Beyond belief: The Werleman mess is worse than you can imagine

The Werleman Mess, involving an atheist journalist’s repeated plagiarism in pieces in both Salon and Alternet, seems to have reached its conclusion. I’ll  briefly give the upshot, as I’m soon off to walk around Plovdiv.

The Werleman story is not pretty. I think the following is an accurate summary; if there are errors or corrections, please put them in the comments and I’ll deal with them later.

1. On the website Godless Spellchecker, its author detailed about half a dozen instances in which Werleman copied phrases directly from other sources without attribution. This is plagiarism, pure and simple. Many people seem to have thought that plagiarism involves the theft of ideas, not words. It can be both. Facts and ideas, if not your own (or in common currency) should always be referenced. But you don’t need to reference a widely known fact like “Paris is the capital of France.” When you use someone’s words without attribution, however, it is always plagiarism.

2. The number of instances of Werleman’s plagiarism expanded when Michael Luciano, at the Daily Banter, listed fourteen cases in total. These are not merely coincidental usages of words, but must reflect deliberate copying.

3. Werleman first tried to minimize the theft, imputing it to failures in putting quotation marks around one quote and to a few editing mistakes, but the magnitude of the theft belied that. I predicted that eventually Werleman would have to apologize, and eventually he did, on his Facebook page.

4. Werleman’s apology was here, but seems to have mysteriously disappeared overnight, and I can’t find it anywhere. You can find a summary of it, however, in another post by Godless Spellchecker called “C. J. Werleman releases plagiarism nonpology.” It is a “nonpology” in the sense that while Werleman admits that he did commit plagiarism, he minimizes its importance by showing how many pieces he published, which, he thinks, dwarfs the fourteen known instances of plagiarism. That is a ridiculous defense, I think, for even a couple of instances of word theft are serious, impugning a journalist’s ethics. Certainly the evidence to date would have resulted in a journalist at a reputable venue, like the New York Times, being fired.

UPDATE: Werleman has written a newer apology that, as a reader notes below, is here. I won’t comment on the latest version; you can make of it what you will

5. Werleman also blamed his being hounded for plagiarism on Sam Harris and his followers, who dislike Werleman because he’s repeatedly gone after Harris. Harris, though, had nothing to do with Werleman being “outed.”

6. Bizarrely, Werleman then accused Harris of having also engaged in plagiarism.  As Harris explained in a post, that accusation was untrue: the “words” Harris lifted from somebody else had actually been written by Harris himself in a piece that appeared two years before the piece from which he supposedly plagiarized.

7. In what is surely the weirdest part of this incident, it appears that Werleman engaged in three instances of sockpuppeting to support himself, using a Twi**er handle “@Women4Atheism,” a later version of an earlier feed called “@ShitMyJesusSays”. Neither of these had anything to do with woman and atheism. Further, Werleman appears to be the creator of a website called “Critical Cranson” (subtitled “One New York girl’s musings”), which was where he/she/it accused Harris of plagiarism. “Critical Cranson” was created on October 20, and has only one post: the incorrect accusation that Sam Harris was guilty of plagiarism. There have been no posts since.

All of this sockpuppeting is described and supported with evidence by a site called “SomewhatMoreCriticalCranson.” It’s fascinating to see the evidence of sockpuppeting accumulating, and the website’s author appears to have done a fair amount of research. It’s the visible record of Werleman’s unravelling.

8. Werleman begins melting down on Twi**er.  My theory is that, caught dead to rights, he simply can’t accept his public humiliation, and so lashes out at others in a vain attempt to exculpate himself. Here’s one example:

Screenshot_2014-10-21-16-42-46

“Hyper anti-theistic”? Werleman is an atheist, too, and has published stuff that would be seen as “strident” atheism. And what “death cult” is he talking about? If there’s any death cult, it’s jihadist Islam, not Sam Harris’s ideas.

9. But the most important issue is how Werleman’s two venues, Alternet and Salon, handled his plagiarism. Alternet did the right thing and simply removed all of Werleman’s pieces with an explanation:

Screen shot 2014-10-23 at 9.26.45 AM

Salon, however, was completely lame, and simply said this:

Screen shot 2014-10-23 at 9.28.57 AM

I find this absoutely unbelievable. First, what Werleman did (by his own admission!) was plagiarism, not “improper sourcing.” Second, Salon did not remove the plagiarized articles but simply added hyperlinks to the sources of the plagiarized material. They apparently don’t even indicate on the four stories that parts of them were plagiarized. Finally, besides leaving the stories in, they leave all of Werleman’s stories in. In other words, he receives no sanction, and Salon buries the fact that it published plagiarized material—possibly because they don’t want to look bad for having done that.

