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June 28, 2011

Comments

belle le triste

"Pretending it was an interview" was -- quite apart from anything else -- tactically unimaginative. So Negri garbles his replies, or fumbles his English: say so, and then say "To make better sense of this, I have on my desk the text Negri on Negri, where he puts this point thus." Tho admittedly that er complexifies the claim that Negri -- or his translator -- can't write.

(As a professional sub-editor, I am remain a bit sardonic about the plagiarism dimension to this outrage, I'm afraid: the elegance of the original, which you should have rewritten in youyr own words? You should have seen the ORIGINAL original, before the sub rewrote it: good writing is often somewhat more collective than it declares itself to be. No, I don't want credits all over the place; I'm just a bit sardonic about tendency to believe in that the sole solitary author is the norm.)

belle le triste

Note to self: avoid the phrase "As a professional sub-editor", since it is ALWAYS followed by a torrent of unrevised ungrammatical or miskeyed gibberish.

I too am on deadline.

ejh

Ho ho

Charlie

The 'no complaints' defence is a bit off, too. There have been complaints. And you could count this whole episode as one giant complaint: it seems to have developed directly out of Hari's treatment of Negri.

belle le triste

Does Kelner mean "no complaints from those interviewed" or "no complaints from readers" -- the latter surely untrue of any columnist ever.

john b

The former. And I'm sceptical that this has developed directly out of Hari's treatment of Negri *six years ago*.

Charlie

Well, at the risk of getting lawyerly ... Hari says none of his interviewees have complained of being misquoted. Kelner says (via Twitter) "[Hari] has worked at [The Independent] for 10 years. In that time, we have not had a single complaint about his misrepresenting anyone". That implies readers as well as interviewees. However, I wouldn't count a translator of Negri as just some reader.

Charlie

John - it does seem a long time for something to be brewing, I agree, but nonetheless ...

belle le triste

It implies readers but it doesn't explicitly say readers: which I assume is the rather slippery intention. In the ordinary run of things -- ie before JH invented this new technique* -- only those also present in the room would have had standing to complain about misrepresentation, really. Outraged reader saying "That's not what X believes" is countered by "Well that's what X said, I have it on tape!"

*Or read about it somewhere.

john b

Charlie: I agree, the translator is the biggest indicator that Hari's done worse than he suggests in his apology/apologetic.

Belle: I'm sceptical that it implies readers, but then I read it already knowing that it meant interviewees, so my assessment's unlikely to be completely fair. Also, your footnote rules.

Charlie

Actually, it's a bit disappointing to get the sullenly defiant 'no one's complained before' as a response. It's basically a way of saying that the majority are satified, so why aren't you? I think I agree with D2. There's an opportunity cost to having the Hari doing his thing in place of somebody else. There are only so many interviews that are going to find space in mainstream publications: one wants them to be done competently.

john b

Charlie: not sure I agree 100%. The context here is "has Hari misrepresented his interviewees [in the context of his stated mission to cover their wider views, not the specific occasion when they met]"; the answer "none of them have objected" is relevant, in that whenever someone has actively misrepresented my views following a press interview, I've complained to the organ in question (whereas for minor quote fuck-ups, including a frankly weird neologism that Radio 4 credited me with coining, I haven't), and I can't imagine the kind of Serious Commentators that Hari interviews doing otherwise.

I do agree with the final two paragraphs, though. Set the boy to literary reviews, opinion columns, and other areas where (sourced) quote-mining is perfectly OK.

belle le triste

In editor-speak "no one complained" ALWAYS* means "no one complained who we needed to pay attention to": but thanks to Twitter and the student actions -- and Ms L. Penny! -- ppl like the DSG have a lot more traction than they might have done six years ago, in terms of getting attention paid, and agitation mobilised. The centre is badly shaken; some of the intellectual margins are pretty effectively organised these days -- hence revenge cometh in the evening.

