C. J. Werleman accused of plagiarism

C. J. Werleman (b. 1973, Wikipedia bio here) is a writer, commentator, and atheist who has lately used the pages of Salon to attack Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and Sam Harris for Islamophobia, misogyny, and other sins. These old privileged white males (Sam has been accused recently of “aging”) apparently don’t understand, as Werleman does, that the perfidies of organizations of ISIS don’t reflect Islam, but culture and Western oppression. Here are three of Werleman’s attack-dog pieces in Salon, just from September:

“Atheists don’t get terrorism: Why Sam Harris fails to understand the Islamic ‘threat'”

“Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and atheist’s ugly Islamophobia”

“What atheists like Bill Maher have in common with medieval Christian Crusaders”

Werleman is the atheist’s Reza Aslan.

Salon, of course, odious clickbaiting venue that it is, positively laps up Werleman’s stuff. But perhaps the lapping is through, for if a blogger called “Godless Spellchecker” is correct, Werleman is guilty of some pretty unethical behavior: blatant plagiarism of other people’s words, something you can fail a course for in college (or, in the case of journalists, lose your reputation).

The Godless Spellchecker website has previously accused Werleman of “dubious ethics, misrepresentation, and unoriginal hackery“, and from what I’ve read of Werleman’s posts, I judge him guilty on all those counts. But the new accusations are far more serious.

The latest post on the site is called “Is C. J. Wereleman a plagiarist?” I believe the Conventional Wisdom of such rhetorical questions used as titles is “No,” but in this case it appears to be “Yes”—given the Godless Spellchecker’s comparison of Werleman’s prose with that of earlier works.

To see the magnitude of the problem, here’s a few excerpts from Godless Spellchecker’s piece, including comparisons of Werleman’s prose with previously published pieces by other people:

. . . The above article mentions Dr. Peter Boghossian (@PeterBoghossian), which subsequently prompted a conversation between us. During our conversation, Dr. Boghossian called attention to some things he’d identified in CJ Werleman’s writing that I hadn’t previously considered, and so I decided to conduct an independent investigation to determine whether or not CJ Werleman is guilty of actual plagiarism. (Parts of Dr. Boghossian’s letter have been reprinted here with his permission.)

I’m not an Investigative Journalist or academic, so knowing how and where to begin was a problem. Then I quickly remembered Google exists. I lifted choice sections from some of the articles Werleman published on prominent platforms such as Salon and Alternet. I paid specific attention to paragraphs containing information that would usually require a certain level of knowledge and diligence on the part of the author. My findings raise some serious questions. I shall provide examples below.

The following examples assume all of the dates and names stated on these articles are accurate:

Take this article from Fareed Zakaria: ‘America’s educational failings’ from The Washington Post dated May 1st 2014 and the following passage:

“The United States had a wide gap between its best performers and worst performers… And it had the widest gap in scores between people with rich, educated parents and poor, undereducated parents.”

And then compare it with this from Werleman’s article published days later at Salon and Alternet:

“The United States has a wide gap between its best performers and its worst performers. And it had the widest gap in scores between people with rich, educated parents and poor, undereducated parents….”

There is no indication that this isn’t Werleman’s original writing or any citation given.

Two other examples:

Take an extract from this article: ‘In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich’ from Nov 2013 By Eduardo Porter:

‘The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.’

Then compare it with this extract from Werleman’s article on Alternet dated June 2014:

Among OECD nations, America remains an outlier, one of the few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children are afforded more funding than those serving poor students. Among the 34 OECD nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students

and this:

There is also this line from Why Men Love War  by William Broyles Jr. in Esquire, November 1984 (also reprinted in May 2014 as part of a retrospective):

“There is a reason for every war and a war for every reason.”

The line is also used in the first paragraph of Werleman’s article: Why Do We Lust for War? On Alternet:

“There is a reason for every war and a war for every reason.”

There is no indication that this isn’t Werleman’s original writing or any citation given.

Although the last one has fewer words, it irks me even more, for it’s an attempt to use a pithy bon mot to start an article.

These aren’t the only examples that look like outright plagiarism: the Godless Spellchecker gives several more. While I haven’t checked the original sources cited in every example given of Werleman’s purported plagiarism, I’ve checked all three of the ones cited above, and Wereleman’s unattributed copying is accurately represented by Godless Spellchecker.

