The Corner

More Trouble For Johann Hari

It turns out he lifted some 42 passages from a book and claimed he heard them all in an interview. From the New Statesman:

If you look at the text below, you’ll find an interview with the activist and former Afghan politician Malalai Joya carried out by Johann Hari for the Independent in July 2009.

The 42 bold passages highlighted by my friend Jeremy Duns can be found — verbatim or near-verbatim — in Joya’s own book, Raising My Voice, which was co-written by Derrick O’Keefe. Nearly half of the entire piece consists of words that Joya used in the book. And, just to hammer this home – nearly every quote supposedly given to Hari was in fact taken from the book.

Hari has appropriated words written by Joya and O’Keefe and given the entirely false impression that the words were said to him. It would be naive to suppose that all these passages are simply, as Hari said in his apology, substitutions for what “they [his interviewees] have written or said more clearly elsewhere on the same subject for what they said to me”. Did she also say the same things in the same way to Hari? I’m doubtful, to put it mildly.

Is this an interview? No. It’s a book digest sold as an interview. That’s shoddy, very shoddy. I suspect this example is just one of many. Five minutes spent comparing his interview with Ann Leslie to her memoir appears to reveal something similar.

Mr Hari has severely misled his readers. He has given them the impression that he is a star interviewer who is able to obtain amazing responses from those he meets.

Let’s not be too hard on the guy, as Shakespeare said in his famous interview with Johann Hari, “to err is human.”

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