Salon’s behavior is execrable, but that’s to be expected from an online source that has gone increasingly downhill to the point where it’s basically click-bait: an online tabloid. They clearly adhere to no journalistic standards, and have no sense of propriety.

As for Werleman, it’s sad that somebody with promise could stoop so low, and even sadder that he doesn’t seem to realize the gravity of what he’s done, which is to discredit himself as a journalist. Although he issued an apology, which to me is unconvincing, he continues to rage on Twi**er.  And, except for the possible Alternet ban, his career at Salon (if you call that a career) appears set to continue.

Finally, Sam Harris said on his terse post about the issue (“Just the facts: A response to a charge of plagiarism“), “This will be the last thing I ever write about C.J. Werleman.”

That goes for me, too.

 

103 Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know about the sockpuppeting part! Oh that is just so embarrassing. I feel embarrassed for him. The going after Sam Harris part was bad enough.

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      Indeed. This guy obviously never learned the first rule about holes.

      To me, the weirdest thing about all this, or any case of plagiarism, is that it happens at all. Perhaps I’m weird, but I don’t see what’s tempting about stealing other peoples’ ideas or the words with which those ideas are expressed. I wouldn’t feel like I’d achieved anything.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        Yes, I wonder the same – I’d feel like a big ol’ fraud. I see it often enough where people steal others’ ideas and take credit for them in the corporate world. Often they do so in such a cunning way that you don’t even notice until it’s too late.

      • eric
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:24 am | Permalink

        Its very easy to be sloppy. And if nobody catces or corrects you the first six times, I’m guessing times seven through thirteen become even easier, with less guilt involved.

        • GBJames
          Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

          I think sloppiness/laziness is where it starts. Then when you add in a dose of defensiveness you find yourself in a different place… one where you think some sock puppets might just help you.

        • Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

          I can certainly understand forgetting to cite a source for a particular fact claim. I don’t know that I’d classify that as legitimate plagiarism.

          But lifting someone else’s witty observation, with which you begin your article?

          I can understand theft of money or material goods. After stealing them you have them to use, which is their point.

          But it seems to me that at least part of the point of trying to produce worthwhile ideas is that you think you are capable of doing so. So it doesn’t make sense to me to steal someone else’s idea and then pat yourself on the back, satisfied with your “insight”.

          • eric
            Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

            The “sloppiness” I’m talking about would be lifting someone’s words with every intention of citing them, then never getting around to doing it. The first time that happens, you probably feel shame, guilt, and stress about whether it’s something you should issue a revision or note about. After you’ve done it a couple times, I can imagine a person getting quite blase about doing it more. I’m not condoning, just thinking about how someone starting off decent might find themselves going down this wrong path.

          • Larry Cook
            Posted October 23, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

            I think the plagiarist is trying to get his readers’ pats on his back, not his own. Stealing another writer’s words and ideas is clearly a sign of a lack of self esteem. A writer who feels good about himself wouldn’t pat himself on the back for anything but his own work.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        Also, I think there is a real lack of understanding that it takes really hard work to achieve what someone like Sam Harris achieves. It strikes me that Werleman wants the notoriety and he has the potential for good works, but he doesn’t want to do the hard work or at least, he doesn’t understand that smart, talented people still have to work hard.

      • Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        One notion about the ‘stealing words’ part. While the psychology of plagiary is murky at best, I’ve long thought that adapting a previous writer’s words is the plagiarist’s means of ‘killing the father,’ as well as an admission of envy for a better writer’s achievement.

      • Sean
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        I have to say that I have tried a bit of writing, and so much of what comes out is pretty much stuff I have read elsewhere. (obviously not exact copies). So I don’t put it on a blog or try pass it off as mine, because they are not original ideas.

        But this guy appears to be CtrlC&V type plagiarism. Outright intellectual theft.

        And then to act like a 6 year old: “The other kids are doing it to” ??

        Creating fake websites and twitter handles. that is pretty looney if true.

      • Starr
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        When I was in school, I was tempted to plagiarize sometimes. In my case the temptation came from not being a very good writer. I would research a topic, and go to write a report on it. However when trying to put it in my own words it felt stilted. Some source author had said what I wanted to say perfectly, but a paper can’t just be a series of quotes.

