Thoughts on Hari….plagiarism and the pursuit by the pack a la Lord of The Flies

I read Jack of Kent’s blog post….

1. Hari is not young.  He knew what he was doing and the score. Plagiarism is wrong.

2.  I personally give little thought to the reputation of the journalists I read – with a few exceptions.  I am more interested in the content. Most / Many journalists have little specialist expertise in the field they write about – compared to the expert practitioner, academic or researcher.  Many journalists have to cover a wide brief within a field. The expertise valued in the journalist lies in finding the story and laying it out clearly with interest.  Where the journalist writes as expert, as some do  – then his or her words may be weighed in that context and compared to other experts – and a judgment formed by the reader.

3. It was mildly amusing (the Hari hashtag on twitter) at first – but as often happens on twitter and in blogs, it turned nasty and vindictive.

4.  I do hope for the sake of those who hounded – forensically or otherwise – that Hari has come to no personal harm.  Losing a pretty valueless prize (The Orwell Prize) – all prizes have little value – is not the end of the world.

5. Is journalism a profession? I do not think it is.  Rather as law has become – it is a business.

6.  Hari plagiarised and added colour to what may have otherwise been rather dull interviews.  In the grand scheme of things, while wrong, hardly a hanging offence or going to the very ‘root of evil’.

7.  Was it so necessary for the pack to get precious about it and engage in forensic evisceration and destruction of a reputation?   Would it not have been kinder – and just as effective – to have used humour to ‘call him out’ and persuade him not to engage in such matters?

8.  The pursuit of Hari reminded me of Lord of The Flies.  Kindness and humanity is better before the event – rather than an after the event absolution (For the hounders).

9.  A plagiarism on all your houses.

(PS.. for the avoidance of doubt – the work done by Jack of Kent was balanced and fair  and he had the courage to flag the issue up.)

11 thoughts on “Thoughts on Hari….plagiarism and the pursuit by the pack a la Lord of The Flies

  1. I do think some people get very spiteful on Twitter and I really do not like the momentum some of the spite creates. If you cannot say something constructive why bother saying it. It does make me wonder why Hari would compromise himself though and what pressure he must have been under?

  2. Hari’s a very talented writer. He’s also an Angry Young Man with strong political views. That combination was bound to land him in trouble eventually. His evisceration by the press and the twitterati didn’t have much to do with his crime, which was really only irresponsibility (and not for the first time, Katie) – he has still to learn that fudging facts to make a more interesting story is irresponsible journalism. It had a lot more to do with his forcefully expressed political opinions. I hope he continues to write and I hope that he is able to publish his writings in mainstream media. I would hate to see a writer of his talent relegated to the Socialist Worker.

  3. I have already commented, on JoK’s blog, that in my opinion 32 is not young for a journalist – or, indeed, young in virtually any profession; so, in that respect, I disagree with JoK. I do agree that his employers had, and have, a duty of care to Hari.

    All that said, what Hari did was wrong – he misled his readers in a national newspaper and that is not acceptable. He did it knowingly, which compounds the situation and people, rightly, were and are angry – the Independent is no sleazy redtop, in the mould of the now defunct Daily Sport, but a reasonably well respected broadsheet. It would be no more acceptable in any paper, but there are some publications which we’ve learned to view with a healthy degree of scepticism.

    As for the aftermath – Toynbee and her ilk fanned the flames, immediately the facts began to emerge, by their hysterical rhetoric claiming it was all a right-wing conspiracy and that Hari was totally innocent. Simon Kelner didn’t seek to calm the situation, but tweeted that ‘In 10 years we have not had a single complaint about his misrepresenting anyone’.

    If Hari had come out immediately, held his hands up and apologised, it would have been history by now. But Kelner in particular kept the fires burning bright, not least by taking to the airwaves on Radio 4 to claim that it was all ‘poltically motivated’. All this obfuscation served to do was to motivate people, who had the werewithal and ability, to find more and more examples of Hari’s inventiveness, culminating in the cliams of sock-puppetry by Hari, using the alias ‘David Rose’.