Those three are enough to suggest that Werleman has repeatedly engaged in plagiarism. That doesn’t, of course, mean that all his words are plagiarized, and they surely aren’t, but this level of unattributed copying is enough to get someone fired as a journalist at a reputable venue.

Let’s see if Salon considers itself reputable in this way. If their investigation shows these accusations to be correct, it should take action against Werleman. And we should no longer regard him as a reputable journalist. I never thought of him as a thoughtful journalist, but I didn’t think of him as an unethical one either.

And I’d expect Werleman to issue a statement explaining every single instance of this apparent copying.

praise-cj-230x300

C. J. Werleman

90 Comments

  1. Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Sub

  2. eric
    Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Although the last one has fewer words, it irks me even more, for it’s an attempt to use a pithy bon mot to start an article.

    Unfortunately, it’s also probably the one most likely to be inadvertant. I can see reading something like that and it sticking in ones’ mind word-for-word…only later to forget where it came from. But the first two are too long for it to be inadvertant. If he was unconsciously repeating some content that he had read earlier, there would be more word choice differences in a whole paragraph.

    But that’s a quibble. The fact that one bit of evidence of plaigerism is less strong than the other bits of evidence of plaigerism still leaves us with lots of strong evidence of plaigerism. Here’s hoping Salon acts on the info.

    • eric
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      Ack, it is especially embarrassing that I made an html flop on an article about plaigerism. 🙂 The first sentence is a quote of Jerry’s, the rest is my response.

    • Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      Those are only three examples; Godless Spellchecker gives more, and these are along the lines of the longer cases mentioned above.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      “I can see reading something like that and it sticking in ones’ mind word-for-word…only later to forget where it came from.”

      I don’t know. I recall lots of quotes like that (i.e. details are vague but remember the gist very well), and rarely can remember them word for word. And though I may not remember the source off hand, I do remember that I was not the source! The least he should have been able to do is say that the words weren’t his. But, since he is supposed to be a journalist I would expect him to look it up and properly attribute the quote in a published article.

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        Yeah, if a bon mot came to me like that, I’d almost certainly remember that it wasn’t mine!

      • Michael Johnson
        Posted October 17, 2014 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        Well… I think with some common sayings, even if they trace back to a discernible historical origin, it’s fine or even encouraged to use them unattributed.

        I’ve been working on an article about the history of quotation (don’t ask) and I’ve been reading a fair amount on commonplace marks, which often look exactly like quotation marks, but serve the opposite function. Commonplace marks are put next to pithy sayings (commonplaces, or “sententiae,” wise words) and they suggest you should copy them down and re-use them.

        While the formal practice of marking commonplaces and keeping commonplace books no longer exists, who would source “all’s fair in love and war”? or “what goes around comes around”? or “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”?

        I won’t defend the clear cases of Werleman plagiarism, but in the case where 30 years ago, somebody wrote something short and pithy, I can definitely see repeating without attribution, and even thinking that others would have heard this and recognize it, or that others were welcome to use it, because of its commonplace nature.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          Whereas today people would rather like to copyright rather than copyleft effective wordings…

          • merilee
            Posted October 17, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink

            copylefting would be too sinister

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Sure, but that doesn’t excuse you for plagiarism. It is important to keep detailed notes and question where you heard or read things. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten away with an excuse that I made a mistake as a student – I’d be held to academic dishonesty regardless of the intention.

      For a journalist, it’s just as bad – very unprofessional and sloppy not to cite something and consider it your own work even if unintentional.

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        Yes: He’s supposed to be a journalist, after all. They have a professional responsibility to check things like this at a higher level than your average person. It’s their job.

  3. Sean
    Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    “ISIS don’t reflect Islam, but culture and Western oppression”

    Lots of oppressed people (like the ANC in south africa, the freedom riders in america) fought to build a democratic & secular states, not theocracy’s.

    Just because you are an oppressed people, does not automatically excuse religious genocide!

    • Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Right, but if one wants to really stop these things (in the limit) find out why they happen. And colonialism and smashing societies to pieces (which all the “great powers” are guilty of) *has effects*. So if one doesn’t like the effects, get the great powers to stop their share in the causes.