        In the end I didn’t ever do it, getting through my humanities requirements with solid Cs.

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      The sockpuppeting article is very entertaining, once one realises it was written by Werleman himself. Here are some highlights:

      “Full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of both gentlemen.”

      !

      “Werleman doesn’t need me to defend him.”

      !

      “… I can only conclude it’s because the new atheist movement is indeed afraid of Werleman.”

      !

      ” a high-profile atheist author who wishes to maintain his anonymity for now said to me, “Harris is afraid of Werleman …””.

      Now, let’s take a guess at the identity of this “high-profile atheist author” who thinks that Harris is afraid of Werleman.

      • eric
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        That last one would be Werelman acting as three different people at once! A sock pupped citing a sock-puppet. 🙂

  2. GBJames
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    sub

  3. Inga
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    There seems to be a new and improved apology …

    • Inga
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      Dang, forgot that links don’t …
      Anyway, he posted another apology on facebook.

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      I’ve put a link to the new Facebook apology in the main post above. Thanks for calling this to my attention.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      That is a much better apology. But given all the other things he has done I have doubts that it is indicative of any significant change, or particularly sincere. Perhaps it is. I hope so.

      The sockpuppetry reflects very poorly on him though. Both on his ethics and his relationship with reality. It is amazing to me that he seems to have thought it likely that his sockpuppetry would not be uncovered. That is not very bright.

      • Scientifik
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        I wonder whether Werleman will have enough courage to admit to sockpuppeting, and apologize for that too… Either way, he’s finished.

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      He seems to be anticipating more plagiarism by offering to make a charitable donation should he somehow copy someone else’s work again!

      • Posted October 23, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        Wow. That’s a different way of looking at giving to charity: as punishment.

    • Lizzie
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      And absolutely nowhere does he apologise to the people he stole from or libelled. He instead apologises to his supporters while refusing to acknowledge the extent and nature of his plagiarism.

      I posted this on his facebook “apology”, and he immediately deleted it and banned me:

      “Acknowledgment of the nature + extent of your plagiarism aside.. apologising to your supporters is one thing – where’s the apology to those you plagiarized, where’s the apology to Sam Harris for falsely accusing him of plagiarism of Steyn?”

      Sorry for being a broken record now… He refuses to apologise to those he plagiarized and libelled, he refuses to take any responsibility for the nature of his plagiarism or his libel – he has learned absolutely nothing.

      • Sean
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        Not to mention he hops on Harris in the 2nd paragraph!

        Dripping with inferiority complex…

  4. Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Lots of “Werelerman” and “Werleman” in your post, could you clean that up? As I said on twitter, it sounds hilarious but it detracts from the otherwise serious tone of the post…

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      It’s already fixed, as someone else pointed it out, and more politely than you do. Really, “could you clean that up”? You do know that one is supposed to be polite on this site.

  5. Daniel
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Werleman has issued a second apology here:

    To my mind, this isn’t a lot better than the first one. Still no apology to the writers he plagiarised, or to Salon and Alternet. And he still tries to minimize the offences, referring to them as “the half dozen or so examples”.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      Yes, it’s marginally better. Oh well, maybe his psyche can’t handle much more. He needs to work on that and sadly, this is not a nice way to learn that you aren’t actually all that humble because you have a rather fragile ego.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      No mention of sockpuppeting.

      • Lizzie
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        Also deleted + banned all mentions of the extent of plagiarism; his libel of Harris; and requests to apologise to those he plagiarized/libelled

    • Jasper Ellis
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      He also deceptively deleted any comment that was not positive and supportive. You’ll notice if you go through the replies, they are all gleaming with support even though he never addressed anything close to the full extent of his behavior; clearly these people are not aware of his appalling behavior, and he intended to keep it that way by silencing dissent in a forum where he held such power.

      • Susan
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        Has anyone checked for more sock puppets among his glowing Facebook fans?

  6. Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    I wonder if anyone thought to check his nonpology, just to make sure it wasn’t plagiarized.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      I thought the same but then felt bad thinking it. Damn empathy!

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      lol

      You know what? If he had included some plagiarism in his apology, I might almost be tempted to issue a “well-played, sir”, in a “holy crap” sort of way. Almost.

