Secret of Shame

Private Eye
3-16 October 2003
Number 1090, p. 4.


In a letter to the Observer last week, the fanciful young hack Johann Hari deplored the “series of very silly lies” about him that have appeared in the Eye. “Even the slightest factual analysis of Private Eye's retaliatory accusations causes them to immediately crumble into dust.” Alas! By the time the letter appeared, yet another of Hari's own columnar pillars had crumbled.

On 26 March this year Hari regaled Independent readers with the tale of Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor who traveled to Iraq as a human shield but was then “shocked back to reality” by the discovery that Iraqi people all supported President Bush's war. On the strength of this recantation, Hari argued, “every single anti-war protester should … reconsider their view. This is not 'pro-war propaganda': Joseph was as anti-war as the most vehement member of the Stop the War coalition, but he was also an honest man who could not disregard the evidence of his own eyes.”

Not so. Joseph's story was indeed a propaganda fabrication by right-wingers associated with the Rev. Moon's Unification Church, and several readers wrote to Hari pointing out that the scam had already been exposed elsewhere. Though Hari promised to investigate, he added that he was a very busy boy. Besides, “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'.”

This provoked further email bombardments from unhappy Indie readers. And last week, a wretched Hari added a small PS to the column on his website: “NOTE, written 25 September 2003: It transpires that Kenneth Joseph was probably a bullshiter, and that his claims were false. I should have checked his story out more rigorously before I used it…” Can this be the same Johann Hari who complains about articles that disintegrate under “the slightest factual analysis”?