Johann Hari busted for the wrong thing


I won’t pretend otherwise: I found British columnist and PSF-extraordinaire Johann Hari’s fake-quote-fueled disgrace (complete with having to drop the “award-winning” from his CV) especially gratifying.

Busted for plagiarizing other journalists’ work, malicious use of Wikipedia sock-puppets, and generally playing fast-and-loose with the basic rules of journalism, Hari’s been forced to hand back his Orwell Prize, march off to Journalistic Ethics school and step down (appallingly, temporarily) from his perch at The Independent. (Just imagine if journalists in Venezuela faced these kinds of consequences for making shit up!)

To say Johann Hari had it coming is an understatement. Below, I’m reprinting my 2008 rebuttal to some of his embarrassingly bad Venezuela reporting: judge for yourself.

It strikes me that, while we can only be heartened to see hackistry on this scale meet its comeuppance, Hari’s name is being dragged through the mud for all the wrong reasons. Because while attacking your critics on Wikipedia under a pseudonym is certainly tawdry, the sins he’s being held responsible for are relatively minor compared to his wholesale endorsement of a tinpot autocrat’s propaganda fantasies.

In falling hook, line and sinker for the whole panoply of chavista propaganda myths, Hari showed a poverty of the soul that you can’t fix with a couple of semesters in J-School. And The Independent disgraced itself in failing to fact-check the many, evident and grave misstatements of fact in his Venezuela reporting.

My 2008 piece is after the jump:

Johann Hari and the Solidarity Journalist’s Pose

Johann Hari has something to tell you. Something you need to know.

If you are a bit of a lefty, a bit skeptical of mainstream media, the kind of person minded to buy The Independent, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll buy into it. Not so much because of what he’ll tell you, but because of how he’ll tell it to you.

“Psst, amigo,” he’ll whisper, “they’re lying to you. They’re big and powerful and everywhere and they control what you read and they control what you hear on the news and so they control what you think. You can’t trust them, you can’t trust any of what they say. I’m the one you can trust. I’ll give you the real story, the inside scoop that they’re desperate to hide from you.”

That’s the Solidarity Journalist’s Pose. There’s something seductive about it, no question. Mr. Hari promises to lift you out of the ignorance of the grubby masses, to induct you into a select circle of the unspinnable and the wise. And the stakes are high. “The ability of democracy and freedom to spread to poor countries”, he tells you, “may depend on whether we can unscramble these propaganda fictions.”

You don’t want to be a chump, do you?

You don’t want to slow the spread of democracy and freedom to poor countries, do you?

Of course you don’t.

So you’ll go along, not realizing that the conceit is a kind of intellectual snare. That once you accept his framing, you find it much harder to scrutinize his assertions critically. That he’s subtly priming you never to question him on the basis of information you gather elsewhere – lies! That he’s trying to get you to pimp out your opinions on Venezuela entirely to him.

It helps him enormously that you grew up far away – in London, say. Or Chicago. Or Sydney. It makes everything much easier that you don’t know much about Venezuelan history, or politics, or society – and, to be fair, why should you?

You have no reason to raise an eyebrow when he tells you that the United States installed a dictator in Venezuela in order to control our oil all the way back in 1908. If you were Venezuelan, a statement like that would immediately put you on your guard, make you wonder if the author had the slightest clue about what he was talking about. After all, it’s roughly like arguing that foreign agents installed Bill Clinton in power in 1993 in order to control Google.

But, of course, you’re not Venezuelan, so Mr. Hari is confident that you won’t realize just how bizarre a claim he’s making. He understands there’s no reason for you to know that oil wasn’t produced in Venezuela until 1914. He grasps that his readers have no idea who Cipriano Castro was, much less why he might have needed to get on a boat and go to Paris in 1908 thinking he could trust his second-in-command to run the country while he was away.

He figures he’s safe, because you don’t know about any of that stuff. So you’ll assent.

For the same reason, he’s confident that when he tells you that Chávez “increased the share of oil profits taken by the state from a pitiful one per cent to 33 per cent,” you won’t question him. Just the opposite: you’ll shake your head in outrage at the injustice and feel glad that it has now been righted. You won’t suspect that he’s referring to the royalty rates (i.e., taxes on the gross value of oil lifted, not on company profits) that applied to just a handful of projects in the Faja del Orinoco, but that the normal royalty on the bulk of the oil produced in Venezuela before 2001 was 17%.

