Johann Hari in UK plagiarism row

Lefty hack's cut-and-paste chats spark Twitter furor

Topics: Plagiarism, War Room, England, Media Criticism,

Johann Hari in UK plagiarism rowToby Young, in the Telegraph, calls out Johann Hari of the Independent

Big UK press scandal, everyone! Johann Hari, a prize-winning superstar lefty columnist for the Independent, has been caught engaging in a bit of light plagiarism. Hari apparently routinely takes old quotes and writings from interview subjects and pastes them into his interviews, without attribution. He was caught by a cadre of anonymous ultra-leftist bloggers known as the Deterritorial Support Grouppppp, and, after a bit of a Twitter firestorm, called out in the rival Telegraph by Toby Young, a British media person best known here for his failed stint as a “Top Chef” judge.

This quote-recycling (or inventing) is apparently a not-uncommon practice, Young says, though it’s rare among the famous and successful:

Now, it would be dishonest not to point out that many British journalists are guilty of this practice. In America, if a journalist lifts a quote from elsewhere, the custom is to provide a source, i.e. “as Negri said in Negri on Negri …”, but in Britain there’s no hard and fast rule. What’s curious about this case is that, in general, the lower down the professional totem pole, the more likely a journalist is to indulge in these cut-and-paste shortcuts. For someone of Hari’s stature to be found guilty of it – a winner of the Orwell Prize, no less – is unusual. Hari is a holier-than-thou, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth, supercilious Lefty, not a tabloid hack.

American-style standards of professionalism have long been more of a suggestion than a tradition in the British press, where the newspapers have overt political stances, the Murdoch tabloids hack the phones of celebrities, potentially libelous stories are printed in “satirical” magazines, and most of the papers are constantly sniping at one another. All of this means that UK newspapers are much livelier and more fun than their American counterparts, with the circulation numbers to prove it. It also means that every now and then someone is accused of making things up, and then a bunch of longtime journalists share stories of editors inserting fiction into their copy or what-have-you. (“He told me to put that in, and — you’ve guessed it — he cut out my disclaimer, and the piece appeared the next morning claiming that the Museum of London had found a Roman brothel.”)

Hari has unconvincingly defended himself at his personal site. The Independent has not commented, but its editor defended Hari on Twitter.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>