Seen from close up the Johann Hari kerfuffle is about accusations of plagiarism, churnalism and therefore the trust in one of Britain’s foremost journalists.
It’s a fair debate, and with Hari’s response and apology today, one I hope will naturally quieten down soon enough.
But seen from a step back what I feel this is really about is our society grappling and coming to terms with the new transparency that is afforded by the Internet.
The massively connectedness of the internet, the memory storage and recall of technology, and the human intelligence and diverse motivations and interests that reside in our social networks mean that we are in a new age of transparency.
In my opinion we are still only reaching the very earliest and most basic understanding of what this means for our lives and for the world around us.
Related and connected examples must include:
- Congressman Weiner’s inappropriate online underpants photo sending
- Footballer Ryan Giggs and the digital outing of Super Injunction celebrities in the UK
- WikiLeaks in general
- Lulzsec, Anonymous et al
- My ditty ‘You know me, the President’ on the expectations that will surround future leaders who’ve grown up with a digital footprint
- Complex stories of teenagers sharing photos with boyfriends/girlfriends which are then shared around whole schools and communities
Yesterday I gave a talk at the PR Week ‘Ultimate Crisis Conference’ where I floated the idea that we are entering an Age of Crises.
For me, until we reach a new equilibrium in society – which will include a better understanding of transparency, changed behaviour in ourselves, and adjusted expectations in what we consider to be normal and abnormal behaviour in others – we can expect more of crises like these.
More of the great and the good being challenged, half found out (or not), memos leaked, personal spicy emails massively circulated. Learning the hard way, all of us to some extent, at scale, and in public.
I have no idea how long this will last.
The Hari affair is just another step on the road towards a better understanding of what it is to live in this new world we have created…