Johann Hari

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search

Johann Hari (born 1979) is a British journalist who wrote a twice weekly column for The Independent newspaper until September 2011 when he admitted to charges of plagiarism on multiple occasions and editing Wikipedia entries, including his own, under a pseudonym, sometimes maliciously. [1] He was also a regular contributor at the Huffington Post and also has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatique, The New Republic, El Mundo, The Guardian, The Melbourne Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, South Africa's Star, The Irish Times, and a wide range of other international newspapers and magazines including Attitude and the New Statesman. [2].

Hari was positioned at the Independent as a left wing gay columnist. In 2003 Hari chastised the "left" for not supporting the US invasion of Iraq, he later admitted he was wrong to support the war.[3][4] He was a friend of the late Christopher Hitchens.[5].


Several articles years before the plagiarism expose had already questioned the credibility of Hari's reporting, including the part he played in the propagation of a deceptive fabrication in the lead-up to the US-Iraq war (see below).

Private Eye challenges Hari

In March 2003, Private Eye's Hackwatch column detailed three instances of Hari’s "journalistic" practices[6].

In a July 2001 column in the New Statesman Hari mentioned that he had used ecstasy after finishing his final university exams. Other media outlets subsequently ran articles by Hari including one in which he wrote "I'll try to explain why so many of us use the drug weekly". Hackwatch column stated that "In fact, the young rascal had never taken Ecstasy: before writing his lyrical account he had to phone a friend and ask what it felt like".

In an article on the death of Carlo Giuliani at the G8 summit in Genoa, Hari wrote that "when I saw the scene, I couldn't believe so much blood had poured from just one body." Private Eye disputed that he was on the scene. "As several witnesses can attest, Hari wasn't there, having hailed a taxi to escape the scene some time before Giuliani was killed," the Hackwatch column stated.

In a 10 January 2003 column Hari backed the need for the invasion of Iraq. He wrote:

Who, you may be asking incredulously, would want their country to be bombed? What would make people want to risk their children being blown to pieces? I thought this too until, last October, I spent a month as a journalist seeing the reality of life under Saddam Hussein.

He continued:

If Britain were governed by such a man, I would welcome friendly bombs - a concept I once thought absurd. I might be prepared to risk my own life to bring my country's living death to an end. Most of the Iraqi people I encountered clearly felt the same. The moment they established that I was British, people would hug me and offer coded support (they would be even more effusive towards the Americans I travelled with). They would explain how much they "admire Britain - British democracy, yes? You understand?"

In a 15 February 2003 column, the day of the mass anti-war rally in London, Hari wrote "You don't even have to go to Iraq, as I did last year, and see the desperate look on people's faces as they tell you - in the barest of euphemisms - that they 'love British and American democracy', and ask you, 'When will you come to free us? When will we be able to live again?'".

Private Eye noted that an article by Hari in The Guardian the preceding December omitted the pleas from Iraqis he wrote of in his February column. Private Eye wrote:

Since these pleas from Iraqis yearning for the bombers to arrive must surely have struck him as newsworthy, why didn't he mention them in his original Guardian feature?

Private Eye also noted that Hari was in Iraq for two weeks on holidays and that he had written in The Guardian shortly afterwards of the difficulty in getting "Iraqis to express their feelings" about politics. This is Private Eye's comment about this:

Actually, Hari spent two weeks in Iraq as a holidaymaker, on a package tour visiting ancient archaeological sites. He wrote about the trip in the Guardian on 3 December last year. In that article, however, he complained that it was “very difficult to get Iraqis to express their feelings… I blundered about asking fairly direct political questions, which caused people to recoil in horror.

In a letter to the editor of The Observer later in the year, Hari dismissed Private Eye's challenge to his standards of accuracy:

Even the slightest factual analysis of Private Eye's retaliatory accusations causes them to immediately crumble into dust.[7]

Hari and the "Kenneth Joseph" story

Hari played a part in a propaganda hoax that was perpetrated by right-wing U.S. media supporters of the 2003 attack on Iraq. Hari took at face value tale a story covered by UPI on Kenneth Joseph, who was purportedly an American anti-war "pastor of the Assyrian Church of the East" who went to Iraq as a 'human shield' but recanted.

Writing in Counterpunch in April 2003, Carol Lipton exposed the flaws in the neatly packaged Kenneth Joseph story[8]. The original source of the atory was an article by Arnaud de Borchgrave for UPI, the story was repeated in the Washington Times, both of which are owned by the Unification Church[9].