  7. Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    “Werleman is an atheist, too”

    I’m not sure. I don’t think at this point he’s anything other than a horse’s ass.

  8. Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Are we actually sure CJ Werleman exists?

  9. NewEnglandBob
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know where CJ Werleman’s Pétard is?

    “Pétard comes from the Middle French péter, to break wind, from pet expulsion of intestinal gas, from the Latin peditus, past participle of pedere, to break wind, akin to the Greek bdein, to break wind (Merriam-Webster). Pétard is a modern French word, meaning a firecracker (it is the basis for the word for firecracker in several other European languages).”

  10. eric
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    while Werleman admits that he did commit plagiarism, he minimizes its importance by showing how many pieces he published

    Ah. So, the “I’ve bought a whole lot of things, so I shouldn’t be found guilty of being a thief for stealing a mere 13 times” defense. Yeah I’m sure that’ll fly.

    I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of removing the articles altogether, just because I don’t like the idea of information being expunged. What if some researcher wants to do an article on plaigerism in web journalism, and wants to use Werleman as an example? Or in some later discussion someone wants to cite and show what he did? It gets easier for him or a defender of his to say “nuh uh, he didn’t do that” if his articles have disappeared completely. Hmmm…I guess that if someone wants to see his stuff for research or historical purposes, there are plenty of wayback sites that let you browse earlier vesions of the internet. Salon and alternet don’t have to keep live, linkable copies. Still, I can see some reason for them to do so. Maybe behind a “gateway” page that tells the reader ‘Werleman is a plaigerist and should not be credited with any of the ideas or wording in any of the articles contained beyond this gateway page.’

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      I like the gateway page idea. It could include all known instances of plagiarism in the articles, and updated as more are found too.

      These days in particular, there’s no excuse I can think of for plagiarism – it’s so easy to store notes electronically, especially with a program like OneNote.

      I remember writing an essay in pre-PC days. I knew some words I was using weren’t mine, but I remembered the book they came from, which I no longer had access to. I put as much as I could remember in the notes with an explanation, which my professor accepted and didn’t mark me down for. As others have said above, there’s no sense of achievement if you haven’t done it yourself.

      Good writing is hard work. It’s only right to acknowledge when it’s someone else who’s put in the hard yards. (I hope using the phrase ‘hard yards’ doesn’t count as plagiarism, or I’ve just become a hypocrite as well as a repeat offender plagiarist! :-))

      • eric
        Posted October 24, 2014 at 5:28 am | Permalink

        there’s no excuse I can think of for plagiarism – it’s so easy to store notes electronically, especially with a program like OneNote.

        Every program has a learning curve. Stopping to enter in a proper citation slows down writing.

        Agreed, nobody should plaigerize. But I get somewhat tired of the argument that good referencing is effortless. It isn’t. And that argument actually does damage to the cause of good writing because if it’s effortless, we don’t need to teach it, do we? People can just do it.

        Well, no. IMO that’s a completely wrong way to think about it. We do need to teach it because it’s not effortless and not obvious (at least not to beginners). We need to train young writers and researchers that this step which they see as onerous and pointless is actually very important, and not too onerous once you get the hang of it. If we treat this as something everyone should ‘just know,’ a lot of people are going to not know how to do it and not bother doing it. At least, that’s my opinion.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      “I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of removing the articles altogether…”

      So agree! The only one who benefits from the articles being removed is Werleman. They really need to remain posted (with disclaimers), as evidence of the plagiarism if nothing else. Sounds as if AlterNet is trying to sweep this under the rug.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 24, 2014 at 5:12 am | Permalink

        Disagree. AlterNet is taking editorial responsibility in the same way that a medical journal does when something they publish turns out to have been fraudulent. Editorial responsibility is an important social good.

        • eric
          Posted October 24, 2014 at 5:36 am | Permalink

          As a young scientist I was taught that if you make a mistake in your lab book, you line it out. You don’t erase it or use a black marker to cover it because if some issue with your experiment ever comes up and people are trying to figure out what happened, it will be important for people to review your mistakes as well as your successes.

          I think the same principle would apply here. IMO its important that Salon and Alternet not expunge their mistakes. They clearly need to indicate these articles as mistakes, but I think the best long-term strategy is to do something analogous to line-out rather than something analogous to erasure.