And Mr. Hari figures you don’t know that even that special, 1% royalty rate for the Faja projects was temporary, designed to offset billions of dollars in capital costs it took to build the massive, high-tech upgraders needed to process the area’s extra-heavy, tar-like crude. He’s betting you don’t realize that while Chávez did raise the normal royalty rate from 17% to 30% in 2001, he simultaneously lowered the oil sector’s income tax from 67% to 50%, leaving the overall tax burden on foreign oil companies largely unchanged.

Anybody who follows the Venezuelan oil industry knows that. But Mr. Hari’s banking on you not knowing it. And, when you think about it, that’s a pretty safe bet.

Mr. Hari knows you want to believe he’s one of the good guys, and misleading you for partisan purposes is what bad guys do. So you won’t suspect Mr. Hari of using the very tactics he viciously attacks the traditional media for using. Paradoxically, the Solidarity Journalist’s Pose doubles back on itself, turning into carte blanche for him to exploit your ignorance to mislead you.

You won’t raise an eyebrow when he says Venezuela’s media is “uncensored and in total opposition” to Chávez. Because, well, you don’t know who Omar Camero is, or who Gustavo Cisneros is, or that Chávez long ago forced their stations to drop their critical coverage with the (in Venezuela, highly credible) threat of refusing to renew their broadcast licenses. He’s guessing you don’t know that Venezuela’s private TV media barons now chum it up with Chávez at Miraflores social events. His claim will strike you as plausible only because you’re unaware of the mad proliferation of propagandistic, unquestioningly sycophantic, state funded TV stations Chávez has created. After all, you don’t live in Venezuela, there’s no reason why acronyms like VTV, ANTV, Vive, Telesur and TVES should mean anything to you.

Mr. Hari will tell you there is no evidence that Chávez ever funded FARC, but he doesn’t mention that nobody (at least nobody sane) is alleging that, because what the files on Reyes’s computers detailed was an ongoing negotiation over a future loan for $300 million, not a fait accompli. He’ll leave you with a strong impression that all this stuff about jungle laptops is an evident farce. Certainly, you won’t learn of the Interpol forensic report on Raul Reyes’s computer files from Mr. Hari.

In fact, there’s a lot that’s interesting about Chávez’s relationship with FARC that you won’t learn from his piece.

You won’t learn of Rodríguez Chacín’s heartfelt exhortation to FARC to “maintain their strength” (who is this Rodríguez Chacín fellow anyway?) You won’t learn that Chávez ascribes to FARC “a bolivarian project that is respected here”. Or that Venezuelan National Guardsmen have recently been arrested in Colombia trying to deliver ammo to FARC. Or that FARC maintains what amounts to a diplomatic mission in Caracas, and that its one-time “ambassador” went as far as to get naturalized Venezuelan and even registered to vote in Venezuelan elections. Or that their highest-profile Colombian political supporter essentially lives in a five-star hotel in Caracas, at the Venezuelan government’s expense, and is Chávez’s point-woman for FARC relations. Or that Venezuelan state media resolutely refuses to refer to FARC’s hostages as “hostages”, preferring FARC’s own bizarre euphemism (“retenidos”, or “retained persons”) instead.

But since he didn’t tell you any of that, you’ll be minded to agree with Mr. Hari that this stuff about Chávez supporting FARC is just a crazy lie, a vile slander, another one of those “propaganda fictions” threatening the spread of democracy and freedom to poor countries.

You’ve been ensnared by the Solidarity Journalist Pose. You will assent. You will dismiss anyone who tries to rebut Mr. Hari’s arguments as obviously – transparently – carrying water for the corporate elite.

The next time you go to a party, you will buttonhole anyone who expresses skepticism about Chávez. You’ll try to “set them straight.” You will explain to them that the US has been trying to get at Venezuela’s oil since 1908, and ask them if they were even aware that, before Chávez, taxes on foreign oil companies were just 1%. You’ll note, in grave tones, how absurd it is that Chávez is accused of authoritarianism even though all the media are uncensored and deeply hostile to him. And you’ll denounce allegations that Chávez has a soft-spot for FARC as an outrageous slur.

