Tuesday, 28 June 2011


The Twittersphere has been in overdrive today following revelations that Socialist journalist Johann Hari has been passing off other people’s words as his own. He has been caught red-handed cutting and pasting comments from a book whilst giving his readers the erroneous impression that he obtained the quotations directly from his interviewees.

Hari explains the reason for this subterfuge on his website:
So occasionally, at the point in the interview where the subject has expressed an idea, I’ve quoted the idea as they expressed it in writing, rather than how they expressed it in speech.
There is nothing wrong in using extracts from a subject interviewee’s book, but the normal convention when quoting from a printed source is to reference that source. Failure to do so is plagiarism. Students who fail to cite their sources in academic work risk expulsion from their course, but Hari sees nothing wrong with his approach. He writes:
I’m a bit bemused to find one blogger considers this “plagiarism”. Who’s being plagiarized? Plagiarism is passing off somebody else’s intellectual work as your own – whereas I’m always making it clear that (say) Gideon Levy’s thought is Gideon Levy’s thought.
The problem with this crock-of-shit argument is that it is fundamentally dishonest to suggest that someone told you something, when they did nothing of the sort.

According to Private Eye, it seems that the truth and Johan Hari are not happy bedfellows. They first reported of his problems with the actualité in 2003. Given that Hari has profited from his blatant and unattributed use of other people’s work, there is an arguable case that this goes beyond mere plagiarism. Taking something that belongs to someone else, without their knowledge or consent, is theft.

Update 29.06.11: Johan Harri has apologised for his actions. However, it appears to be through gritted teeth rather than a heartfelt mea culpa. Tim Worstall at Forbes Magazine remains unimpressed.

The Write Stuff

Former Daily Telegraph Associate Editor Simon Heffer was widely mocked for his often pedantic view with regard to spelling and grammar, but there is a substantial difference between lightning and lightening. Someone should tell the Ham & High!

Update: The Ham&High reporter has Tweeted an apology for her spelling mistake. The almost perfect Mrs Angry made the same mistake, so the journalist is in good company.

In fairness, and lest I be accused of hypocrisy, it was an easy mistake to make. Last year, for an academic piece of work, I wrote ‘principle’ instead of ‘principal’. The lesson learned from this was:

a) do not rely on your computer’s spill chucker

b) ask someone else to proof read your work before you publish it.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

It’s the way you tell ‘em

Karl Stefanovic from the Australian ‘Today’ show tries to tell a joke to the Dalai Lama, but it backfires. A simple lesson that words do not always translate literally from one language to another.

Bohemian Rhapsody

In a recent poll, listeners to BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs voted Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody as their favourite pop song.

Many bands have covered this song over the years. Perhaps the most original version is by the Finnish street band Porkka Playboys who perform from inside a rusty Volkswagen Polo!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

War on clichés

An interesting article has appeared in The Independent about a journalist’s war against clichés, which is still going forward at the present time.

Thanks to Mr Reasonable for the hat-tip.