Monday, July 11, 2011

Johann Hari used Amazon reviews to get revenge

On Saturday I wrote about Johann Hari and Nick Cohen's revelation that those who cross Hari tend to find that their Wikipedia entries are vandalised shortly afterwards.

In that post I directed you to one on the Jack of Kent blog where this story is discussed in much greater depth. Reading that post and the informative comments on it, a fair summation of the state of play would be that the David r who has edited the Wikipedia is the same person as the David Rose about whom Hari has written in the past.

Over the years Hari has given quite specific information about Rose, whose career parallels Hari's to some extent, However, despite this information, none of the commenters on Jack of Kent has been able to prove that Rose really exists.

In my post I mentioned that somewhere at the back of my mind was the memory that Hari had once written pejorative reviews on Amazon. That is a good definition of the wisdom the years bring: you know important and  interesting things but can't quite remember them.

Fortunately, a reader has sent me a cutting from Private Eye - my readers have been very helpful today.

The first cutting is from the Eye for 25 July 2003. It runs in part:
Before Hari's literary talents were as widely known as they are today, he flexed his literary muscles by posting witty and acerbic reviews of the books of Cambridge University professor of Greek literature and culture, Simon Goldhill, on the US version of the online booksellers.

On 4 June 2000, while still studying social and political science at Kings College, Hari posted the following about the prof's Aeschylus: the Orestia: "Pompous drivvel [sic]. This Goldhill man has the prose style of a dead worm and even less warmth and charm. He clearly loves himself. Fine. Nobody else will."

Then on 23 October 2001 he posted a review of Goldhill's Being..."
Sadly, my cutting stops at this point, though Being must be Goldhill's Being Greek Under Rome.

I went to Amazon to see if Hari's reviews were still there they are not.

But, interestingly, somebody called Anthony Barber from Northumbria has contributed equally abusive reviews of Aeschylus: the Orestia and of Goldhill's Language, Sexuality, Narrative: The Oresteia. He is also damning about Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy, a volume which Goldhill helped to edit.

This is intriguing but does not, of course, mean that Hari is Barber.

How Goldhill upset Hari? The next issue of Private Eye discussed this very point:
The last Eye's account of reviews of Cambridge professor Simon Goldhill's books posted on by Johann Hari, one of Britain's most "creative" young journalists,
has caused the prof to abandon his lofty "no comment" stand.

When the Eye asked Hari, now a star columnist on the Independent, why he had posted reviews in 2000 and 2001 describing the Cambridge classics professor's learned tomes on Aeschylus and Hellenism as "pompous drivvel" [sic] and "the bowels of mediocrity", he told us that while a student at Cambridge he had formed the view that Prof Goldhill was "a complete arsehole" after disagreeing with the professor over dinner about the merits of Mo Mowlam (Hari pro, Goldhill anti).

Now Prof Goldhill tells the Eye: "I have never knowingly eaten a meal with Johann Hari. I have certainly never discussed Mo Mowlam with him; there was a disciplinary matter which followed a complaint from the staff about his unpleasantly arrogant rudeness."
Hari's recollection may have been the true one here. He may not be David Rose.

But it is a fact that those who cross Hari fare badly on Amazon as well as Wikipedia.

Later. It seems the "drivvel" review can still be found on the German Amazon site. Thanks to friends on Twitter.


Shuggy said...

Lot of comment about this on the blogosphere. David Rose does exist, apparently.!/leninology/status/90136461927645184

Matt Wardman said...

"Praise be, praise be. This book shows you God's face, his hands, his especially prominent left thumb. Praise be, hallelujah. Oh yes. A beautiful work that will make even the ayatollah into Christian. Praise be."

LW said...

I don't think the Leninology tweet proves anything. He is the only person who has claimed to have met someone who was apparently DR and even then concedes he has no way of knowing whether that person actually was DR or not.

If this guy does exist (and has the CV claimed), someone else will know him.

Ross said...

It's amazing how consistant different people's stories about Hari are- someone pulling him for some poor behaviour and him claiming the disagreement is about some greater issue which casts him in a heroic light.

Goldhill says he told Hari off for being rude to staff- Hari claims the disagreement began when he defended Mo Mowlam.

Christine Odone today claims her squabble with Hari began when she told him off for misusing the New Statesman printer- he claims it was some epic dispute over antisemitism and secularism.

The editor who sacked Hari from a student newspaper says it was because things were made up, Hari says he was jealous of Hari's intellect.

There's a definate pattern.

CurrentScholar said...

To be fair to Hari, Goldhill is a bit of an arse.

Jo Hayes said...

Not as big a bit of arse as Hari, if it is true that he is as insufferably grandiose, pushy and prone to rewrite history - or flippin' dishonest, whichever word formula you prefer - as these revelations suggest. This reminds me of my student years at Oxford, surrounded by pert little ex-public schoolboys with moderate brain but a massive sense of entitlement. Yawn.

Terry said...

Check out the contributions of the Hari on Wikipedia here:

He accidentally signs his name 'Johann' in some of them. Of course, his contributions are all about how great he is, and he takes care to remove anything negative.

Alec Macph said...

"Pompous drivvel [sic]. This Goldhill man has the prose style of a dead worm and even less warmth and charm. He clearly loves himself. Fine. Nobody else will."

Not quite AE Housman.

Johann Hari: a Bryant who so badly wanted to be a Flashman.