You’ll launch into this little rant with a furrowed brow. Perhaps you’ll raise your voice. Certainly you’ll deliver it with the missionary intensity of one sure he’s fighting the good fight. If you are exceptionally unlucky, you’ll unleash your spiel at a party I’m at. Otherwise, it’s likely you’ll leave with that warm feeling inside, that certainty that you are on the right side of history and that, in time, the truth – Mr. Hari’s truth – is bound to impose itself.

And you’ll sleep well.

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  1. Great. Nobody could have written that better. I wish more people
    who know so little could read this article.
    Chavez tapped into the leftist loser press and they have done so
    much damage with their lies. Thank you for being a counterweight-
    more is needed.

  2. The funny thing is that even after all this, the upper-right-hand blurb on contains an obvious falsehood:

    Who is Johann?

    Johann Hari is an award-winning journalist who writes twice-weekly for the Independent, one of Britain’s leading newspapers…

    No longer, beeeeatch!!!

    • To paraphrase perhaps the funniest moment in any Pink Panther movie…

      He was an award-winning journalist!

      (Clouseau accent): Not – anymore.

  3. The Economist discussion speaks about the easy way in which phony journalists can make up quotes from peasants in faroff lands. The linked article by Hari has preciseñy such a great quote from an aged—but unnamed–aged peasant woman who tells him “I was blind but now I can see! “. It is as if she sits around listening to Amazing Grace, translating it as she goes.

    There is a point in that article where he sneers at those who think Chavez is dictatorial, because says Hari, Chavez accepted a referendum result om re-electiom, and will resign in 2013. We know how that turned out, but did Hari ever revisit the point, and admit that Chavez was more dictatorial than expected? I doubt it.

  4. I couldn’t stomach reading Hari’s article about Venezuela the first time but I tried again after reading your beautiful rebuttal.

    “Francisca Moreno, a gap-toothed 76-year-old granny I found sitting in a tin shack, at the end of a long path across the mud made out of broken wooden planks. From her doorway she looked down on the shining white marble of Caracas’s rich district.”

    Shining white marble? Has he even been to Caracas?

    “The US government is already funding separatist movements in Zulia province, along the border with Colombia, where Venezuela’s largest oilfields lie. They hope they can break away this whiter-skinned, anti-Chavez province and then drink deep of the petrol there.”

    I didn’t know Zulia was whiter-skinned.

  5. “From her doorway she looked down on the shining white marble of Caracas’s rich district.”
    “They hope they can break away this whiter-skinned, anti-Chavez province and then drink deep of the petrol there.”

    Shinning white marble? Whither-skinned, anti-Cahvez province? WTF?????

  6. FT, your original rebuttal back in the day is a classic for the ages. However in this instance you’re wrong. Johann Hari, and I have been following the saga with utmost interest, got busted for lying, for making shit up, as you say. But to advance the notion that he should’ve been busted for endorsing a tinpot dictator shows a naivete, on your part, that should no longer be there, considering that you have lived in these lands.

    The leftist ‘intelligentsia’ (there’s not a bigger oxymoron) of London is as ‘sophisticated and progressive’ as they get. Or so they like to think. Hari, a darling among the fanatics and true believers, continues to be, to this day, someone that can do no wrong. Just read the sycophantic apologising of the likes of Polly Toynbee about him, and you will notice that among Guardanistas, as among chavistas, some Haris are more equal than others. The fact that he got a slap on the wrist, and is off to Columbia to retrain (as if he had a previous degree in journalism which isn’t the case), is an insult to journalists. The ‘inquiry’ conducted by Whittam Smith is a fucking joke. In fact, the fucker will be welcomed back in 2012. But I’m digressing. Apologising, or endorsing, dictators, is open, accepted and and reason for pride among the very ‘intelligentsia’ who has Hari as an icon. It is not only acceptable, but a feature of fundamentalists in those circles, to speak wonders of Castro, of Chavez, of Stalin, a sign of belonging. The moral decrepitude of course escapes them, nonetheless they carry on praising dictators, from Cuba to terrorists in Palestina.

    Fortunately, Hari got busted for doing things that have become unacceptable, that even first year undergraduates know is a no no. The most shining beacon of Islington’s “clued in’ leftists is a fucking plagiarist, and a terrible one at that. That’s the measure. That’s how bankrupt the left is in this country, thanks heavens. But apologising for dictators? That continues to be common currency mate.