      • Sean
        Posted October 17, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        So the thought process: America trashed Iraq & ISIS kill’s yazidies, Therefore America is responsible.

        I think it’s more like: Islamist conservatives enjoy killing yazidies, and now they will act out their sick fantasies because they wont suffer any negative repercussions. Yes it’s true that America’s fault is not building up a solid police & judiciary system to incarcerate these psychopaths.

        But to slit an innocent person’s neck, put a bullet into a child…. That take religion to justify.

    • Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Wow, is that a point not made often enough.

    • Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      And Sam Harris points out the gulf that exists between Islam and: Mormonism, Buddhism, etc.

      The people of Tibet have had their country taken from them and their culture systematically obliterated. Are they doing suicide bombings, etc.? No, they have been immolating themselves in public.

      Nearby, in Xinjiang, the (Muslim) Uyghurs are using terrorism.

      Mormons took out ads in national publications in reaction to the Broadway play The Book of Mormon that satirized the religion. Can you imagine a play, The Koran, on similar lines relative to Islam? Of course not.

      These contrasts tell you a lot about what beliefs do to behavior.

      Islam bridges many, many cultures. And it’s bloody almost everywhere it exists with any power. Those are facts. The common thread: Religion, one particular religion.

      And unfortunately, as Sam Harris has also said, we have probably already lost this fight: It’s now widely considered racist to criticize the bad ideas of Islam.

      http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/on-the-freedom-to-offend-an-imaginary-god

      http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/lifting-the-veil-of-islamophobia

  4. GBJames
    Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    sub

  5. Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    LOL. I don’t consider Salon to be a reputable journal but rather a collection of bloggers writing the first thing that comes to mind.

    I stopped paying attention to them a long time ago.

  6. Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    I’ve had considerable experience as a plagiarism detective (and long before Google made it easy). My conclusion is that most often it’s not stolen information but ‘stolen words’ (as Thomas Mallon put it): a less gifted writer thieving from his or her betters.

    • Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      That reminds of something Aaaron Sorkin wrote for an episode of the West Wing:

      “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.”

      • Posted October 18, 2014 at 6:32 am | Permalink

        And I believe Mr. Sorkin got it from T. S. Eliot, who got it. . . .

  7. Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I read about that this morning and CJ has already replied in the comments of that post with a few complete irrelevancies and obviously has no intention of owning up, explaining, or even discussing it.

  8. Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    This sort of thing is diagnostic of a lazy writer desperate for attention.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Or a bad writer. Plagiarism and other forms of taking credit for other people’s work really irks me. I’ve had it happen to me in my professional life (people taking credit for my work) and it is a really shitty feeling to have someone do that to you.

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        I had a boss who frequently took credit for my work too – even built a multi-national reputation on it in one case. Any more I write about this would identify the person so I won’t elucidate.

        I nearly got accused of plagiarism at Uni. One of my essays was taking ages to come back, and I discovered passages had come up when it was put through the checking software. Turned out one of my previous essays was good enough to be added to the program and I was plagiarising myself! I guess my writing hadn’t advanced much in the intervening three years.

        • Posted October 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

          A case of autoplagiarism. You can go blind doing that. 🙂

  9. Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Ever since I found Camille Paglia trolling Salon’s readers with climate denying tripe every bit as ignorant and/or dishonest as the garbage coming from Fox “News”, I’ve had little respect for Joan Walsh’s integrity as an editor. She doesn’t seem particularly bright either, though she may be sensitive to what I consider to be these more technical infractions.

    • Posted October 17, 2014 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Plagiarism is not a ‘technical infraction’ but unethical theft of another’s work. That work, for worse or better, is yours, not the other’s.

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

        You are right. What I should have said is that plagiarism is more easily substantiated by technical means.

  10. Posted October 17, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Stealing ideas is the whole point of discourse. Stealing words is dishonest.

    And lazy. In order to come up with quotes as long as Werleman did means he had to have had the source there in front of him to copy from. And if you’ve got it right there, it’s trivial to add the citation.