In Hari's article he claimed that, "Joseph was explaining that his trip had shocked him back to reality"?[10]. Yet Hari never states to whom Joseph did the "explaining", or where. He recounts Joseph's story as if it were his own, clamining that Iraqis were "willing to see their own homes demolished" in order to end Hussein's tyranny, and proceeds to issue a trenchant indictment of the entire antiwar movement, accusing its members of being "the real imperialists", for ignoring the "true wishes" of the Iraqi people. Hari had already written an essay on March 26 for the Independent, a progressive British newspaper, entitled "Sometimes, the only way to spread peace is at the barrel of a gun", where he describes Joseph as an "ardent antiwar activist," whose beliefs were "as fervent as any menber of the Stop the War Coalition".?[11]

Private Eye reported that after Independent readers protested over Hari citing the Joseph story, he promised to investigate while protesting "it's cheap and dishonest to try to skip my arguments because you think, on the basis of obviously ridiculous reports [in the Eye], that I'm 'a fraud'."[12]

On September 25, 2003 Hari appended a small mea culpa to his original column. He wrote: "It transpires that Kenneth Joseph was probably a bullshitter, and that his claimns were false. I should have checked his story out more rigorously before I used it. The full details of the Joseph affair can be found at the excellent Counterpunch website,"[13].

From email exchange with Hari, it is not clear whether Hari contacted Joseph directly or utilized a tertiary source. Although he stated "I am having difficulty locating him", it is not clear from his statements if he actually contacted him before writing the article. If he didn't then the article was based entirely on the UPI "story". From a search on the web, one only finds evidence of "Kenneth Joseph" related to this story, and nothing else. That is, if the person actually was a "peace activist", then there would be further reference to him.

In response to many emails querying him about this story, Hari wrote (6 May 2003):

If it's a malicious hoax, I'll add a rider to the original article on the Indie website explaining exactly that.
I'm still not able to get in touch with him to ask him about it.
However, have you seen the Indian newspaper poll - by an anti-war paper - of Iraqis which found that 51% of them backed the US invasion, and only 36% opposed? This adds credence to his story. Or have you read the ICG Report?

NB: Although Hari has added a "rider" to the article on his personal website, there has been (1) no comment on this issue in the Independent, and (2) there is no "rider" in the version of the article in the Independent. (verified 9 February 2005).

The above email was followed by this email exchange.

Support for the war

In 2003, Hari favored the US invasion of Iraq and went so far as to wag his finger at the "left" for not backing the "Iraqi opposition" or not respecting "opinion polls" finding that the majority of the Iraqis welcomed the US war against Iraq. In particular, the article stated:

"Those who still deny all this evidence will know soon enough, once the war is over, what the Iraqi people thought all along. When it emerges – as I strongly believe, based on my experience of the Iraqi exile community and the International Crisis Group's survey of opinion within Iraq – that they wanted this war, will the anti-war movement recant? Will they apologise for appropriating the voice of the Iraqi people and using it for their own ends?[14]

In a 2004 article in The Independent, Hari was asked about the evolution on his views on the Iraq war.

  1. What he said then: "Those who still deny all this evidence will know soon enough, once the war is over, what the Iraqi people thought all along. When it emerges… that they wanted this war, will the anti-war movement recant? 26 March 2003
  2. What he said recently: "The only time British newspaper readers hear about Iraq or Afghanistan is when there is a suicide-bomb… Most experts believe that Iraqi elections will happen this year, and the grotesque, racist idea that Iraqis cannot be democrats because they are primitive tribal people has already been proved wrong." 20 February 2004
  3. What he says now: "Before the war I rejected all the WMD arguments. I said that they were rubbish. They were. But I also said that the best evidence we had was that the majority of Iraqis could see no other way to overthrow Saddam and therefore wanted war to proceed. All the opinion polls have shown a clear majority of Iraqis wanted the invasion to proceed." April 9, 2004. [15].