          Think of it this way: as a reader, you want to know how credible Alternet is. Can you trust them? Well, if you can look and see that 75% of their articles eventually get “lined out,” then they have a credibility issue. If you can look and see that 1% of their articles eventually get “lined out,” you have a decent reason to trust them. But if you have no information about the number of author vetting and publishing mistakes they make, because you insist they expunge any mistakes from their site, how does that help you?

          • GBJames
            Posted October 24, 2014 at 5:48 am | Permalink

            Yes, you line it out. And, as you say… you made a mistake in a notebook.

            When a journal pushes fraudulent articles, say… the fraudulent autism material by Andrew Wakefield, withdrawing the article is understood to be the responsible. It is one of a journal’s tools for maintaining a degree of respectability.

  11. Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Very few plagiarists take full responsibility for their thefts (and only take any responsibility whatsoever when found out). Nor does society typically punish plagiarists for their crimes against scholarship and journalism. One recalls the Doris Kearns Goodwin example. When the author of a monograph from which Goodwin stole mightily threatened to reveal the plundering, Goodwin paid her hush-money (perhaps in the low six figures) to keep the matter private, and Kearns’ career went on merrily. Excelsior! But eventually, the victim got angry about it and went public. Kearns’ reputation took a hit but hardly a mortal one, as we can see from her high public profile today.

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      NO! …not Doris. Say it isn’t so. (another hero of mine takes a splap to the face)

  12. Grania Spingies
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I wasn’t aware we had a Death Cult of New Atheists. It would be more offensive if it didn’t seem like the sign of a man unraveling at the seams.

    The dude’s just plain weird. Who in this century signs off on anything with “Yours ever so humbly”?

    Uriah Heep, much?

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      . Who in this century signs off on anything with “Yours ever so humbly”?

      The Pope. But his words are meaningless.

    • Juggler_Dave
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      We do have a “Death Cult of New Atheists” – it’s my heavy metal band. We’re not doing too well, though.

    • Kathy
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      “Uriah Heep” is spot on!

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      I think (assumption on my part) he’s referring to those who support military action against DAESH (ISIL). I’m one of them, although I’m mostly a pacifist, so it’s a bit weird to know there are people who see me like that. But I genuinely don’t care what he thinks about my position anyway.

  13. Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Plagiarisms bad, the not-pology was par for the course in a certain strand of atheism these days, the sock-puppetry was pathetic and the smears against Harris seem to be a desperate attempt to muster FTB support.

    I hope he’s good at tossing burgers, his journalism career is over.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      There will likely always be a place for him over at Salon.

      • Doug
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        He’ll find Jesus and become a right-wing writer.

  14. DrDroid
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    The whole affair is amazing to me. I come away with the conclusion that Werleman is nothing but an unethical attention-seeker who thought Sam was an easy target and he could get lots of clicks and fame by bad-mouthing him. He deserves the ruined state of his “career”.

  15. jeffran
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    “Further, Werleman appears to be the creator of a website called “Critical Cranson”…”

    Stephanie “Critical” Cranson is on Twi**er as well, and seems another likely sock puppet for Mr. Werlemen.

    https://twitter.com/crticalcranson

  16. Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    “Werleman begins melting down on Twi**er. My theory is that, caught dead to rights, he simply can’t accept his public humiliation, ”

    I actually feel sorry for the guy. I think that anyone who engages in bad behavior for a long time have worked out a way to convince themselves that what they’re doing is right or justified in some way.

    Werleman’s defense of his behavior is pretty normal in these situations, and the fact that this discussion is happening in the public sphere probably exacerbates his defensiveness. Even worse, the easy means of communicating his rationalizations to the world probably acts to reinforce his self-deception.

    I’m blushing on his behalf.

  17. Diane G.
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    sub

  18. Gary
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Werleman is the perfect example of what this bizarre leftist political correctness does to people. It convinces people that they’re actually decent and moral people. Which, they may or may not be. But it does nothing to actually address genuine morality. Everything becomes a kind of public face that you can use to better your position, or ruin someone else’s. It’s tribal signalling, nothing more. We need to get back to judging people by what they do instead of whether their opinions conform to the moral fashion of the day.

