It must say something about the state of British journalism that its most notorious practitioner has been revealed as a pedlar of half-truths.
Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent in Britain, has been forced to take a leave of absence because, in his own curious words, he "did two wrong and stupid things".
Mr Hari may not be a household name in the Middle East, but in the inky trade everybody has an opinion on his actions. He is talked about, something that most columnists would regard as a success. Good for him perhaps, but not for his paper.
When The Independent was launched, it was the last word in classy journalism. Those days are long gone.
Mr Hari made his name writing rather long, left-leaning, slightly pompous but well-crafted pieces sympathetic to liberal opinion. I read only one of his articles, when he chose to follow a number of other British journalists by taking a swipe at Dubai.
I think his was among the best effort of all - certainly a lot less shameful than Germaine Greer's feeble attempt from the top of a double-decker bus and less pitiful than the effort of The Times columnist Sathnam Sanghera, known as Satnav, who said Dubai was bad but he didn't want to go there and see just how bad it was. But I have one caveat. I don't know who judges the Orwell Prize, but it was clear to me that Mr Hari's effort was a work of fiction, not a piece of reportage. It was just too good.
The voices of the poor and dispossessed were too eloquent, the rich too stereotypical, but the best touch of all was the woman who had lost everything bar the Range Rover she lived in.
This was brilliant. The Range Rover is the hate wagon of the left, dubbed the Chelsea Tractor, embodying everything lefties loathe: gas-guzzling, powerful, fast and luxurious. To place this woman who played the property game in Dubai and then lost everything but her Range Rover was a juxtaposition so acute it was exquisite.
When I read it, I thought, "That's beautiful, but I don't believe a word of it." In a good paper, somebody other than Mr Hari would have read it and thought the same before it was published. Then he would have gone up to the writer and said: "Hey mate, great stuff. But does this woman actually exist? Do we have Karen Andrews' phone number? Where's her Range Rover parked? Can we have pictures of her?"
This would have revealed Mr Hari's vivid imagination as nothing more than febrile, baked no doubt in the Dubai sun to a frenzy so that rather than reporting what he saw, he wrote what he imagined. This is fine in a work of fiction, but not journalism. You are not called a "reporter" for nothing.
Of course, Mr Hari was not a reporter. He was a columnist, something altogether grander, or more contemptible, depending on your viewpoint.
Columnists are generally loathed by reporters, who loathe most things but especially other journalists who are not forced to work regular hours, doorstep ministers or have to answer calls from the news desk saying things like: "Can you knock out 500 words on the state of the euro? In 20 minutes?"
Most columnists have been reporters, so they know to treat the lower orders with the contempt they deserve. But Mr Hari somehow missed out on this part of the apprenticeship. By his own admission, he leapt straight from university to a column, straight from a starred double first to a star on the paper.
The most damning dismissal of his activity appeared in the Bagehot blog of The Economist, which carefully and cleverly dissected his half-baked apology "something about the weasel wording of Mr Hari's apology today sticks in the craw.
"Read it quickly, and it sounds terrifically contrite. Read it carefully, and Mr Hari is actually blaming his interviewees for their lack of verbal polish," says Bagehot. Ouch.
But Bagehot is right. What Mr Hari was up to is like playing a round of golf and giving yourself a four at a troublesome hole because you have parred it in the past, rather than writing down the seven that you took this time around. Interviewing is like sex: not always satisfactory, but you cannot fake it or change it afterwards.
Stephen Fry has leapt to his defence. That's probably all Mr Hari needs. Doubtless Nick Leeson and Jerome Kerviel will also swoon to support Kweku Adoboli, the alleged UBS rogue trader.
Mr Hari is right in one thing: in the mantra of the Left, society did fail him.
Promote schoolboys and you get articles fit only for a student newspaper. What he needed was some good hacks to give him a decent kicking on a regular basis, teaching him the basics, but they have all been sacked by bean counters, their knowledge wasted.
Mr Hari has vowed to take a leave of absence, learn some rules and etiquette, put footnotes online of every interview (yawn) and come back, refreshed, to criticise people again to "reduce the amount of wrongdoing in the world".
Pass the sickbag: "All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand dunes or the airport or in their cars."
Yes, Johann, very good. (Rustling sound as copy is scrunched up and thrown into the bin). Two teas, no sugar. And get me a tuna sandwich and a packet of Marlboros while you're at it. And a KitKat.