*And actually so it should. No one who's worked on-staff at any magazine, no matter how niche and quiet-mannered and unassuming the publication, will be unaware that letter-writers include an eternal tranche of the literally obsessively bonkers. Surprisingly the internet has not yet filtered them all off even today.

john b

The reason everyone who comments on this blog knows the phrase 'green ink' (anyone not? Would be bleedin' surprised) is a good example of Belle's final para.

Malcs

Sure thing. I work for an organisation set up to deal with complaints. There's a lot of green ink about. Of course, some of the time it's more fun to read than the stuff you need to pay attention to. But the non-publication of the letter from Toscano and colleague indicates a wider and more objectionable ink colour range of exclusion, does it not? Hence revenge cometh in the evening is a very apt way of putting it...

Laurie Penny has characterised Hari's critics as gay-bashers, which makes me even less likely to read her in future. It's the worst form of undergraduate "I don't have a given script for this so I'm just going to shout fascist!" response.

ejh

Gawd, she hasn't has she? How stupid.

skidmarx

I do wonder who Dave Osler is talking about here:
I have heard complaints that one rising star invents quotes and puts them into activists’ mouths, arguing that that is what they would have said anyway. Perhaps that is largely down to lack of professional technique; I doubt whether the young woman in question...

john b

On some levels, JH's critics have knee-jerked LH's response to JH as "eek, gay-bashers", which is also not quite the truth, but too close to it to be sensible.

The whole debacle makes me thing less of JH, LP, almost all their critics (except the raving loons at DSG, of whom I previously thought nothing and now I think are loons with some forensic skills), and most of their defenders, including myself.

So I can only assume it was manufactured by some other aspiring centre-left wunderkind trying to knobble the opposition. Suggestions?

john b

LP in first sentence, not LH. I blame the haters. And the hatters. Mad bastards.

Charlie

Unfortunately for Johann, it's getting worse, not better. Here's Guy Walters with an analysis of Hari's Hugo Chavez piece. In which Hari nicks quotes from a couple of interviews with Chavez conducted by other journalists and combines them into an 'exclusive'.

ejh

It's possible of course that somebody just happened to come across it while reading Negri on Negri.

belle le triste

Between the green-ink sink and the red-alert zone, there's always going to be a "who hell they? oh just bin it" grey area: effectively I think between now and then Toscano has moved, or the times have helped move him, from grey to red. Almost everything major he's published is actually since 2004: he's a name now.

And actually their original letter of complaint reads more grey-green than red, I'd say, to an outsider: the fact that they're quite right doesn't mean they didn't pitch the tone wrongly, if they wanted attention more than they wanted the brush-off. Always assume a journalist is an outsider to your particular interests, if your interests are at all specialist.

But I'm mainly saying that because I know, practically, what it's like in an editorial office: you're always balancing a thousand stupid crises, and urgent but essentially minor deadlines ("where's the bloody picture for the lead sports page") can mass to crowd out slowly surfacing non-urgent bigger ones.

ejh

I think I'd just about allow Kelner to have meant "no complaints about copying", as opposed to "no letters saying he's an agent of Satan", say. So the Mandarini/Toscano letter might not count, as it were, though having aid that, the footnote is interesting.

jamie

@Charlie: that's just straight up plagiarism and from a well known book about Chavez too. It does seem a little bizarre that the people who read the Hari interview don't seem to have read the book since it's the sort of subject that's supposed to interest them.

belle le triste

The footnote unfortunately falls straight into the they would say that box, though, doesn't it? When I first read that a few days ago, I just gave a derisive snort: "the clue is in the word publicist" ete etc -- so I think less of me on that score, definitely.

Isn't JH's job largely "I read and process this stuff so you don't have to"? (Which incidentally I regard as a very honorable job when undertaken honorably; as is the role of filter-for-boring-rubbish.) But it does mean that very few of his normal readers are going to be the kinds of people with the wordskills and memories to second-guess him; while the kinds of people who have them probably hold him in low regard the way all scholars despise all popularisers.

(Unpopularisers would be a better word here).

Barry Freed

And yet And yet more.

And green ink explained. I'm a Yank so didn't know, though the context made it clear.

