Sep 11

Hari: act of contrition for the weekend

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post here about the Independent writer Johann Hari which made a mistake. Time to rectify that.

Two days ago, Hari handed back his Orwell Prize and published a long and somewhat weaselly mea culpa in The Independent. (Readers new to this saga start here). Hari’s confession included confirmation that he had gone to considerable lengths to boost his friends and smear his enemies on Wikipedia under an assumed identity. The full extent of his lifting material to embroider his interviews is also now clear (see the critical comments at the foot here).

I didn’t condone Hari’s actions in my premature post. But I did argue that George Orwell would have taken the view that ridicule and revelation were enough, and that Hari needn’t have been stripped of the prize. That judgement looks particularly foolish in the light of what we now know; it was silly as it was. As Bagehot of The Economist pithily says, this isn’t a matter of training and teaching but a more basic one of character and integrity.