Frankly, when I read about that story first at Yid With Lid's place, I didn't believe in it at first. No offense to YWL intended, but even after reading the fully quoted article, then moving to the original at HuffPost, I was for a few minutes under impression that it is some kind of a practical joke.
The inimitable Mr Hari is describing the Somali pirates as fearless fighters against imperialism, injustice and (hold to your seats) most of all - caretakers of Somali environment! The local version of Greens - the tree huggers, if you will. Hari is using several true facts, such as the collapse of the Somali society, the dumping of nuclear and other poisonous waste near the Somali shores and overfishing by industrial fishing fleets in Somali territorial waters, to prove that pirates are fighting a just and courageous war against those who come to Somali shores with dark designs.
And here I must say that I disagree with YWL diagnosis - Hari is not a raving lunatic. He is playing, quite skillfully, on sensitive cords of the guilt-ridden part of "progressive" readers of HuffPost. A few simple but powerful motives, such as the knee-jerk support for the underdog, the automatic anti-imperialism, the (justified) worry about the environment and ingrained fear of anything "nuclear" - taken together, these will get many a reader's knickers twisted. Especially the ones already conditioned to swallow any kind of HuffPost huff-truths.
And let's not forget our childhood love affair with pirate romantics (never experienced personally, of course, therefore all the more alluring). All in all - a powerful propaganda package.
Unfortunately for Hari himself, he was not impervious to many outraged commentators of this opus and decided to counter them in a postscript:
Some commenters seem bemused by the fact that both toxic dumping and the theft of fish are happening in the same place - wouldn't this make the fish contaminated? In fact, Somalia's coastline is vast, stretching to 3300km. Imagine how easy it would be - without any coastguard or army - to steal fish from Florida and dump nuclear waste on California, and you get the idea. These events are happening in different places - but with the same horrible effect: death for the locals, and stirred-up piracy. There's no contradiction.Yes, definitely, the sea is big, and there are all kinds braving the elements: the ships carrying the toxic waste, the illegal fishing trawlers, the vessels carrying humanitarian assistance to Africa, the innocent traders and whatnot. Somali doesn't have a huge population - only 6 millions, most of them, I believe, are normal people trying to live normal lives in abnormal times. Some of them care about pollution of their shores, some care about overfishing that left Somali fishermen without their livelihood. And some, such as the Somali pirates, whose lifestyle is not exactly up to Robin Hood standards (as this article shows), care only about quick and easy riches.
And if you want to learn something about root causes - NYT gives you quite a few, in a more balanced piece on Somali pirates. But whatever the root causes may have been, the pirates have forgotten them quite some time ago. Which is not a showstopper for Mr Hari, of course.
In short, what can I say: UK is a big country, with normal people trying to lead normal lives. There are thousands of journalists and writers plying their trade, most of them good hardworking folks. Then there are some for whom truth is just a matter of convenience, as long as they could set aside a few selectively chosen facts to weave into a careful web of lies.
And then there are a selected few at the top of the propaganda pyramid. Most of whom are left standing by Johann Hari...
Cross-posted on Yourish.com