Jamie, I saw at Splinty's place you made reference to the American reaction on twitter,I haven't seen anything yet on American blogs I follow, care to share?

ejh

Very occasionally, when playing chess, I have an opponent who writes their moves in green ink. It's hard not to laugh.

jamie

Barry: It's been all over twitterfeeds from people like Blake Hounshell and across a nexus of foreign correspondent/think tank/editor tweeps on the liberal end of the spectrum. It's not a huge thing but they're basically treating him like Tom McMaster. So no commissions from those sources I think.

CharlieMcMenamin

It would be moderately amusing if Jamie changed the default text colour settings on comments to green.

bert

Barry, I had the impression Johann had been doing quite a bit of US media. He certainly did the rounds of cable TV for the Royal Wedding.
Listen to this - http://www.slate.com/id/2292555/ - and you can hear how comfortable he's got with his material. (I hope it's his material. He starts at about 13 minutes.)
I think he comes across very well. As attested by the squirmy fawning of namedropping goof Stephen Metcalf.
Of course it's possible to do lots of stuff and stay totally anonymous, in the States more than anywhere.

bert

His 'Ship of Fools' piece was also good fun, was almost certainly not plagiarised, and got a fair bit of attention round your way, I seem to remember.

Not that I'm weighing in on his side on this current thing, you understand. That'd be daft.

Cian

His 'Ship of Fools' piece was also good fun, was almost certainly not plagiarised, and got a fair bit of attention round your way, I seem to remember.

I wouldn't bet on it to be honest. He's not the first to do the cruise/resort thing, and there's no shortage of conservatives say the darndest things to mine.

I can't say I'm that surprised by this, but then I've never liked Hari much since he used to write for Varsity (we're not contemporaries, but I used to scan it for events when I was living in Cambridge). Somewhere else people were talking about style. Well Hari's style just screams fake to me, always has.

Charlie

Well, I went and read 'Ship of Fools'. It looks like fiction, start to finish. Had it been Monday still, I would have taken it as fact. Is this your homework, Hari? You see what happens, Hari?

Barry Freed

Jamie, thanks, I spent a good part of yesterday reading some of those feeds.

Bert, I don't watch cable TV news so I missed him during that. (Listening to the Slate podcast now though, thanks). I remember reading that "Ship of Fools" piece at the time and thinking it was well done and funny but glancing at it now I can't help but think as Charlie above; but that would be mad, given the kinds of people he was writing about would pounce on that kind of shenanigans. Still, I don't trust a word of it. He's toast.

john b

Charlie - Hari's Ship Of Fools piece was endorsed, factually, in the National Review. The editor's name in the piece where Hari is accused of dishonesty is unspellable (seriously, some incomprehensible variation on Nordstrom - I wish the urban myth about correcting names at Ellis Island had been true), but if you can be arsed to Google for half a week and fetch it up then you'll see the editor endorses the facts in the piece, but thinks that Hari is "mean".

My friend Chris, who's a leftie and a social media type, was also at uni with Hari and thinks he's a duplicitous cunt. This, combined with Cian, goes a long way towards removing my normal "enemy of enemy" weighting.

bert

Charlie, you prompt me to go back and reread it, which I hadn't done when I posted. I see what you mean. But this wouldn't be plagiarism, would it? It would be a whole other Stephen Glass shoe dropping. And, it seems to me, a much bigger deal in deciding whether he gets out of this intact. Cunt or not, I hope John B's right that it checks out.

hellblazer

Charlie: You see what happens, Hari? This is what happens when you find a neo-Nazi in the alps!

If Larry is JH, who's Walter? Splinty?

john b

Here's the editor (Nordlinger, it turns out)'s response to Hari's piece - he suggests that Hari is a despicably mean person, and that he highlighted the worst things that had been said and done on the trip (well, yeah - "old right wing person eats dinner and plays shuffleboard" wouldn't have been a particularly exciting article), but emphatically *doesn't* accuse him of factual inaccuracy.

Charlie

He doesn't, but then he doesn't say a lot of things. Such as: I was on that boat too.

Walter: Worstall.

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