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“They had their cynical code …

… worked out,” writes George Orwell, in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, about the employees of an advertising agency.

The Independent’s Johan Hari, about to be stripped of the writing prize that bears Orwell’s name, has his own cynical code, its writerly implications described by Guy Walters, who notes

… the 42 quotes in his ‘interview’ with Malalai Joya that Hari lifted from her ghosted autobiography; the 545 words plagiarised from the Daily Mail that Hari inserted into the mouth of his interviewee Ann Leslie; the lies about his Sky appearance with Richard Littlejohn; his fabrications and distortions of quotes in his prize-winning piece on Dubai; the startling familiarity of quotes in his interview with George Michael; his copy-pasting in his interview with Antonio Negri; his outrageously fabricated quotes for his piece on the Central African Republic; his quotes pinched from the New Yorker for his interview with Hugo Chavez; his alleged posting of unpleasant and defamatory comments online under the name of David Rose; his invention of names for interviewees whose quotes he had taken from Der Spiegel …

Beyond the plagiarism, UD has been struck by Hari’s lazy writing, the sort of writing a “tired hack …mechanically repeating … familiar phrases” produces. What would Orwell make, for instance, of Hari’s pointless attack on Prince Philip for having had the gall to turn ninety? Start with his pointlessly contemptuous and juvenile title:


No one fawned. The event barely registered.

And the marks around ‘prince’! Wow!

In the piece itself, a way-random series of hits on a man Hari ends by praising, Hari calls the monarchy “a snobbery-soaked institution” – precisely the sort of verbal political hackery Orwell hated.

Margaret Soltan, July 26, 2011 7:36AM
Posted in: bad writing

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2 Responses to ““They had their cynical code …”

  1. University Diaries » “ehrer had implied that a comment by Noam Chomsky had been told to him directly, when in fact the comment had originated in another journalist’s article published in the Technology Review.” Says:

    […] will be reminded of the case of Johan Hari, a young hot British journalist who got much farther than Jonah Lehrer has along these […]

  2. University Diaries » Lehrer in the Lair Says:

    […] already, on this blog compared Jonah Lehrer to Johan Hari – both of them madly successful, incredibly prolific writers whose prolificness indeed turns out to be incredible. Hari looked like […]

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