    • Whilst I agree with much of what you say about the leftist ‘inteligentsia’, Alek, the left has no monopoly on backing dictators. Pinochet, Franco, even Hitler, had their admirers among the rightist inteligentsia in the UK. But I don’t share Quico’s view that Hari’s downfall came about for the ‘wrong reasons’. Distasteful as it may be to you and me, supporting Chávez in an opinion column is a wholly legitimate activity. Using made-up interviews, stealing quotes and playing fast and loose with the truth about what goes on in Venezuela to support Chávez in an opinion column is not. And it is not the former but – quite rightly – the latter that led to Hari’s suspension from The Independent. Let’s hope it becomes permanent, and extends to the rest of the media. Sadly, this miserable wretch seems to have too many powerful supporters, with flexible ethical codes, for that wish to come true.

      • Donacobius, I never said the left has a monopoly on backing dictators, and frankly I don’t get the equating my constant exposes of the moral decrepitude of the left as a tacit approval or support for the right. In certain issues there’s no space for left and right distinctions, rather on right and wrong. It’s like human rights, you’re either for, or in ever so commonly lefty attitude, prepared to look the other way on moral relativistic reasons, or in ever so commonly rightist attitude, prepared to look the other way on financial reasons. You can not pretend to be a committed defender of social justice and human rights when you’re singing the praises of Castro. You can not pretend to be a committed defender of social justice and human rights, when you’re propping up dictators so that you can keep raking it in selling weapons. That shit just doesn’t fly. So, in that sense, there’s no confusion in my mind, and I can condemn both sides equally vehemently.

        But where I completely disagree with you is in “Distasteful as it may be to you and me, supporting Chávez in an opinion column is a wholly legitimate activity.” I am sorry but distasteful it ain’t. Legitimate it ain’t. It is totally unacceptable, specially, when it comes from circles/people that like to call themselves, and pretend to be, sophisticated, educated, progressive, and fully supportive of human rights and liberal ideas. You are wrong. Supporting dictators is indefensible, and should be treated in the same manner, and with the same scorn, dispensed to those who apologise for terrorism, fundamentalism, communism, nazism, fascism, pinochetism, maoism, etc. People praising any of those things should not have a tribune, other than preaching in total solitude in mental asylums. Organisations that provide a platform to such people, read The Guardian, should be brought to justice, pretty much in the same way that terrorism-supporting publications are hunted and shut down.

        • I agree Hari is disgraceful and he lied through his teeth about Venezuela. Now, from that to “The Guardian should be brought to justice” (I suppose because of them giving a venue for the likes of Weisbrot or Gott) is preposterous. You would need to bring the NY Times and the Washington Post to justice for giving space to people such as hardliners from the Israeli side, to people who lied through their teeth regarding the WMD etc.

          I prefer to have freedom of speech and public real debate (as opposed to parallel monologues)

          • Not preposterous, at all, in my book. And yes, the measure should be applied to those you mention too.

            Freedom of expression is one thing. Supporting terrorism quite another, and totally unacceptable, IMO. Public debate? Yes, when valid points of view are put across. Public debate where fanatics can sing the praises of Castro, Chavez, Mugabe, etc? Fuck that.

          • I quite agree: fanatics who support dangerous ideas unhinged from empirical evidence ought to be brought to justice…starting with those whose ideas could, if embedded in policy, cause the death of millions: anthropogenic climate change deniers.

            [That screeching noise you hear in the distance, folks, is the sound of the brakes on Alek’s train of thought as he realizes, too late, that his rant points him straight at a reductio ad absurdum cliff edge…]

          • FT, you can come up with shit like that, and futilely trying to undermine my point, until you meet your maker. I don’t care. The AGW debate is pretty much open, as temperatures the word over seem to stubbornly contradict the models put out by ‘geniuses’ such as those caught up fiddling with data at the University of East Anglia.

            So no screeching sound of brakes on my part mate. None whatsoever. Whenever you want to discuss AGM with me, please, be my guess. For every piece of evidence you could bring, I’ll bring another that disproves it. And to conclude, don’t let your side down by confusing climate change with global warming. As a trained geologist I know, and have maintained for years, the climate change is a given, is a constant, and has been since the earth formed. Problem is, for you and the rest of the true believers of AGW, that you can’t explain climate changes when there weren’t yummy mummies doing the school runs in Chelsea tractors.

