Hari's hairy moment

Well Twitter is quite a-flutter at the moment with the news that Johann Hari is evil - the epitome of a charlatan journalist destroying a noble profession with his corner-cutting ways.

What was his crime? Well he admitted to swapping quotes from interviews he had carried out for quotes from his interviewee's own writings if they covered the same topic but were 'more coherent'.

Cue huge wailing and gnashing of teeth followed by thousands (possibly even millions now) of tweets under the tag #interviewsbyhari. For a more detailed look at the issue, the whole thing has been Storified by the consistently excellent @newsmary.

From my somewhat sarcastic tone thus, far you might think that I am about to spring to his defense.

But no. Alas Johann cannot come to me for support for I am disappointed by this. I am, as ever, frustrated by the way Twitter leaps from moral outrage to moral outrage. And I know that a huge per centage of journos jumping on the Johann-bashing wagon have committed far worse sins, but I am nevertheless disappointed.

You see, Hari has risen to the top of his profession in my eyes. He has carte blanche to interview policy makers, entertainment goliaths, literary legends et al and to do so at his leisure.

I use his articles as examples of exemplary practice when teaching my students. I marvel at his incisive interview technique and the skillful way he weaves the narrative into his work.

But now I know that the narrative and the quoted word are not woven. They are cut out and stuck together.

It reminds me of when I was a teenager and I desperately wanted that Nike sweatshirt but couldn't afford it. So I bought a pair of sweatbands, unpicked the logo and glued it on a sweatshirt from the market. It fooled everyone for a day, maybe even a week but then the glue started to fail and looked a bit naff. Once everyone knew what I had done of course I wasn't the cool kid with the Nike gear or even this kid with the plain sweatshirt. No, I was the sad case deserving of pity.

Hari has fooled us into believing he is an interviewer extraordinaire. But now we know that he has not coaxed those opinions, that explanation or those illustrations. He has just glued them on and now it's starting to peel.

Jon Ronson - he of superb journalism - has come in to defend Hari, saying:

I've no idea what Johann Hari has been accused of. Just that he's been
accused of something. In general, he's stunningly brilliant.

And I agree but now the Nike logo has lifted and the glue is flaking down his chest he is in danger of becoming a figure of fun. I'll leave the last word to @alexwalters who wrote the most incisive Tweet about the whole thing:

Hari stared at me, a tired look in his eye. "None of my interviewees have ever said they had been misquoted," he sighed.

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