Tag Archives: Johann Hari

Grant Shapps accuses Wikipedia of being gamed by the Labour party

As Johann Hari found out to his cost, you can game Wikipedia for a long time, but in the end, if you violate their editorial process, they are remorselessly thorough in tracking you down.

Wikipedia allows almost anyone to edit pages about almost anything. But, to avoid conflicts of interest, you may not amend your own information, with the exception of very basic biographical detail (for example, if Wikipedia has your date of birth wrong).

Michael Green MPIn 2012, Wikipedia discovered that four usernames – 217.155.38.72, 90.196.154.2, Historyset and one that’s surfaced again recently, Hackneymarsh – had been linked to “computers in the constituency office of the Tory chairman”.

These four usernames had edited Wikipedia to amend certain references to Grant Shapps and his online alter egos Michael Green MP and Sebastian Fox:

references were deleted about his role in a 2007 byelection in west London where he impersonated Liberal Democrats online in an attempt to discredit his rivals – but forgot that he had logged on as himself.

The campaign was notable as Shapps was then a vice-chair of the Tory party responsible for campaigning. The Tory candidate came third when many felt he was favourite to win. However, the episode was airbrushed away on the online encyclopaedia.

In another series of changes after the 2010 election, Shapps’s entry removed references to the company HowToCorp, which the Guardian has exposed for breaching Google’s code of conduct, and to his online pseudonym Michael Green – with a comment posted that this mention of his “alter ego” was linked to a diary item that was an “unreliable source”.

Gone too were links to sites which revealed the Welwyn Hatfield MP paid back £3.79 during the expenses scandal, replaced by glowing references to a Daily Telegraph piece describing him as an “expenses saint”.

The revelations come after it emerged that Shapps had changed his entry in the online encyclopedia to correct the number of O-levels he obtained. He had also inserted testimony to his “influential” work on homelessness.

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Michael Green is an MP. Tonbon is a village.

Tim Montgomerie does not write in defence of Michael Green’s spam spivvery: he ignores it, claiming that he is “not in a position to respond”.

Well, no doubt: ConHome is owned by Lord Ashcroft, and whatever Tim’s private feelings about this kind of Internet marketing as the manager of a blog who works hard to see it filled with interesting and original content, he really isn’t in a position to respond to the Tory Chairman’s use of “scraping and spinning” to generate content for profit.

Instead, Tim Montgomerie focusses exclusively on the anonymous self-editing of Wikipedia, where Shapps defenders are on slightly less shaky ground.

I’m not in a position to respond to every allegation that’s been made against the new Conservative Chairman but at the root of the controversy has been a long-standing attempt by (1) his political opponents to use Wikipedia to smear him and then (2) those same opponents then attack his attempts to counter those smears.

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But it wasn’t that way. I was there at the time.

On Calton Hill, near the old Royal High, you’ll find an odd monument – a cairn with a brazier on top. It commemorates the Vigil for a Scottish Parliament, which was held for 1980 days – from 1992 to 1997. One of the 26 Objects at the National Museum of Scotland exhibition was the tent for the traveling vigil, drumming up signatures for the Scottish Parliament. The vigil ended the day that Scotland voted Yes in the 1997 referendum: which had been part of the Labour manifesto.

All of this feels like recent events to me. I have to think to realise that that there are people who were old enough to vote in May 2010 who would have just started primary school on 11th September 1997 – for whom the Claim of Right for Scotland and the Scottish Constitutional Convention, if they remember them at all, are events from before they were born.

Here is the Claim of Right for Scotland, signed on 30th March 1989 at the General Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, where 10 years later the Scottish Parliament sat for the first time:

We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount.
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Filed under Elections, Scottish Politics

Johann Hari has quit the Independent

According to an exclusive interview:

I was stunned by his honesty. “But what will you do next Johann? How will we cope without your excoriating honesty at the heart of the British commentariat?” He blushed. “I’ve started working on a book on a subject I believe is important and requires urgent action,” he said waving what looked like someone else’s book entirely. “Isn’t that by Noam Chomsky?”, I asked.

He seemed to ignore me, caught up in his own thoughts. “To do this properly needs international travel and the kind of in depth focus that’s not possible when you’re writing a heavily researched column at the same time.” “Oh did you do those?” I asked politely. His look hardened but he ploughed on: “I’ll be writing occasional articles elsewhere but I’ll be mainly delving deeply into one subject for now.” What could it be I wondered?

Oddly enough, comments are closed at his blog. The Twitterverse has exploded in discussion: what can this “one subject” be, this heart-breaking work of staggering genius. Here’s a sample page: Continue reading

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Johann Hari’s Orwell Prize

On Thursday 15th September, the Independent published a personal apology from Johann Hari. Hari wrote: “So first, even though I stand by the articles which won the George Orwell Prize, I am returning it as an act of contrition for the errors I made elsewhere, in my interviews. But this isn’t much, since it has been reported that they are minded to take it away anyway.”

Four and a half years before, on Monday, 30th April 2007, the Independent published what was to be one of the columns for which Hari won the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2008: How multiculturalism is betraying women.

On Wednesday 14th September, Johann Hari sent back the plaque which had been awarded to him on winning the Prize. He did not include any written explanation or apology, and even though he’d said he was doing it so that his apology would cost him something, he did not return the £2000 prize money. (After this had been publicly revealed, Hari contacted the Prize and offered to repay: Political Quarterly invited him to donate the sum to English PEN.)

Hari claimed in his apology to stand by this and the other articles for which he won the Prize, and to have returned his Prize as an “act of contrition” only.

To take a longer and more detailed look at this article:
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Filed under Racism, Women