Hari and the higher journalism
June 30, 2011
So there has been some kind of kerfuffle over allegations that the journalist Johann Hari, when writing “interviews”, has made a habit of silently replacing what the interviewee actually said to him with quotations from the interviewee’s writing, or with quotations copied without attribution from other published interviews conducted by other interviewers? ((Previously in “Johann Hari”: Postmodernists, Free speech.))
Now, a tiresomely literal view of this matter might judge that writing that someone said something to you which they did not in fact say to you is not simply naive, or sloppy, or misguided, or the understandable result of a lack of proper “training”, or “normal practice”; it is just lying.
Far be it, though, from unspeak.net to be so hasty in joining in the no doubt politically motivated Hari-bashing by evil right-wingers! Let us not forget that there might always be a larger truth to which the writer owes his primary duty. In his marvellously unapologetic apology, Hari reveals what it is:
It depends on whether you prefer the intellectual accuracy of describing their ideas in their most considered words, or the reportorial accuracy of describing their ideas in the words they used on that particular afternoon.
Only sniffy pedants, surely, would insist on something so low-class as mere “reportorial accuracy” — ie, not lying. Like poetic truth, intellectual accuracy is so much nobler and more rarefied, isn’t it, readers?