    And stupidly self-defeating. Pulling together lots of quotes in your own work makes you seem like a well-researched analyst with a thorough command of the landscape of ideas; it shows that you can take the ideas first put forth by others and go one further. You demonstrate your ability to, as Newton quoted Bernard of Chartres, stand on the shoulders of giants. But leave out the citation, and you not only throw all that away, you invite accusations of plagiarism….

    b&

    • darrelle
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Particularly telling is the slight changes made to integrate the stolen passages with his own article. Leaves little doubt as to intent.

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        Exactly — he wanted to use them, but also was afraid that a quick search would turn up the blatant rip-off and so modified it ever-so-slightly. Or, perhaps, he was incorrectly taught that such trivial modifications make it no longer plagiarism.

        And, again, the solution is so simple: just quote the damn passage already and be done with it! Saves you the effort of rewriting it, even.

        b&

    • Michael Johnson
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      I disagree.

      Obviously you can be convinced by others’ ideas, adopt them, and then subsequently defend them, without doing anything wrong, at least in many cases.

      But there is a real sense of plagiarism where you steal someone’s ideas. It’s where you pass off notably original things as your own concoction. If I sneak a peak at an early draft of Darwin’s work and then go publish in my own words substantially the same ideas with no nod to the big D, that’s unethical, and probably worse than merely stealing verbatim, say, someone’s well-phrased articulation of something everyone believes.

      I’ve failed students for stealing ideas, and most university plagiarism guidelines include stealing ideas as plagiarism.

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        The example you offer is, of course, unethical.

        But, if it’s early 1860 and you’ve just devoured your first-edition copy of On the Origin of Species and it inspires you to write a similar book, even with the same outline, but using examples from Polynesian islands, I think you’d find Darwin cheering you on — again, assuming you don’t commit any of the usual academic sins, especially those of non-attribution.

        b&

        • Michael Johnson
          Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          I guess at the end of the day, it comes down to the meaning of “stealing.”

          You said “stealing ideas is the whole point of discourse.” I don’t want to jump up and down on what was an offhand remark, I just wanted to point out that (a) there is a genuine sense of stealing ideas where (b) doing so is morally wrong.

          In the case you describe, the ideas crucially aren’t stolen, in that the author of the Polynesian book believes that you know Darwin originated the theory (even if it’s not explicitly stated in the book that he did). Would Darwin cheer on a book that borrowed substantially from OoS, but OoS was never published or recognized and the book didn’t cite Darwin? No. Attributing ideas to authors is important, and you’re only allowed not to do it when the audience is assumed capable of making the attribution themselves.

          • Posted October 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

            Yes, we’re on the same page. Steal the ideas, not the thunder.

            b&

    • eric
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      In order to come up with quotes as long as Werleman did means he had to have had the source there in front of him to copy from. And if you’ve got it right there, it’s trivial to add the citation.

      You are right, of course. And this is not to excuse Werleman, but after being a co-author on many many papers, its clear to me that it’s a very common human laziness for authors to put in a quote and a note to fill out the citation later. Then, when later comes, it can be difficult or laborious to find the source. That does not excuse plaigerism. The author still has to go back and get the citation, even if it takes a lot more work doing it at the end then doing it mid-stream.

      I suspect that this happens a lot because the author gets “in a zone” – they start writing very well and fast about a subject – and they don’t want to break their momentum by figuring out whether Chicago style requires them to put a period after the author’s first initial and a colon between the author list and title or not.

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        This is why I got in the habit of trying to write “[…]” (the square bracket, three periods and the close bracket) to indicate I have to fill something in. Then I can use “Find” or whatever in the tool I’m using and fill them all in.

        • Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink

          In programming, one adds a comment that begins with, “TODO.” Some development environments even automatically highlight TODO comments for you or otherwise make it easy and / or obvious to get to them.

          Programming often works like that. You might, for example, need to check that what the user has supplied is valid data — a real date, as opposed to something (like February 30) that just superficially looks like one. But that’s often the least interesting or challenging part of programming, so you might just write a one-line checkInput() routine that doesn’t actually check anything and just reports that all is well, along with a TODO comment that says that you need to add the validation stuff. That lets you get on with the real work without slowing you down with the tedious housekeeping, but also makes it easy to circle back and fill in the blanks.

          b&

          • Posted October 17, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

            Ben, what are these “comments” you speak of in coding?! 🙂

            Most of my classmates hated putting comments in programs (I’ve done little true coding since university, though I did have a few really great coding classes that were fully focused on practical application of computing*.) Without some comments and some formatting of the raw code file, it was a bear to debug.