            Lame, lame attempt Mr Toro. Try Pinochet next time…

          • Right, Alek. So you get to decide which controversial minority viewpoints can be espoused in public, and you get to decide which controversial minority viewpoints get you brought to justice if you defend them. Next time I want to defend a controversial minority viewpoint in public, I’ll be sure to email you for advanced clearance first!

            Your lack of self-awareness on these points is just astonishing.

            Just to get back to the original dispute: what’s illegitimate isn’t defending the Chávez regime, what’s illegitimate – and far more egregious than using a Wikipedia sock-puppet – is defending the Chávez regime on the basis of propaganda claims that are patently and easily-demonstrably false.

          • OK, so we’ve moved onto condescension, where the all knowledgeable and uber intellectual Mr Toro lectures about self awareness. In case it has escaped you, I am not pretending to be the moral authority, I am just putting my PoV across. And yes, I do find unacceptable for the likes of Johann Hari to be given platforms to support dictators.

            But then this:

            what’s illegitimate isn’t defending the Chávez regime, what’s illegitimate – and far more egregious than using a Wikipedia sock-puppet – is defending the Chávez regime on the basis of propaganda claims that are patently and easily-demonstrably false.

            But, isn’t that what you just did up there with the ‘quip’ about AGW? Mind you, defending a theory on the basis of propaganda claims that are patently and easily-demonstrably false?

          • I guess you want to bring the IPCC to justice, too, then…

            Listen, Alek, the point isn’t really that hard to grasp: people who go around advocating extremely controversial views are on shaky grounds when they advocate silencing others who express extremely controversial views.

            The only grounds you have for saying that defending Chávez is illegitimate while denying climate change is legitimate is that you happen to disagree with the first and agree with the second.

          • And you’re coming back for more?

            Please place here evidence that I have denied climate change. Ojo, climate change. Good luck in your research.

            When in a hole etc.

          • Right you are, “denying the role of man-made emissions in climate change” is what I meant.

            Now, once again: you get to decide which fringy minority views are true and which fringy minority views ought to be banned from publication on the basis of what, exactly?

          • Oh my goodness, I certainly opened a can of worms here, didn’t I? For readers who can’t face wading through this whole exchange, here is an upsum of Alek’s position: he’s in favour of human rights and thinks anyone who disagrees with that should be locked up. On that, at least, he’s in total agreement with Hugo Chávez.

          • So you didn’t get proof of my denying climate change, did you FT? You meant to embarrass me using an argument you attribute to me… which, erm, I have never made. Great stuff mate.

            The only thing I get to decide is, what I think, say and write. Extremely controversial, and unpalatable to you and some of your fans, are my views about communism, terrorism, apologising for dictators, etc. Hagan una vaca, and devote yourselves to build a platform so that the Haris and Tuckers of these world can carry on praising Chavez, is that what you want? Or better yet, start fundraising for The Guardian: they’re haemorrhaging money, you know?

          • Oh, a climate change argument! Yeah!! This gives us a small window to discuss the difference between real science and fake science. Here’s all you really need to know: real science isolates, fake science obfuscates.

            That means that when you want to prove that A causes B, a real scientist will try to isolate A and B, to try to make sure only A and B exist and nothing else could affect the outcome of the observation. A fake scientist will try to put as many different potential causes together indiscriminately and then claim that since somewhere in that mess A and B exists, then obviously A was the cause of B.

            So in which side are Global Warming Alarmist? Let’s just say that what they do is the textbook definition of obfuscation. To begin with, the whole nonsense is based on the “Global Temperature Average”, which is calculated by averaging the temperatures of different points on the planet during the year.

            The problem? Daylight temperatures have completely different causes than nighttime temperatures. Winter temperatures have completely different causes than summer temperatures. Temperatures at the equator have completely different causes than temperatures at the tropics. Same for desert temperatures vs places near a large body of water. Same with temperatures at sea level vs temperatures at over 2km above sea level, etc. etc.

            Averaging all those temperatures with absolutely no discrimination for their local causes is, as I said, the textbook definition of obfuscation.

