Factchecking Johann Hari: Junichiro battles the robots
This blog post originally appeared on my now-defunct "Mr Eugenides" blog on 22nd January 2010. In view of Mr Hari's current travails, I thought it worth reposting in full this hilarious example of his loose relationship with truthiness.
- Mr Eugenides
Two weeks ago it was a lament about our "culture of overwork", despite the overwhelming body of evidence that says the exact opposite. Today, Johann Hari is writing about, er, the increasing use of robots on the battlefield, together with the technological and ethical risks it poses, when he comes out with this corker (my emphasis):
We know the programming of robots will regularly go wrong – because all technological programming regularly goes wrong. Look at the place where robots are used most frequently today: factories. Some 4 per cent of US factories have "major robotics accidents" every year – a man having molten aluminium poured over him, or a woman picked up and placed on a conveyor belt to be smashed into the shape of a car. The former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was nearly killed a few years ago after a robot attacked him on a tour of a factory.
You what? A robot nearly killed the Japanese Prime Minister? I would have thought I would have remembered that, wouldn't you? So I did a Google search, and found footage of the incident in question:
That's it? That's your definition of "nearly killed"? I've got a fucking iron that is more deadly.
It took me three seconds to Google this, and one minute fifteen to establish that Hari is talking out of his capacious arse. Did someone tell Johann this when he was down the pub? Really, did he not think, y'know, um, I wonder if that drunk guy last night was making that robot shit up? What's your scoop next week, Johann, a world exclusive with Bigfoot?
Of course this is the most trivial howler imaginable, but it does make you wonder why the hell you should believe a word this man types. No wonder the Independent is dying on its arse when they print tripe like this.