    • DrDroid
      Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Agree. The smear campaign against Sam Harris reminds me very much of election campaign ads in the US: distortions, outright lies, misrepresentations, anything goes. The idea is to throw as much mud as you can at your opponent and hope that some of it sticks. And, sadly, that’s all some people need to discredit a candidate in their minds. I doubt that many people have actually read what Sam has written, preferring instead to get second-hand misrepresentations from others. And most distressing to me is the realization that there are people who very well know what Sam is saying (and NOT saying) yet they continue to misrepresent him with out-of-context Twitter quotes.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

        Yes, the, what is most likely deliberate, misrepresentation of Sam Harris throughout social media is disappointing. It’s as though these people want a piece of the “I brought down Sam Harris” pie because, in their minds, it somehow legitimizes their abilities. It’s like a cheater’s way to become well known and respected – sadly, some of these people are already well known and do well in their fields (cough, Glenn Greenwald, cough) and behaving this way just makes them look childish, petty and ultimately unprofessional.

        • DrDroid
          Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

          It’s one thing to disagree with someone’s ideas, it’s another thing to know very well what their ideas are and then deliberately misrepresent them in order to cater to your howling mob of supporters. I certainly don’t agree with everything Sam has written (e.g., airport profiling and gun control) but he always has good points to make that are worth thinking about. Actually I shouldn’t say I don’t “agree” with him on some of these issues; my take is sometimes the Scottish verdict “not proven”. I hear the arguments on both sides and none of them make a lasting slam-dunk impression on me. I think this is because the issues involved are very complex, very political, and just don’t have easy answers.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

            Indeed. These attacks are not along the lines of disagreement with ideas but at worst, attacks on the person and at best, refusing to acknowledge or even listen to the argument they wish to refute.

            • Posted October 23, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

              And I need to point out here that Diana herself has written a great article on the Sam Harris attacks over on the Canadian Atheist website.

              • Posted October 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

                Thanks , Heather!

              • John Taylor
                Posted October 24, 2014 at 3:58 am | Permalink

                How about a link?

              • Posted October 25, 2014 at 3:53 am | Permalink

                I googled “candian atheist website”, found atheistalliance.org that google warns “may be hacked”. Is that the site you’re talking about? What is Diana’s full name?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 25, 2014 at 6:29 am | Permalink

                Since you asked, I’ll put the link here but I always feel a bit bad doing so because I don’t want to promote myself…I think this ads to the conversation though.

                Heather is referring to this article I wrote.

                My take is really just that Greenwald doesn’t check his sources because he seems so desperate to slam Sam Harris. His repeating of incorrect facts are especially bad because he is a journalist and should (and probably does) know better but worse, people listen to him because he is highly regarded and has done good work in the past (Edward Snowden).

                If you click on my name at the top of the article, you can see other things I have written on the site (there are several authors).

            • Posted October 25, 2014 at 4:26 am | Permalink

              Duh. I figured out that Diana is MacPherson. How embarrassing :-/ Anyway, getting “may be hacked” all over the internets for Sam Harris supportive content!!

        • jeffran
          Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

          Here’s Sam Harris speaking with Cenk Uygar last night about misrepresentation and other issues.

          youtube.com/watch?v=WVl3BJoEoAU

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 23, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

            Thanks – this looks to be an interesting conversation. I started watching but will have to continue later. I can see from the first 15 minutes that I have watched is that the interviewer seems not to understand that there is a difference between disagreeing with an idea and arguing against that idea and creating strawmen, attacking the strawman. Sam’s point that giving Werleman the forum to libel him is more than a “disagreement” but a strawman that, well, libels Sam because it stands on its own. Many people would sue people for this behaviour.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted October 23, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

              Apologies for that terrible writing…I was distracted. Hopefully you get the gist of what I was saying.

              • jeffran
                Posted October 23, 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

                No worries, I was following and agree with you. I’m just an hour into this 3 hour interview (!) and Sam is – fortunately – allowed to speak at length.

                It’s good to see an interview of this length and depth.

            • Posted October 23, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

              I made it an hour and a half before I switched it off in exasperation. I didn’t know Cenk was such meathead.

              • Posted October 24, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

                Yes, he seems unnecessarily combative. In the end, Sam gets his say. I think Cenk makes some good points or at least asks some good, strong questions. I do recommend listening to the entire vid. I though it was worthwhile.

                It does provide a nice contrast and they have the time and attitude to spell out clearly where they agree and disagree.

                I didn’t like Cenk’s insistence on that it was OK for Aslan and Werleman to come on his show and talk garbage such as misrepresenting Sam’s views. And his first instinct seems to be, yeah, their right! And then as Sam unpacks things, he eventually comes around to: Oh, I do disagree with A and W and mostly agree with Sam. Which is kind of lame in my book.

