By JR on Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Crusading Left-wing journalists thought the internet was going to be their friend, enabling them to broadcast the evils of capitalism to a new audience. But things haven’t gone quite to plan. Instead, the web has thrown a spotlight on liberal hacks indulging in a habit that they just can’t kick, however hard they try.
I refer, of course, to making stuff up. With the best of intentions, naturally.
Let’s start with a journalistic hero of the London/New York literati who is being accused of breaches of professional ethics but denies any wrongdoing.
Step forward Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent of the Independent – former employers of Johann Hari – who is in an extremely tight spot this weekend. Private Eye has printed a round-up of allegations made about him by fellow foreign correspondents on a private Facebook forum. They accuse this ferocious anti-Zionist of (and I’m choosing my words carefully) embroidering news reports that invariably cast the leaders of the “US-Israeli axis” as Bond villains.
“I do not make stories up. Full stop,” Fisk told me when I rang him in Beirut this week. He also told me he didn’t spend much time reading the internet. Probably just as well, Bob, because if you did you’d find ex-colleagues telling extraordinarily detailed anecdotes about your lucky scoops.
Now let’s consider a Lefty polemicist who has been caught red-handed. He’s an American broadcaster called Mike Daisey who this month confessed to being a serial liar about the Foxconn factory in China that makes Apple products. Those 12-year-old labourers he met there? They didn’t exist. Nor did the workers poisoned by factory gas.
Talking of interviewees who possibly didn’t exist, what about the rich cast of characters in the reports by another serial liar, Johann Hari? The squeaky-voiced fraudster has confessed to plagiarism and vandalising Wikipedia entries in the dead of night (in the process frightening a woman friend of mine to whom he’s still too vain to apologise). But what he’s never done is explain the anomalies in his articles about Dubai and central Africa.
These pieces, full of conveniently quotable eyewitnesses who pop up just when Hari needs them, won him awards and money. The Orwell Prize took away his bauble, but he’s been allowed to cling on to other “progressive” awards.
We can go back further in time – to the films and books by Michael Moore, whose casual approach to evidence-gathering was eventually exposed online. But it took ages before people cottoned on, because readers lapped up his conspiracy theories and the metropolitan media considered him “one of ours”.
There’s a term for this modus operandi – telling “The Greater Truth”. Lefty hacks polish their stories in order to expose a greater truth obscured by an inconvenient lack of evidence. (Right-wingers do it too, of course, but they don’t have liberal allies high up in the BBC, the Guardian and, of course, the poor old Indy.)
The internet information exchange makes it easy to spot the holes in tales of corporate villainy. Until now, however, the right-on digital “community” has been reluctant to eviscerate its heroes. But has the humiliation of Johann Hari tipped the balance? His Lefty hangers-on are livid that they were hoodwinked and will be less trusting in future. Also, trainee reporters may now be more careful about splashing their stories in local colour. If so, Hari will have made a contribution to journalism after all – though not in the way he intended.
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