Johann Hari: Swimming With Sharks

Image via thecommentfactory.com

If Johann Hari had been born in the 50’s, say, instead of the late 70’s, the chances are that the plagiarism accusations currently threatening to slip a bag over his head and bundle him into a darkened room would never have been noticed by the public at large.

Y’see, the revelation that Hari, an Orwell Prize winning writer whose work is frequently featured in the UK’s Independent newspaper, lifted passages from books written by his interview subjects in order to ‘make their thoughts clearer’, is yet
another story that birthed and developed like a baby cow on hormones in the increasingly fertile electronic womb that is Twitter.

I’m just speculating, but if it wasn’t for the promise of personal kudos to be gained by exposing Hari’s cutting and pasting crimes (which, to be honest, are quite pedestrian when considered next to the ‘creative writing’ episodes that saw Stephen Glass hurled from the politically charged corridors of the New Republic), who the hell would have bothered going through Hari’s work and tracking back to pick up the discrepancies to make their case?

Anyone? No. Thought not.

As a reader, I have no particular bone to pick with Johann Hari. As a writer, I cannot fathom why he might have done what he did. But by the same token, to accuse him of ‘churnalism’ on the basis of a Twitter/blogosphere generated story seems as disingenuous as substituting a few words from a book into an interview conducted with the author.

Still. The blood’s in the water now, isn’t it?

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