serious yet smells like a pisstake but I can't tell if your pisstaking Hari, newspapers or interviews. Can't you write more clearly, like Hari?

Madame Arcati said...

Learn the difference between 'your' and 'you're' and I'll happily lift Hari's lucid prose.

Anonymous said...

I think Ian Shuttleworth hits the nail on the head. Hari is stealing other people's work. Perhaps Hari should credit in footnotes.

The late Julie Burchill said...

All this venom is just jealousy. You're all jealous of Johann's success and desperate to see him sacked so he can be a loser like you lot. You're all sad tossers.

Elly said...

Haha. That's not the real Suzanne Moore is it?

I love this blog but I get so CONFUSED by all your aliases.

The real S Moore would know what I meant by 'Anti Gay'

Elly said...

But just to clarify Anti Gay is a book from 1996 by Mark Simpson:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anti-gay-Sexual-politics-Mark-Simpson/dp/0304331449

It criticises 'gay rights' politics and the 'gay identity' from a more radical, inclusive perspective.

Madame Arcati said...

Welcome to the masquerade, Elly. If only people could be upfront like what I am.

Incidentally, peeps. Simon Kelner, editor of the Indy, has tweeted his support for Hari. Am I psychic or just a cyncial, shrewd old cunt? He writes: 'In the 10 years my darling poppet has toiled on the Indy, not one sleb has complained about poppet making up quotes or thieving them, whatever', or words to that effect; I paraphrase.

I admire loyalty. Stand by your man, that's what I say.

Anonymous said...

Have you got a cock pic of Johann? That'll settle it

Madame Arcati said...

I think I'm right in saying that Duncan Fallowell is the only British writer of literary standing whose naked body is out there for all to see.

If Johann would like to send me a naked pic for publication he is assured yet a further boost to his celebrity - and possibly a turn on Loose Women.

The late Patience Strong said...

What would a daft astrologer know about anything as you nance about making things up about the planets? You could lift material from past star sign columns and no one would notice, so Johann Hari needs no lectures from a fraud and notorious mischief-maker peddling crap. Shove your charts up yer arse you swine.

Anonymous said...

Duncan's picture is sexy because it's not a pose. The 'incidentally' cock pic is always best

Anonymous said...

The sanctimonious cunt has accidentally shafted himself. Wonderful

A noted hack said...

By accident you have widened the plagiarism claim against Hari. On his site he admits to using the written work of interviewees where meaning is clearer than the spoken word. This is like cosmetic dentistry. However, you have broadened his misuse of other people's work, or misprepresentation of his own work, to the lifting of other journalists' interviews - hence Ian Shuttleworth's complaint. Well done, Madame.

Ian Shuttleworth said...

No, just to clarify: Johann Hari has not, to the best of my knowledge, plagiarised any of my work. What he did was solicit quotes from me which he then, whilst reproducing in substance, diametrically misrepresented in tone. It wasn't a theft from me: I obliged him, and got blithely, collaterally-damagely stitched up for my pains.

Madame Arcati said...

Well, Ian is saying something else - that he credited Ian to his detriment.

Anonymous said...

So Hari is a fraud. Shan't bother in future

Gossip Columnist said...

The reason Duncan Fallowell's interviews are so good is that you can hear the authentic voice of the subject. Also - there IS a difference between fiction and non-fiction, despite current wishes to smudge.

Madame Arcati said...

I soooo agree. Hari goes into an interview with a head of expectations and a sense of self-importance (unearned). DF is the timeless Zen Puck determined to fetishise the momentary exchange - his subjects sense this. The result is comedy and enchantment. I'm not unfond of Hari but his interviews would bore a Paris Review ed.

Ian Shuttleworth said...

In today's Indie he protests, "I did not and never have taken words from another context and twisted them to mean something different" - maybe not, but with me he took words from the immediate context and twisted them to mean something not just different but opposite. And "When I've been wrong in the past [...] I have admitted it publicly, tried to think through how I got it wrong, and corrected myself." In the words of Diana Ross, I'm still waiting...

Madame Arcati said...

Thank you Ian. I could do worse than ask Mr Hari...

DRF said...

I seem to have done rather well out of this debate - so far

Duncan Fallowell