Thursday, 15 September 2011

Johann Hari's wiki-eidts

For future readers, Hari has very recently handed back his Orwell prize and put an apology in the Independent, which publication rather controversially refuses to relieve him of his employ there. I don't particularly want to make this guy's life even more of a misery, but this is his fault, and more needs to be made clear before we're done with this.

He has, among other things, owned up to making a lot of edits to Wikipedia pretending to be someone else - someone he was at university with. The sheer number of edits is breathtaking, though I suppose we are talking about a decent period of time here.

Wikipedia is meant to be an encyclopaedia. When people try to misuse it to push their own agendas they are basically trying to rewrite history. Almost all of Hari's edits (you can see them listed here) are on Wiki articles relating to either friends or enemies of Hari. There is a preponderance of  edits to Richard Littlejohn's wiki entry and associated talk-page. Other pages include Melanie Philips, Polly Toynbee, Tania Gold, Julie Bindel, Francis Wheen, Rob Blackhurst, Mark Steyn ("It is very important to have a criticisms section. This should not have been removed" is  Hari's description of one edit). Most prominent of all is Hari's own wiki entry and discussion page (which makes for fascinating reading after his recent admission). No doubt he would like to give his own side of the story, but not doing so under his own name was a mistake.

It is terribly easy to compare versions of pages on wiki to see what edits a user has made. I've done just one so far, but will do more comparisons I imagine, if I have time. Click here to see the page on Niall Fergusson before and after Hari's edits. You will find reams of stuff about his own attacks on Fergusson, and some responses. The entry on historian Andrew Roberts that he edited also seems to contain comments about Hari's criticisms of him. Somebody has rather mischievously added:
"Roberts has vigorously denied Hari's assertions, responding that Hari "must have a secret crush" on him and notes that Hari was stripped of his Orwell Prize for Journalism in July 2011 for unethical journalistic practices"

More edits to this page may follow, one senses.

By all accounts Hari has mis-used wikipedia to speak well of his friends and attack his enemies. He's not the only person doing this with Wiki. Nor the only one trying to write history as he would like to see it (more on this later). But that doesn't mean it is ok. And, again, all under a false name.

By the looks of some of the discussion pages, some people correctly guessed the identity of this wiki account. I wonder if they then tracked down other posts by him and endeavoured to correct his travesties. Rather hard work, considering the number of edits to go through. But I guess quite a few people will have been aware of something like this going on with regard to individual Wiki-pages. Without some pressure from them I wonder if he would have owned up to this.

Read more on his wiki-editing here.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

BBC bias

Even the BBC themselves have reported this story.

David Amess has made (ahem) amess of this by complaining about female newsreaders "smiling" when reporting serious issues. This is hardly going to help his argument, as much will be made of him being rather out-of-date etc.

It needs to be said again, however that he is absolutely right about the everything else he says. The BBC is part of a group that (whilst most of them are probably not anti-semitic) talks as though Israel is a fascist or apartheid state. This is nonsense. To understand Israel it is simply necessary to imagine the level of security you'd need trying to run a small democracy in the middle of about 10 countries sworn to destroy you*. The BBC should report this in a more balanced fashion.

The BBC also takes a strong line on gender politics, which is very nicey-nice of them, very much the moral high-ground amongst some people. It is however a matter of politics, not of fact, and BBC employees with their customary cynicism about politicians would do well to realise that most feminist writers and activists are in the same game, just on a different side. They use the same methods of propaganda, and have the same cavalier treatment of facts and research, using them only when they assist the cause.

The BBC is consistantly critical of the Conservatives, in or out of government. BBC members are disgustingly unperturbed about this. They really do seem to think they are balanced, even when it is clear that their main criticisms of Labour come when they seem to be moving to the centre (or right). They make a great claim to impartiality, but in practice they have given up even trying to be impartial - they have a strong line on most things. Look at the public spending "cuts", the recent riots in London. They really thing parroting the Guardian is a 'balanced' view...

A huge number of people listen t the BBC, and I fear too many believe that it gives 'the balanced view'. Not true. The bias is clear in their news AND in their drama (which was once the envy of the world - now it's worth nothing). They are misusing taxpayers money. It is entirely right that attention should be paid to their vaunted impartiality, and whether they are fullfilling that promise.

* see this artcle on Archbishop Cranmer's blog