David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

Fisk in Training


A British newspaper called The Independent is a fine specimen of left-wing opinion. Occasionally I look at it to see what new conspiracy and disaster its Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk, is making up as he goes along. Attributing all past, present and future wrongs to Western policy makers and their horrid little stooges the Jews, this Fisk has an imagination that affords much entertainment to readers.

A columnist in the same newspaper is one Johann Hari, supposed (I think) to be the voice of youth. I never took much notice of him since he never had anything to say which every leftist wasn’t already saying. Perhaps I was mistaken, however. He seems to have had a  conspiracy in mind, namely he bought a passage on the NR cruise last November, passing himself off as a reader like everyone else. In fact he was on undercover work. He proposed to have a go at the genuine passengers, and especially at the lecturers invited to speak, every one of them a conservative and therefore stereotyped n his mind. Why he then waited six months before writing the experience up – and in an American magazine The New Republic, at that – is a mystery.  One of those lecturers myself, I never discovered that he was on board, and it is obvious why he took pains to hide from me. I was the one and only person on the cruise likely ever to have ever heard of him, and also in a position to expose his purpose. I like to think of him hiding behind some life-boat at the sight of me. But he was able unimpeded to mock the likes of Bernard Lewis and Judge Bob Bork simply because they were older and more distinguished than him. There’s the spirit of The Independent for you.

Private Eye is a fortnightly London publication specialising in gutter press journalism, and does it rather well. In its current issue, the muck it rakes concerns our very own Johann Hari. First of all, in a review he totally misrepresented a book by Nik Cohen, a left-wing author who nevertheless – and unusually – castigates the Left for its refusal to welcome the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Hari defended himself by saying that he had once overheard Cohen speaking in this vein contrary to his book at a drunken dinner. Bloggers then moved in, and one of them posted the opinion that for a journalist “a reputation for making things up should be career death.”

At this, Hari “went ballistic,” as the Eye puts it, with threats of libel and damages, all allegedly supported by the Independent lawyers. The laughter of the bloggers grew all the louder, and ruder. The Eye went on to report Hari’s pretence that a package tour of archaeological sites that he’d taken in Iraq in 2002 was really investigative work, and how later he had reported that a pastor had been a human shield in 2003 until he saw the reality of Saddam’s rule. This was a pure fabrication. “I should have checked his story out more rigorously before I used it,” Hari was obliged to lament.

Bravo, Hari, keep it up, and in due course you’ll be just the chap to step into Fisk’s shoes.


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