            Anyways, I took to comments pretty quickly and took that same attitude into engineering notation more widely. I try to always leave good, clear tracks and always tell people 9in a report) what we did and why we did it.

            (* I go pretty far back with computing. The first one I used had a 300-baud (yes, 300, not 300 X anything) modem and those little paper tapes with the round holes punched in them. My first programming class at university used punch cards.)

            • GBJames
              Posted October 17, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

              Ah, those were the days!

              My favorite memory… Computer time was allocated out by the glass-room cops to a professor to be used by students in the class. But no provision was made for how the time was to be divided between students. I rapidly figured out that I could really do well and learn a lot if I immediately jumped on projects, leaving the procrastinators to force the professor to go beg for more time later in the month (or semester? that detail is lost.)

              Boxes and boxes of cards of Fortran code to make the old pen plotter draw things. Our first paper-tape device was only 150-baud. And then we jumped into the future and got an actual VT-100 terminal. Heaven.

              • Posted October 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

                I almost strangled a much-beloved cat when she chewed the rubber band off a stack of several hundred cards and knocked them out of order…

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 17, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

                We had a course on Fortran in engineering school. (I never actually used it, self-taught myself in Basic later). The de-motivating factor was, we’d write a ‘program’ which was then given back to us as a stack of punch cards, which we sent off to the computing centre and got the printout back two days later…

                There was a legend that someone inadvertently wrote a program that managed to crash the computer. The cards were returned without a printout or any comment, so the student just resubmitted them – and crashed the computer AGAIN…

              • Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink

                There was a legend that someone inadvertently wrote a program that managed to crash the computer. The cards were returned without a printout or any comment, so the student just resubmitted them – and crashed the computer AGAIN…

                An early object lesson in the need for the exact type of input validation I wrote about at the top of this tangent….

                b&

      • Kevin
        Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        The inability to find references is really important. Plagiarism is a heartache in science. The worst part about it is summary slides at the beginning of conference level talks…lots of good information and people very infrequently clearly cite the review of research in their field. This is not blatant plagiarism, but its laziness that can lead to frustration.

        Finding scientific references, like in journalism, should be an adventure not a mystery.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      And would it kill him to simply quote a pithy statement. If I see someone write something better than I could or they’ve beat me to the punch at articulating something, I use it and cite it. If people don’t do this and steal, then it’s all about ego and not about communicating something.

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        + a large number. Nicely said. … I’m writin’ this shit down … 🙂

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        Exactly. As Diana MacPherson once wrote, “If I see someone write something better than I could or they’ve beat me to the punch at articulating something, I use it and cite it.” It’s simple courtesy or, if one prefers, the Golden Rule in action.

        And proper citation is not only a matter of fair play. It also builds credibility. Ben Goren explores this point in his seminal Comment #10.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 17, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          😀

  11. Posted October 17, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Jonah Lehrer’s “about” page on his own blog is “about” as interesting.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 2:06 am | Permalink

      The name “Lehrer” reminds me of Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky – “Let no-one else’s work evade your eyes” 🙂

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 18, 2014 at 4:07 am | Permalink

        … and pretty soon
        My name in Petropavlovsk is cursed
        When he finds out – I published first!

        I didn’t even have to look that up 😉

        (I still like his Irish ballad best, that one I know by heart)

  12. Posted October 17, 2014 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Sadly the internet not only makes plagiarism easier it also seems to be making it more acceptable.

    Slavoj Žižek seems to have ridden out similar accusations.

  13. satansparakeet
    Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I was a little more on Werleman’s side until I saw his comments on that article where he tries to defend himself, but does actually does himself no favors. I could see him arguing that these are mostly statements of fact and that while he did reference outside publications he didn’t lift most of them whole cloth. Internet blogs are also not super conducive to including extensive footnotes and references so he may have just omitted them. However, that’s not his rebuttal at all. Instead he’s claiming that these are all either cliches or statements of fact. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be at all accurate.

    • Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      I tried to find the “war” sentence on the internet since he said that it was a cliche, but the only other place I found it was the place that was referenced in the plagiarism post. I don’t think it’s a cliche at all. Werleman has clearly decided that his best defense is an offense. And yes, one can repeate statements of fact, like Gandhi was assassinated, but you don’t do it using the exact same words as someone else did. Werleman’s words were by and large identical to the sources, and I can’t believe he wouldn’t even try to change them rather than lifting them.

      • Dominic
        Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        I know of a student who was dim enough to submit a bit of , er, ‘work’, complete with the original Wikipedia links!

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        Or, again, just slap an “as so-and-so puts it” on one end, if it’s witty, or quote marks and a footnote if it’s dry. Hell, even an, “I regret to admit I forgot where I first heard it, but it’s so fantastic I can’t let it go” can save the day.

        Reminds me of another thing. If you’re citing dry facts, proper quotation is for your own protection as much as anything else. Make the words your own, and you own them. But once you attribute them to their originator, should it turn out that the source got it worng, you can rightfully disclaim any conclusions you based on the source.

        b&

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          I was so scared of getting kicked out of school for academic dishonesty that I kept the most careful notes. I’d actually quote areas out of books in notes with proper references, then as I did my research if I used an idea without a quote, I knew where it came from and I’d include a citation.

          I became so paranoid that when I had original ideas, I was afraid my professors would think I was cheating (they never did) but I think this came from being accused of such in high school because a teacher thought I wasn’t as bright as my research and writing showed me to be. My dad was infuriated! I easily proved myself innocent. I was a serious student and I happen to have talents in research and writing so just accept it damn it – if you want to think of me as stupid, go look at my music and typing marks (LOL they were my lowest marks in high school).

  14. Dominic
    Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Plagiarism is getting worse at universities, & the world wide web is a place that makes it a lot easier. It seems a lot of young people do not get it (copyright & plagiarism), & in a world where so much appears freely available, no one wants to pay for material so copyright is disrespected or ignored. Academics can be guilty of that as well. In students are used to being spoon-fed articles & books chapters rather than having to find material themselves. The web is a mess of obfuscation & misinformation & sometimes that catches people out or reveals them as cheats.

    Newspapers constantly re-write stories often without saying what the sources are, & I confess I use ‘patch writing’ myself sometimes on our library blog, though I am careful to attribute & indicate the source material. It gets harder & harder to be original, so must be tempting for lazy writers to do cheat, but there is no excuse for at least saying ‘I read some where that someone said’ or making some attempt at showing something is not your original idea…

    • Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      The web also has resources for teachers wanting to check, too. Unfortunately these create other problems – a student at McGill a few years back was for a while given a 0 on a paper and (hence) a failing grade in a course because he refused to let the course staff use TurnItIn.com or whatever the anticheating service was.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      For a while I was looking for contract work on Elance — there are so many requests for people to write entrance papers into university (often for med students or PhD candidates) and some of the requests you could see were really just requests for people to write papers.

      It really bothered me as I wondered if people would simply buy their degrees. I hope the exams weed these folks out.

      • merilee
        Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        This having others write papers for you really really upsets me!! Yes, let’s hope the exams separate the wheat from the chaff…I had several students 100% plagiarize their final Grade 12 Data Management papers, complete with typos and sometimes the name of the original writers left on!! The principal would not let me fail them. She said maybe they didn’t realize they were plagiarizing!!!! These were 18-year-olds. One of the reasons I retired a few years earlier than planned. I can feel my bp rising…

        • Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

          Wow! Was that at a private school? Often, it seems, private schools let students get away with a lot — because they need the money.

          • merilee
            Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

            No, a public high school in a middle to upper-middle class neighborhood near Toronto!! Our principal used to brag that some large % of the graduating class had an A average…and that she was all for “student success”, etc. etc., and failing kids for cheating would certainly harsh her mellow…I could not stand it after a while. We were not doing the kids any favors.

            • Posted October 17, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

              Wow, wow, wow! Scary. I can see why you got out.

              • Posted October 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

                I do miss many of the really great kids, but the politics became too much to take.

        • Posted October 17, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

          She said maybe they didn’t realize they were plagiarizing!!!!