In 2006 Hari had changed his mind about the war and wrote an article titled "After three years, after 150,000 dead, why I was wrong about Iraq"[16]

Hari on Hitchens

Comments by Johann Hari about his friend, Christopher Hitchens:

  • 8 September 2002: "And Amis does not shy away, either, from showing that the evils of Stalin stem directly from Lenin. The dictator - still lauded by Christopher Hitchens, a fact that depresses me beyond measure because I greatly admire the Hitch - 'bequeathed to his successors a fully functioning police state'." [17]
  • 23 September 2004: "As I luxuriate in the warm bath of his charisma, I want to almost physically drag him all the way back to us. He might be dead to the likes of Tariq Ali but there is still a large constituency of people on the left who understand how abhorrent Islamic fundamentalism is. Why leave us behind?... I don't think Hitch is lost to the left quite yet. He will never stop campaigning for the serial murderer Henry Kissinger to be brought to justice, and his hatred of Islamic fundamentalism is based on good left-wing principles. But it does feel at the end of our three-hour lunch like I have been watching him slump into neoconservatism. Come home, Hitch - we need you." [18]
  • 28 September 2004: "On every single one of these issues – with the (very partial) exception of ending tyranny – the current US administration is on the wrong side. For most of his career, the Hitch would have acknowledged that – and I guess I wanted to hear him acknowledge it still. It's because Hitch is so great that I wish he was still engaged with these fights." [19]
  • 8 November 2004: "Am I saying we must destroy Fallujah in order to save Fallujah? Is that the liberal-hawk position now? Have we sunk so far, so fast? Tony Blair, Christopher Hitchens and most other liberal hawks have a firm answer to this anxiety... I can feel the force of this argument - and then I try to tell it to Abdul." [20]
  • 21 January 2005: "After 11 September, some of the political thinkers I most respect started unexpectedly reading from this script about US foreign policy. Christopher Hitchens is a good example. For decades, he had exposed the monstrous anti-democratic policies of the US, from the Nixon-Kissinger years to Reagan's dirty wars in South America. But after the attacks on the Twin Towers, Hitchens argued that the vicious American foreign policy he opposed had died with Bin Laden's victims."[21]

A question of emphasis

In a debate with Robert Fisk recently, the Independent 's Johann Hari said of his support for the invasion of Iraq:

"So what was I supposed to do, as a progressive person who believes the job of the left is to side with oppressed people? How could I march with people like George Galloway and say, 'Give peace a chance', when I knew most Iraqis preferred this war to the alternative, never-ending war waged on them by Saddam? Wouldn't that have been a lie? Wouldn't that have been a betrayal of an oppressed people?"

Hari went on to say:

"But I would add a very important caveat to what I just said. If you go into a war saying you want to side with the Iraqi people then you damn well have to carry on supporting the Iraqi people afterwards." [22]

Media Lens analysis states:

At the heart of Hari's argument is the assertion that he is above all concerned for the welfare and wishes of the Iraqi people - he wants to relieve their oppression and suffering, and so supported an invasion to topple Saddam's murderous tyranny.
Notice that Hari's concern is fundamentally moral - his problem was not with Saddam Hussein as such; it was with Saddam Hussein as a cause of suffering to the Iraqi people. And as Hari himself suggests, "If you go into a war saying you want to side with the Iraqi people, then you damn well have to carry on" working to relieve their suffering afterwards. [23]

Media Lens continues:

We conducted a Lexis-Nexis search of all the articles you have written this year mentioning the words 'Iraq' or 'Iraqi'. This was by no means a scientific study, but it surely did provide strong clues to the focus and tone of your reporting. We found the following numbers of mentions for these words in your commentary on Iraq:
Cancer - 0 mentions Child/infant mortality - 0 Civilian/s - 1 (sanctions effect in 'weakening', 25.8)
Depleted Uranium - 0 Disease - 0 Education - 0
Electricity - 0 Hospitals - 0 Iraqi civilian/s - 1 (killed by insurgents, 21.1)
Landmines - 0 Malnutrition - 0 Poverty - 0
Schools - 0 Unexploded bombs/ordnance - 0 Unicef - 0
Water - 0    

In April 2004, with Falluja facing massive destruction, Media Lens issued a Media Alert discussing how journalists were covering the episode [24]. They reported:

The Independent's Johann Hari had nothing to say himself on the atrocity, choosing instead to quote a young Iraqi living in London who described US actions as "wildly provocative and wrong"[25]Hari again quotes polls, this time suggesting "56 per cent of Iraqis say their lives are better than before the war". Still, no one has thought to ask Iraqis if their lives are better now than before the West began demolishing their country with sanctions in 1990 and war in 1991. Referring to the 1980s, a December 1999 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross noted:
"Iraq boasted one of the most modern infrastructures and highest standards of living in the Middle East", with a "modern, complex health care system" and "sophisticated water-treatment and pumping facilities." (ICRC, 'Iraq: A Decade of Sanctions', December 1999)
According to an Economist Intelligence Unit Country Report, prior to the imposition of sanctions the Iraqi welfare state was "among the most comprehensive and generous in the Arab world". ('Iraq: Country Report 1995-96')
Unbeknownst to pollsters, it seems, this was all changed by the 88,500 tons of bombs of Desert Storm, and more than a decade of vicious sanctions.