            What would a real scientist be doing if he wanted to prove that climate change was caused by CO2? Isolate, of course. The easiest way would be to compare daylight temperatures with nighttime temperatures in places with high production of CO2 vs places with low production of CO2. Why? Because the drop in temperature during nighttime is proportional to the atmosphere’s ability to retain heat (and very little else), which is what they claim has changed in the last 100 years. So why are they not doing this? Because the one time they tried it, it showed there was no change. Whatever is causing the temperature changes has nothing to do with the atmosphere’s ability to retain heat.

            But they can’t say that because without the Global Warming Hysteria, a climatologist is nothing more then a wacky TV weatherman without a personality. And without a job.

  7. Kiko, I’m grateful that Mr Hari’s busting gave me the opportunity to read your 2008 response to he’s gimmicky article. Passionate and yet accurate…and remarkable writing. Thank you again.

    • Thx!

      I remember being confused back in 2008 cuz I sporadically write Op-Eds for major papers and I know what the fact-checking process is like. I just couldn’t understand how that stuff made it into print: a fluffed quote from a lady in a barrio might be hard to fact-check, but the fact that oil had not been discovered in Venezuela in 1908 was one Wikipedia search away from any fact-checker’s reach.

      Which, I guess, is an aspect of the scandal I still don’t really get: this is being treated as a case of Hari cunningly deceiving The Independent through exquisite stealth, but from the Venezuela evidence it’s really just as much about The Independent’s editors being useless or lazy or both.

      • Quico, in my experience, British newspapers do no fact-checking whatsoever. I don’t know if that has changed at all in recent years. The only exception I am aware of is The Economist. If they don’t fact-check news stories, they sure as hell don’t fact check opinion columns. British journalism has its strengths, vis-a-vis US journalism. But that sure as hell ain’t one of ’em.

        • Do journalists in the US carry out more fact checking than in Britain? That’s new to me. I suppose “there are WMD in Iraq” meant “there are Middle East deserts in Iraq”.
          One of the most frequent word combinations in US newspapers is “US officials said”
          What really puzzles me is how they can spend hours and hours interviewing US officials in Afghanistan and calling that “inside Afghanistan”…those Afghanis have the cheek not to speak English, I suppose.

          • In my experience, yes they do. Which of course is not the same as saying the US press is a paragon of journalistic virtue. In the film ‘Shattered glass’ (mentioned earlier in this thread) there’s an interesting discourse on how to deceive the fact-checkers. At its worst, fact-checking is like counting the trees while failing to notice that the forest is on fire. At its best, it’s a useful tool, but it doesn’t fix bad journalism.

  8. I think that Global Whatever has forums aplenty and this didna ought to be one: we were happy looking at Daft International and its contribution to Chávez-support groups worldwide. I’m wondering when someone suitably qualified is going to proffer mindset options for folk who deny established and undisputed facts on the ground, in this case, Mr. Hari & Cronydom, based somewhere miles distant from Chávez’s bailiwick. What is the state of the mind, if that we must call it, of an articulate person with a fancy degree who persists in this sort of manifestly disprovable claptrap?

  9. My take on Alek is that he uses a very broad brush to condemn “the left”‘ without making any distinctions. But I comsider myself to be on the left, for a dozen policy reasons, and none of his comments about Stalin, Che, Mao, or Chavez remotely apply to me, or to the people who make up my political colleagues.

    We would love to approve of most goings on in the world, and thus support the status quo. But there is just too much inequality for that to be attractive;

    • Are there any distinctions to be made Jeffry? Really? Free healthcare, education and that, you know, I’m in favor and supportive of. Does that makes me a lefty? Sustainability, sensible use of resources, environment protection… I’m game. Abortion, I am also in favor of. Ditto legalisation of drugs. So in what political compartment would you put that, right or left? But when some people use Sarah Palin-esque or George Bush-esque caricatures to paint me as a deranged, right wing extremist, how does the preceding sentences, or my very public atheism for instance, mary with that? Mind you, como se cuadra ese circulo?

    • Jeffrey- you are a smart guy- but – I just don’t “get what you are saying”
      in this instance. SO, deep down you want to love Chavez but he treats
      people unequally and regardless of how attractive you cannot love him…?
      I personally hate the Beach-CHavez!!