    I hope Hari receives whatever help he needs and comes through this, albeit a sadder and wiser man, with a a deal less hubris. I also hope that Toynbee, Penny etc., might have learned something. But somehow, I doubt it.

  4. Obiter J – perhaps, in some rooms in Chambers… the profession ideal continues… but in The City? Not that running a law firm or a set of Chambers ‘professionally’ as a business is such a bad thing? :-)

  5. I didn’t really follow the Hari story. Am not from Britain. But I wish journalism and law (and politics for that matter) were respectable professions. In Germany there was a defense minister plagiarising almost 80 percent of his legal thesis. He got a “summa cum laude” for it and carried the title. He built his reputation on it and decorated his political career with it. Crowd-sourcing helped to reveal all – that he had used other people’s articles, didn’t quote them, copied in parliament’s research reports, probably even paid to have it written etc. When confronted he denied, tabloid jumped in to help him. He was a very popular “young man”. Merkel said she had not hired him to be a good academic, so he should stay. Even when eventually stepping down he accused people of being too critical while soldiers in Afghanistan were dying. His father called people protesting against his son’s behaviour “man-hunting”, which was not true at all. Just people not accepting the conclusion that veracity can be compartmentalised. I think it’s wrong to go low and become nasty towards people. But one should distinguish. Lawyers can lose their license. And can regain it. All needs to be assessed with care and proportion. But I do think that details matter. It’s nice that people online get into “forensics”, especially when somebody denies something. Interestingly more politicians have been found to have plagiarised their thesis since then. And a whole discussion on PhD degrees has begun, Universities beginning to have to reassess etc.

    But all in all, I agree with you: Journalists need not be academic researchers, but it’s good when they are thorough. And politicians don’t need to be good researchers, but it’s good when they can back up their talk by proper content. In all cases it’s wrong to gain fame or reputation (or money, in the business situation) for something appropriated dishonestly. Plagiarism is wrong, like you say. Nobody is dying. But it’s still wrong. It shouldn’t be excused. Small things matter, in the grand scheme. And true: People should get a chance to learn and do better. Of course!

  6. “Perish those who said our good things before we did. [Lat., Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerent.]” Aelius Donatus ~Commentary on Ecclesiastes (ch. I), according to St. Jerome, referring to the words of Terence

  7. Much as I enjoy your blog and bow to your knowledge of the law, on this occasion I must disagree with you.
    A newspaper is supposed to post the FACTS – not some mishmash created by an overpaid @hole who cannot be bothered to do what he is being paid for.
    Otherwise you might as well just watch HMS Pinafore if you want to find out the state of the modern navy.
    And another … wait a minute, did I get that right? let me think about it ….

  8. I don’t think what Hari did was plagiarism. Based on my understanding of it I think it was false misrepresentation, and wrong, but not plagiarism. I understand plagiarism to be representing other people’s work as your own. He did not do that. He represented other people’s work as theirs but in an incorrect and misleading context. His motive? Possibly laziness (couldn’t he take shorthand?). Possibly dramatic – “i was there when X said these great words (or possibly stimulated X to say these great words)”. In either case, false misrepresentation – indeed lying. If he’d said it was fiction, no problem. But he misled people into believing his falsehood to be true.
    It’s still not plagiarism, though. Forgive my pedantry, but lawyers like exactitude

  9. I spend a lot of time explaining to students, both undergrad and postgrad, what plagiarism is. It still happens and it saddens me when it does. As one who has been plagiarised and who knows others who have suffered this, I can’t help feeling as if I’ve been knocked over the head and mugged. There is no excuse for plagiarism–“inadvertent” or otherwise. But I’m cheered by the fact we are taking it seriously now. Raj Persuad has learned that as have a number of German MPs whose universities have stripped them of their doctorates for plagiarism. And now Hari. Sorry but I’m hardcore on this.

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