Johann Hari's "apology" is worth zilch


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For two months now we've been waiting for the Independent to investigate accusations made against one of its most lauded writers: Johann Hari. Hari was accused of lifting quotes from various sources, including other people's interviews, books and so on. He was also accused of maliciously altering the Wikipedia entries of other journalists with whom he quarrelled under the alias David R. And now the results are in, well, kind of. Hari has admitted the accusations made against him were true in what could only loosely be described as an apology published by the Independent, although the findings of the investigation have been kept under wraps.

The extent of Hari's dishonesty and deception is staggering. He went after journalists who called him out and engaged in childlike games of online harassment. But this isn't some green, wet-behind-the-ears journo; this is a 32-year-old man who, among other accolades, has won the Orwell Prize, although of course that's been returned now that bloggers have ripped his stories to shreds and shown the world how deep Hari's plagiarism went.

What bugs me here is that Hari has admitted doing things that are inconceivable not just as a journalist, but as a human being and especially as a person who has a platform from which he commands respect and from which people listen to what he has to say. He is blessed to have such a platform and his irresponsibility shows the world he is undeserving of it.

Most journalists have stopped short of saying Hari should be fired and some have even suggested that his apology and admission of wrongdoing is enough to say that he has seen the error of his ways and so we should all move on. I disagree. What kind of precedent does this set? What kind of example to aspiring journalists does this provide? Hari broke every rule in the book, and a whole lot more besides, and he did it multiple times over a period of several years. And yet his punishment is four months' unpaid leave to attend a journalism training course in the USA. That is considered punishment?

Hari's apology is barely that. He has continued to make excuses about "garbled" chunks of quotes in his interviews. If he is incapable of getting coherent answers out of his subjects then he should ask better questions or ask for answers to be clarified. We've all done interviews and had answers given that were a little clunky. It's not rocket science. You sort it out without resorting to taking other people's quotes.

His apology for the Wikipedia shambles is too little too late. What he did was inexplicable. He deliberately attempted to smear the reputations of people he had had disagreements with. The only reason he has apologised is because he was finally caught out after persistently denying that David R was anything to do with him.

I don't understand why Hari has been able to keep his job at the Independent. I also don't understand why people have been rushing to his defence even after his so-called apology.

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