                Alsan is a weasel. I’ll bet he never responds publicly to Sam’s challenge at the end of this (updated) blog post: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/on-the-mechanics-of-defamation

              • Posted October 25, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

                Yeah, a meat-head, I agree or perhaps just not used to rigorous inquiry. He didn’t get, for instance, that the more specifics you put on a possibility, the less likely it is to happen, i.e. Jesus coming back someday, Jesus coming back someday to Missouri(or wherever), Jesus coming back to Missouri wearing a green shirt, Jesus coming back to Missouri wearing a green shirt on a Sunday at 3 p.m., Jesus coming back to Missouri wearing a green shirt at 3 p.m. on a Sunday to sell hotdogs, Jesus coming back to Missouri wearing a green shirt at 3 p.m. on a Sunday to sell hotdogs at a Kansas City Royals game, etc. Each time you add a specific, the chances of it occurring diminish. Cenk might have gotten this if it hadn’t been about Jesus but about some missing person named John. He couldn’t see it as a formal argument. He got stuck on the semantic content — Jesus — and missed or dissed and dismissed the point as academic pissantry. “That’s like the difference between 2 + 2 = 5 and 2 + 2 = 6,” he said at 18:10. “Neither one is true so what difference does it make?” Both wrong or all wrong “Christianity is wrong, Judaism is wrong, Islam is wrong. Right? I agree with you.” (12:00) So Sam’s attempt to demonstrate through the absurdity of Mormon doctrine that it is possible to say objectively true things about differences among religions (19:30) represents a violation of the principle of all equal and the same bad very bad (despite Cenk’s inklings at 16:26 that differential value judgments can be made), an unfair singling out of one among the guilty, that can only be motivated by bigotry. Right?

              • Posted October 25, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

                Yep. Cenk just kept digging in his heels, maintaining the most blinkered interpretations, talking over his guest, and being a …meathead.

                I disagree with the above poster that Cenk made ANY good substantive points, or even raised any good questions. It was more like he was playing a part, like Affleck, told to be a tough guy for the interview — to give no quarter, etc. What a stupid fucking waste of time. (except for the fact that Sam got to go on record on that show to refute the most egregious bullshit – it was nothing but repeats of things he’d said all along in his books, which I doubt Cenk ever read).

            • GBJames
              Posted October 25, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

              I made it through the whole thing, although it was difficult to watch someone (Cenk) work so hard to miss the point.

              His entire perspective seems to be driven by fear of what might happen if we “start down a path”. He’s afraid of the real-world bigotry of right wing religious extremists. It makes it impossible for him to acknowledge that the differences between religious ideologies has real-world consequences. He’d have no difficulty acknowledging that the differences between political ideologies have consequences.

          • DrDroid
            Posted October 25, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

            There were too many instances where Cenk said he disagreed or only partially agreed with Sam but never really explained why, in contrast to Sam’s careful attempts to explain his reasoning.

            Cenk was born in Turkey and moved to the US at age 8 so he is likely a “cultural” Muslim at least, and this may explain his fear of potential violence toward Muslims. His fear seemed to override his ability to look honestly at facts in parts of the world where Islam is the dominant religion.

            Cenk was a Republican at one point and has become a (Greenwald?) liberal now, but his changing political views leave me to believe/hope that further changes may come. I think his interview with Sam was his first extended encounter with someone who isn’t a dogmatic PC liberal, and I think it could have an effect on his views in the long run. All in all it was a good, if long and tedious, airing of conflicting views IMO. Most importantly Sam actually got to speak.

            One thing I wish Cenk would pause to consider: Here were two atheists thoroughly trashing the world’s religions in a recorded session in a studio in the USA. What does he imagine would happen if that interview took place in Pakistan, for example? To me the answer to that question totally destroys any attempt to whitewash Islam.

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      ” It convinces people that they’re actually decent and moral people.”

      No. This is a human thing, not a leftist thing. Pretty much every human that does something terrible thinks that he’s a decent and moral person.

    • TJR
      Posted October 24, 2014 at 3:00 am | Permalink

      “I used to think it was our politics, not how we treat people, that makes us who we are. I was wrong”

      In keeping with the topic I should have said that as though it were my own, but its a lyric from a Hefner song, although I can’t remember which one and I’ve probably misquoted a bit.

