Monday, July 30, 2007

Imagine, a twat working for the Independent

Newspaper editors occasionally decide it would be a great idea to bring in a young columnist to give an authentic "voice of youth" type feel to their pages. Like any efforts middle aged men make to be down with tha kidz, the results tend to be excruciating. What happens is that they either import some totty who happens to be a close blood relative of an important media figure (see Coren, V; or Gordon, B) or else they notice some bumptious little prick who's made a lot of noise somewhere and get them to do the same.

Said bumptious little prick is then unveiled. "Behold the voice of youth," says the editor. "No, it's not," responds youth, "it's a jumped up little twat
at whom we used to laugh behind his back".

So it was that the Independent decided to employ Johann Hari. Although he does at least make some effort to find things out for himself by going to places he writes about (though I'm not a fan of this school of foreign reporting generally, really you need to live somewhere to be able to report properly on it) he's always given the impression of someone who would be less insufferable had he had to do a bit of dirty newspaper work first before pontificating from an opinion column. But he's now made an impressive leap from bumptious little prick to full blown cunt by threatening to sue his former muckers at Harry's Place.

It all its origins in a spat between Hari and Nick Cohen about whether or not Hari had given an accurate reflection of Cohen's attitudes towards George Orwell. You can follow it all back from the links here if you like, it's all a bit soul destroying. The essence is that following said exchange, HP suggested Hari's relationship towards accuracy and truth was not all that it might be and this might prove something of a hindrance to a career as a serious journalist.

Once I'd stopped laughing at this suggestion, I was staggered to see the threats of legal action. (Hari was also less than ecstatic about some comments elaborating on his track record in the "whoops, that's not quite right" stakes). No request for clarification or a retraction. Just straight in with the lawyers. All for a website with a readership dwarfed even by the Indie's. (Size is just a matter of perspective, after all. As any chap will tell you).

Were I adopt Hari-esque methods, I'd say something on the lines of "Oh, well, we all know he pulls stuff out of his arse all the time". But I can't really substantiate it, so it would be very wrong of me to do so. Instead, let's just say the nub of the matter is how unfortunate and coincidental the relationship between Hari and getting stuff wrong is.

And this question of interpretation is why I think Hari is being so utterly twattish (besides the complete arsiness of reaching for the lawyers when a friend says something you're upset by). Apart from knowing that the hassle and cost of a libel action is a good way of scaring people away from criticising you (and if he's using the Indie's lawyers against a group of bloggers it's not going to be a straight fight) he must know how unfair our libel laws are. They are stacked against the defendant who (this is a very rough summary) must prove the truth of what they're saying, prove they're not saying what the plaintiff thinks they're saying or show that what they've written is a justifiable interpretation of things.

In this case, if he takes the HP comments as meaning that he deliberately and knowingly makes stuff up then they have to prove it (even if they just meant he should be more careful to check the accuracy of what he's claiming). In other words: an almost impossible case for the defendant to win; which makes legal action a great resort for the sort of creep who would wish to silence all criticism of him.

But I can't help thinking that using the law in this way is likely to damage your credibility and reputation far more than a reputation as someone who said a few things that weren't entirely correct in what was, let's remind ourselves, a petty and personal little spat between two hacks who may once have been chummier than they are now.

Then again, if you're worried that people will will stop believing you're a proper journalist, working for the Independent (aka "the Daily Mail for people who recycle") isn't the best of starts.

PS: Grown up response here.

Less grown up response, which includes a grab of the original and more suggestions that young Master Hari might not be the William Russell of our time here. (I wonder why he didn't threaten to sue Private Eye. Surely not because it's a paper that doesn't mind fighting its libel battles to the end?)


PPS: might also be possible to win a court case by convincing a jury that accusing a journalist of a cavalier attitude towards factual accuracy would not lower their standing in the eyes of right-thinking people.

Labels: ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home