  10. Righ and left have no totally-agreed-upon definitions, and I don’t have any idea whether you are a right wing extremist ir not. You don’t seem deranged, though, so we can agree on that.

    But broad-brush denunciations of “the left” as if there were no distinctions between Castro and the Prime Minister of Norway seem to me insufficiently differentiated, and therefore insufficiently thoughtful.

    Moreover, on a blog dedicated (as I take it) to the principles of human rights and democracy, I think it is wrong to create a polarity between right and left, when the real polarity is between democrats–left or right–and totalitarians.

    • Clap, clap, clap.

      Well said.

      To be said, my biggest beef with this kind of leftist is that in fact promotes the stereotypes about the left, and, promoting authoritarians, forget and distract from the real achievements of social democracies in Northern Europe, and fascinating social phenomenons like the Israeli kibbutzim or the co-ops in Emilia Romagna.

      • Keep it simple- focus on the problem of the
        radical military authoritarian dictatorship
        created by CHavez. We all agree on that.
        Getting rid of THAT -we can get back to
        democracy-otherwise we are doomed.Agreed.

    • Jeffrey- do not be drawn into fighting amongst ourselves. You are needed
      and so is Alek Boyd and all of us are necessary. Thank God we have/had
      education and opportunity to learn and see from the outside for example-
      our help now is vital for Venezuela.

  11. Thank you Charles. I was trying to make the very point that broad denunciations of leftists, without distinguishing among them, is a bad way to create a broad coalition, both inside Venezuela, and worldwide.

    Certainly Alek Boyd has made a large contribution to the opposition to Chavez, and he deserves only congratulations for that.

  12. Re. free speech. and its limits. Who defines the meaning of a message, the sender or the receiver? In the case of racial, sexual etc.politically incorrect comments, intention or context don´t redeem the sender, but how about this wacky, reductio ad absurdum case:

    “Grunfeld said Tuesday she may have misunderstood the context and intent of Johnston’s remarks, but that fact is insignificant.

    “The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.””

    Receivers may be hearing or cognition impaired, ideologically or otherwise, or, as senders, believe their audience is. Like some on both extremes of the divide in Venezuela.

  13. You’ve deliberately omitted the all important fact that I was defending myself against an unprovoked attack by gang of thugs in a bar, you transparently dishonest word-twister. If someone could remove the crap from you (perhaps by liposuction), there wouldn’t be much left, would there?

    • Oh yeah, how could’ve I missed that? Man defends himself against an unprovoked attack in bar by viciously beating and disfiguring attacker. Surely a sign of foremost ethical and humanist values.

  14. Awww, Tucker and Alek having a pointless fight in my comments section…it’s just like the old days!

    Sniffle…no, no, I’m not crying…something’s just got stuck in my eye!

    • And you carry on digging…

      If you can’t tell the difference between someone who has been arrested for involvement in violent events, a thug that has threatened people in this very blog, beaten the crap out of and disfigured another person, a deranged fanatic that continuously proclaims with gusto his support for Stalin, Castro, Chavez, Hamas, FARC, etc., and a blogger whose biggest crime to date is to have narrated a nightmare and made a few stupid comments in his blog, then FT, you too are beyond repair.

      Tu hipocresia da asco panita.

      • You continue to make stupid comments. For the second time you deliberately omit the all important fact I was FALSELY arrested at a picket line. I sued and won, with the judge describing the arresting officers as “corrupt liars” and me as an “ordinary respectable Englishman”. And there aren’t many Englishmen with a court judgement declaring them be respectable!

        As for “threatening people in this blog”, yet again you omit the fact that I was RESPONDING to threats made to me by disgruntled opposition supporters. You really need to change the record Genghis, your modus operandi is becoming as predictable as it is dishonest. Or perhaps you could give the Indy a call and ask to cover for Hari whilst he’s away.

    • Awww…I get this tingly feeling just seeing your tag, Tucker. It’s like having an outbreak of a long-dormant STD. Herpes, maybe.

      • I’ve no interest in your medical problems, but isn’t it a bit rich you banging on about journalistic ethics. You are after all the stringer who had to… cough… “resign” from the NYT for breaking their Code of Ethics by not informing them that you edited this effete blog. Perhaps you ought to join Hari at Journalistic Ethics school.


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