Contact, References and Resources



Johann Hari articles

Analytical articles


  1. [ We Lefties shouldn't be so quick to forgive Johann Hari, The Telegraph, 19 September 2011
  2. Johann Hari, Who Is This Guy?, Accessed 25-March-2009
  3. Johann Hari,After three years, after 150,000 dead, why I was wrong about Iraq,, 18-March-2006, Accessed 25-March-2009
  4. Johann Hari, Sometimes the only way to spread peace is at the barrel of a gun,, 26-March-2003, Accessed 25-March-2009
  5. Christopher Hitchens, Racism in Darfur, SLATE, 07-November-2005, Accessed 25-March-2009
  6. Hackwatch, Hari's Game, Private Eye, 23rd-March-3rd-April 2003, Number 1076; Pg. 5
  7. Johann Hari, Response to Richard Ingrams' attack on Johann in the Observer,, 15-September-2003, Accessed 25-March-2009
  8. Carl Lipton, Wag The Kennel?, Counterpunch, 12-April-2003, Accessed 25-March-2009
  9. Christopher Marquis, The Unification Church's News Affiliate Buys U.P.I.,New York Times 16-May-2000, Accessed 25-March-2009
  10. Johann Hari, Sometimes the only way to spread peace is at the barrel of a gun,, 26-March-2003, Accessed 25-March-2009
  11. Johann Hari, Sometimes the only way to spread peace is at the barrel of a gun,, 26-March-2003, Accessed 25-March-2009
  12. Hackwatch, Secret of Shame, Private Eye, 3-16 October 2003, No. 1090, Pg. 4, Accessed 25-March-2009
  13. Johann Hari, Sometimes the only way to spread peace is at the barrel of a gun,, 26-March-2003, Accessed 25-March-2009
  14. Johann, Sometimes the only way to spread peace is at the barrel of a gun, 26-March-2003, Accessed 25-March-2009
  15. Johann Hari, The pro-war commentators: what do they say now?, The Independent, 9-April-2004, Accessed 25-March-2009
  16. Johann Hari,After three years, after 150,000 dead, why I was wrong about Iraq,,18-March-2006, Accessed 25-March-2009
  17. Johann Hari,'Koba the Dread' by Martin Amis,, 08-September-2002, Accessed 25-March-2009
  18. Johann HariIn enemy territory? An interview with Christopher Hitchens,, 23-September-2004, Accessed 25-March-2009
  19. Johann Hari, Late thoughts on the Hitchens interview,, 28-September-2004, Accessed 25-March-2009
  20. Johann Hari,Hollywood Post 9-11, 10-December-2001, Accessed 25-March-2009
  21. Johann Hari,Bush's talk of spreading freedom is a sugar-coated lie,, 21-January-2005, Accessed 25-March-2009
  22. Johann Hari,Johann vs Fisk...,, 26-November-2004, Accessed 25-March-2009
  23. Rapid Response Media Alert: Siding With Iraq - Part 1, Johann Hari And The Aftermath Of Invasion, Media Lens, 29-October-2004, Accessed 25-March-2009
  24. Media Lens Alert, Crushing Falluja, Media Lens, 22-April-2004, Accessed 25-March-2009
  25. Johann Hari,Suddenly, all those accumulated doubts hit me. Was I wrong about the war in Iraq?", The Independent, 14 April 2004, Accessed 25-March-2009
  26. Johann Hari, Johann Hari: The pro-war left's disastrous misjudgment,The Independent 23-July-2007, Accessed 25-March-2009
  27. Johann Hari, Media Lens Response 3, 11-November-2004, Accessed 25-March-2009
  28. Johann Hari, Media Lens: A Second Response, 30-October-2004, Accessed 25-March-2004