Thursday, March 16, 2006

Who needs facts, when your name is Johann Hari?

I sent an email yesterday to the Independent's columnist Johann Hari, asking if he could produce any factual evidence for his claim that Slobodan Milosevic was a 'racist' and planned the 'creation of an ethnically pure Greater Serbia'. Here's his reply:

Sent :
15 March 2006 23:18:49
To :
Subject :
Re: Mail from website
Yuck. I really have no interest in engaging with you on any level. You
believe the state should kill its own citizens in peacetime using the death
penalty, so please don't offer me any lectures on anything, ever. Your
views on Milosevic are loathesome beyond belief, and there are plenty of
Kosovars and Bosnians who live round here who have explained the situation
to me in great, great depth, and are living proof of Milosevic's racism.

In other word, Hari does not have any evidence. I wonder, incidentally if his Kosovan and Bosnian acquaintances are as reliable as the Iraqis who assured him that the invaders of their country would be greeted with flowers?
I enclose some more interesting information about Hari from the website
Readers will be able to make their own minds up about the credibility of his reporting.

Credibility Issues
In 2003, the British magazine Private Eye questioned the credibility of some of Hari's reporting.
Private Eye challenges Hari
In March 2003, Private Eye's Hackwatch column made three allegations about Hari’s journalistic practices:[2] (
(1) 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".
However, Hari has also been accused by Richard Littlejohn in the Sun newspaper and by the left-wing MP George Galloway being a drug addict who appears on television under the influence of cocaine. He says both the claims of non-drug use and of drug addiction are "bollocks".
(2) 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 beleive 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. Hari denies this.
(3) In a January 10 2003 column Hari backed the need for the invasion of Iraq. "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 wrote.
"... 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?", Hari continued.
In a February 15 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 ommitted the plea he wrote of in his February column: "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?". Hari has stated that he did mention them, but they were edited from the long 2000-word article to save space, a statement that has been confirmed by the Guardian.
Private Eye also claimed that Hari was in Iraq for two weeks rather than a monthhe had written in the Guardian (,3604,852453,00.html). Private Eye claimed: "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 Observer later in the year, written after Richard Ingrams was the first and apparently only person to repeat these allegations in the mainstream press, 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," he wrote. [3] (,6903,1051198,00.html) The criticisms appeared the week after Hari attacked Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, in the Independent, something Hari claimed to be a motivation behind the "slurs". Since Hari challenged the claims back in 2003, Private Eye have gone quiet about Hari.
Hari and the "Kenneth Joseph" story
In 2003, Hari favored the US invasion of Iraq, citing his limited experiences in the country and the opinion poll findings of pressure group the International Crisis Group:
"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?—Johann Hari, "Sometimes, the only way to spread peace is at the barrel of a gun", The Independent, March 26, 2003.
At this time, Hari took at face value tale a story covered by wire service UPI and reported in newspapers like the Christian Science Monitor and the Los Angeles Times 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 discovered that most Iraqis wanted the invasion to proceed.
Writing in Counterpunch in April 2003, Carol Lipton exposed the flaws in the neatly packaged Kenneth Joseph story. [4] ( The original source of a story was UPI and the Washington Times, both of which are owned by the Unification Church. The fact that the original UPI story was written by Arnaud de Borchgrave should also have raised some questions [5] ( In particular, she writes:
He wrote in this highly charged and dramatic piece that "Joseph was explaining that his trip had shocked him back to reality". 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".[Lipton, op. cit.]
Private Eye reported that after questions began to be asked in the international media about the Joseph story, Hari said he would 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'."
On September 25, 2003 Hari appended a small mea culpa to his original column. "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," he wrote.[7] (
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" and the subsequent newspaper reports on him.
In response to emails querying him about this story, Hari wrote (May 6, 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?Thanks,Johann
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 February 9, 2005).


Miguel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Neil Clark said...

The difference being that my email to Oliver Kamm was marked 'Private and Confidential' and was regarding a lawsuit.

Miguel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"...there are plenty of
Kosovars and Bosnians who live round here who have explained the situation to me in great, great depth, and are living proof of Milosevic's racism."

"Living proof"?

Are these the same 'Kosovars' (Albanians who reside in Serbia's Southern province of Kosovo - most of whom illegally emigrated to Serbia from Albania to escape the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha)who swore in 1999 - during NATO's multiple pass bombing of numerous Albanian refugee convoys - admitted only later by NATO - that it was "most definitely Yugoslav Air Force jets" that bombed the refugees?

Are these the same "Bosnians" (Bosnian muslims - i.e., mostly Serbs who converted to Islam during the Turkish Ottoman Empire's occupation of Bosnia Herzegovina for over 400 years)who also "swore" that the town of Gorazde was "knee deep in blood" and that nearly all of its inhabitants were "massacred" by Bosnian Serbs? (General Michael Rose found nothing of the sort and lambasted the media and the "Bosnian authorities" for exaggerating Gorazde's plight).

Every ethnic/religious group that hates the other with a passion will tell you tall stories about atrocities - especially more so during war time - against the other ethnic group.

What counts is SOLID EVIDENCE to back these stories up. If Milosevic was a "racist" who "whipped up Serbs into a nationalist frenzy" and thereby "started four wars" it would be exceedingly easy and simple to find at least one PUBLIC statement he made in order to incite racial/ethnic/religious hatred and thereby "whip Serbs up into a nationalist frenzy".

Trouble is, Milosevic never did make such public statements: not even ONCE during his entire tenure of office - first as President of Serbia, then as President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia & Montenegro).

In order to incite a population to racial/ethnic/religious hatred, one must make PUBLIC comments - it is bleedingly obvious one cannot do it in secret.

A PUBLIC comment,such as this one, for example:

His racism - grimly reminiscent of Nazism - was made clear in this excerpt from a speech, broadcast by Croatian radio and monitored by the BBC:

"And [applause] there can be no return to the past, to the times when they the Serbs were spreading cancer in the heart of Croatia, cancer which was destroying the Croatian national being and which did not allow the Croatian people to be the master in its own house and did not allow Croatia to lead an independent and sovereign life under this wide, blue sky and within the world community of sovereign nations."

Trouble is, the ultra-nationalist demagogue who made this Nazi style PUBLIC statement was never described/portrayed as such by the BBC/ITN, CNN,ABC,CBS,NBC et al or by Western governments and NGO's.

Funny about that, huh? Down the memory hole we go.