Johann Hari: My Part in his Downfall
Though I have never met the disgraced liberal journalist Johann Hari - see also here, I did have a two minute conversation on the phone with him back ten years ago so I feel it is critical that I share my exclusive insight into Hari with the world.
In October 2001, Hari wrote a distinctly provocative post-9/11 piece in the New Statesman which basically wondered speculatively about the apparent 'affinities' between Al-Qaeda and the anti-capitalist movement, concluding thus:
The anti-globalisation movement has many benign aspirations to enhance participatory democracy and curb corporate power. But it also has some violent and frightening adherents who are capable of the kind of terrorism being visited upon us by Muslim fundamentalists.
The opposition to the west in the 21st century will come from untraceable networks with no leaders and no hierarchies, just a shared interest in attacking American capitalism in the hope that something better will emerge from the ashes.
Hari's argument was, to be kind to him, highly problematic at best and downright insulting to the anti-capitalist movement at worst - and since he had explicitly namechecked one anti-capitalist organisation in his piece which I was a supporter of ('Globalise Resistance') I thought he might like to debate his ideas about 'the anti-capitalist movement post-9/11' at a public meeting to be hosted by our local group of Globalise Resistance. It wasn't difficult getting hold of his number (I imagine it is a bit more difficult tracking him down just now), and he wasn't opposed to the idea of speaking at just such a public meeting in theory - though eventually he claimed he was just too busy (and probably thought himself just a little bit too important to actually have to defend any of his ideas in public) - so this meeting never happened. I don't know whether a two minute conversation with Johann Hari ten years ago challenging him to a public debate about his controversial journalism really counts as playing a part in Hari's eventual 'downfall' (since back then his career was rising inexorably, if inexplicably) but I'd like to think it did - in any case Hari's failure to make time to publicly defend the frankly indefensible aspects of his journalism was more than enough for me personally to find it hard to take him too seriously as a 'public intellectual' after that point...