  19. J Smith
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    He joins the company of Alan Dershowitz and many others as a known serial plagiarist. I love the attempt to suggest that everybody does it, even Sam Harris. Laughable.

    • Posted October 24, 2014 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Yeah, Johnny stole some candy too!

  20. Kathy
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Plagiarism is a plague. Even great names like Jane Goodall and Doris Kearns. Academics occasionally get exposed, as do novelists and journalists.

  21. Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    “Unwritten code”? How about the written code found in journalistic ethics texts, student guides, etc.?

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted October 25, 2014 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      You don’t expect him to have read that stuff, do you? Anyway, he’d seen phrases very similar to “I had breached the unwritten code between writer and reader” somewhere or other, and couldn’t resist using it.

  22. Angela Coy
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I came in late to this issue and was a little confused as to what exactly happened. You definitely cleared it up for me. Much appreciation!

  23. jbrisby
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    When are we going to stop hounding Werleman out of atheism? Don’t you see we’re just contributing to the impression that atheism has a werleman-problem?

    • Posted October 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      No. We are calling someone out who is being dishonest and distorting the views of some one most of us respect.

      People who lie and distort need to be exposed for the good of all (including themselves).

      I think Diana M.’s second reply to Comment 18 summarizes it well.

      • switchnode
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        I believe jbrisby is punning. Rather strenuously.

        (I admit, I laughed.)

  24. Posted October 23, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Does all of this pre-date Spellchecker’s Twi**er account being (twice) shut down?

    Someone’s certainly got it in for him. Granted he has a sharp sense of humour and readily puts wrong ideas to rights but he’s not rude or aggressive. The second shutting-down of his account (in the space of 24 hours)is starting to look like a vendetta.

    Was someone creating Twi**er a/cs to give the impression GS had pissed off more than one user. I may be casting a suspicious eye in the wrong direction but can’t help wondering …

  25. Posted October 24, 2014 at 2:54 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure that removing the stories would be particularly helpful. They should probably not work with him in the future and definitely attach a note explaining what happened as well as linking to the original material. If they remove it however, it will remove original and valuable content, as well as creating holes where his work was cited by others. It seems to me that removing all his work completely would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 24, 2014 at 5:17 am | Permalink

      If a publication takes editorial responsibility for things that they publish then they will withdraw articles when they are shown to be fraudulent. AlterNet has done this. It shows that they take their role as publisher seriously, at least in this situation.

      • Posted October 24, 2014 at 5:21 am | Permalink

        But why remove what can be corrected? The problem was that the work contained certain sections that were plagiarised, not that the content was made up or factually incorrect. Surely taking responsibility should rather involve fixing mistakes that can be fixed rather than trying to make them disappear?

        • GBJames
          Posted October 24, 2014 at 5:33 am | Permalink

          In a case where plagiarism has been shown to be as ubiquitous as it is in this fellow’s work, a wise (in my view) will withdraw the article rather than “fix” the identified cases of fraud. There are very likely other examples sitting there, waiting to “explode”. Articles by this author have been shown to be fraudulent, the author has clearly not figured out the nature of the problem (his sock puppet responses demonstrate this), and the publication is under no obligation to publish the work of a fraud.

  26. charles
    Posted October 24, 2014 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    I’m just wondering why the back lash against Chris Hedges seemed to just blow over, since his incidences of plagiarism as documented in the New Republic article are much more severe, with entire passages lifted from other’s articles with just some wording changed. And he never apologized. His response was to attack the reporter who wrote the article.

  27. Posted October 24, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I’m so convinced CJ Werleman made up Stephanie Cranson, that I’ll donate $5K to the American Red Cross if she’s real: https://twitter.com/johnholland/status/525657321616060416

  28. Y
    Posted October 24, 2014 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Werleman’s response… is just so pathetic. As douchey as his behaviour is, and it really is douchey – dishonest and above all hypocritical to be so condescending and preachy while failing to hold to the most basic ethical standards oneself – I actually feel sorry for him. Deleting critical comments and making sock puppets, like what! His behaviour shows that he just has no strength of character whatsoever. Must be difficult going through life knowing, deep down inside, that you’re an empty fraud and a poser.

  29. Posted October 26, 2014 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Coyne,

    You said that like Harris you had written your last word on Werleman. I’d resolved to do the same, but I found one last thread that had to be pulled:

    http://somewhatmorecriticalcranson.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/smoke-and-mirrors-the-cj-werleman-story/


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