          Then what better way to teach them that lesson than by flunking their sorry asses?

          Regardless, seems to me she hasn’t learned the lesson, herself, either. Perhaps the best way for her to learn it would be by getting fired for gross incompetence and encouraging academic dishonesty in her students….

          b&

          • Posted October 17, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

            That would, unfortunately, be way too logical ( both flunking the kids and firing the principal). So much politics involved and the trustees like seeing high grades as it makes them look good. And the parents of these kids who plagiarized their final papers…in both instances their only concern seemed to be Will this affect their chances of getting into university?

            • Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

              Well, the problem will eventually correct itself…the correction just might not happen before the rot becomes obvious at the university level, and will be all that much more painful when it comes….

              b&

              • Posted October 18, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

                Unless the universities do the same thing…

              • Posted October 18, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

                Yeah, but when that happens, companies stop wanting to hire those students. And companies that do hire from them won’t be as competitive. And if it spreads to the whole country, some other country will out-compete ours.

                b&

              • merilee
                Posted October 18, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

                You are most def “preaching to the choir” here…

              • Diane G.
                Posted October 18, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

                Isn’t that process well underway?

              • Posted October 19, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

                Alas, yes. Save for military might — which has proven itself utterly ineffective ever since the Korean War — the US is not and hasn’t been the leader in basically anything for quite some time.

                Ours has been a fairly short-lived empire, all things considered.

                b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted October 19, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

                Camelot–one brief shining moment…

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 17, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          They’ll learn the hard way I hope if they go on with their education. Even poor citations could get you in trouble when I was in school and I’m talking about just not citing according to the rules of citing. There was absolutely no tolerance of plagiarizing. You would be booted right out if you did.

          • Posted October 17, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

            Things, alas, have changed in the last 10 years or so.

  15. @eightyc
    Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    lolz.

    The testimonials of His greatness on his website is pretty frickin’ awesome!

    Apparently, he never loses sight of funny.

  16. Posted October 17, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I tried to get worked up about this, I honestly did, but I quit caring about Werleman or Salon months ago.
    Color me not at all surprised.
    BTW the situation is so much worse in TV news. I spent years working with news producers who couldn’t even be bothered to do basic fact checking, let alone to make sure all their attributions were correct. I had to answer three separate angry phone calls from the former chief of police in West Palm Beach because we misquoted or “misreported” (this is a newsroom euphemism for making crap up) her so often. Chief Bush is not a nice lady with whom to have a telephone conversation if she thinks you’re partially responsible for misrepresenting her.

    • Posted October 17, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      I have had direct, firsthand knowledge of several fairly large national (US) news stories. The media (even NPR I’m sorry to say) got the key particulars wrong — every time.

      This appalled me. And made me permanently extremely skeptical of all media. My wife has a hard time with my hard-core skepticism of the media. TV “news”? Completely worthless.

      Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, and Ed Murrow are spinning in their graves.

      • Posted October 17, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        I worked in the newsroom of WPBF in West Palm Beach for 6 years. There was ZERO journalistic integrity there and we were not alone in that regard.
        There is not a single news director in America that wouldn’t rather be wrong first than right second and if there were, she wouldn’t stay ND for very long.

  17. jeffran
    Posted October 17, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Everyone here is clearly jealous!

    I mean don’t you know that “when it comes to religion CJ Werleman has a monopoly on funny. Unafraid to venture where most are too afraid to laugh.”*

    And how can you not see that CJ is “brutally funny while simultaneously providing keen scholarship, through historical context, and a poignant view of both ancient and modern society”*

    *Quotes from cjwerleman.com (really!).

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Did you source-check those?

  18. Aaron H.
    Posted October 17, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    A little off point, but when it comes time for book promotion the Godless Spellchecker podcast would be a great venue for Jerry. The GS does excellent podcasts.

  19. Posted October 17, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on @Gspellchecker's Blog and commented:
    Jerry Coyne’s Insight

  20. Diane G.
    Posted October 17, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    sub

  21. marvol19
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    In the update to the original post it is now pointed out that, ironically, Werleman seems to have copied from Sam Harris.

    I just like this happening to an odious person writing for the odious Salon. Serves them both right.

  22. W.Benson
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Young unprincipled self-centered white people?


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