CJ Werleman Responds to Accusations of Plagiarism October 17, 2014

CJ Werleman Responds to Accusations of Plagiarism

***Update 1***: Yikes. There are a lot more examples of plagiarism at The Daily Banter. This doesn’t look good.

***Update 2***: Werleman sent me one more comment. It’s at the bottom of the page.

Atheist CJ Werleman (below), whose work often appears on Salon and Alternet, has been a strong critic of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the other “New Atheists,” comparing them to medieval Christian crusaders, accusing them of Islamophobia, or just claiming they don’t get it.

That may be why the subjects of his criticism were positively giddy last night when a blog called Godless Spellchecker pointed out several instances of Werleman’s apparent plagiarism.

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.

Take part of an interview with Robert Pape from the articleIn God’s Name? Evaluating the Links between Religious Extremism and Terrorism’ from Oct 2005:

“Instead, what more than 95 percent of all suicide terrorist attacks since 1980 have in common is not religion, but a specific secular goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Chechnya to Kashmir to Sri Lanka to the West Bank, every suicide terrorist campaign since 1980 has had as its main objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces from territory that the terrorists prize.”

Then compare it with this extract from Werleman’s articleRichard Dawkins, Sam Harris and atheists’ ugly Islamophobia‘ on Salon:

More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks have a strategic goal in common — to compel an occupying force to withdraw from territory the terrorists prize. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to the West Bank to Chechnya, the central goal of every suicide terrorist campaign has been to resist military occupation by a democracy.

Werleman’s article does discuss Pape’s actual research, but gives no indication that the above passage isn’t Werleman’s own original writing.

Those are just a couple instances, but there are many more examples. Some of them are short phrases repeated verbatim (“There is a reason for every war and a war for every reason”) while others are longer passages.

I reached out to Werleman very early this morning to see if he had anything to say in response, and he told me this via email a little while ago (slightly edited for clarity):

I’ve published 5 books and 100+ op-eds. You’ve read at least one of my books and know how many quotes and citations were used in Atheists Can’t Be Republicans.

But [Peter] Boghossian finds two commonly used cliches (“A war for every reason and a reason for every war”) and a common cliche used for Iran’s anti-Israel strategy “To be more Arab than Arabs”). On Robert Pape, I absolutely do mention his study, have spoken publicly on TV and radio about his study, and have cited that study in literally dozens of pieces. Including the piece he accuses me of plagiarizing.

On the last — yes I can see why that’s a little problematic. (America’s Education Failings piece). But they were the actual findings. Indeed, it was sloppy not to include quotations for those facts. But the piece is riddled with quotations. But, nevertheless, it was a repeat of facts from the study. It’s hard to write, “America is the strongest military country in the world,” for instance, any other way. It’s just a patent fact.

P.S: Not to mention 21,000 tweets and 1,000 Facebook columns.

Point is — if after all I’ve written, people want to defame me for really what amounts to one account of sloppiness, well, not much I can do about that.

He added in another follow-up email less than an hour later:

On further thought, I have no excuse for the OECD ‘Education Failing’s’ quote. Why I hadn’t enclosed that, I don’t know. It should’ve been. Very sloppy. But if you look over the entire body of my work, you’ll see that all of my op-eds are riddled with citations and quotes.

Werleman sent one more follow-up after this post went up:

It appears the OECD/Zacharia quote may have been a mess up with Alternet’s editing process. They will put out a statement, but regardless I take responsibility for not checking post publication

I haven’t had a chance to go through Werleman’s other writings, but if this is like the Fareed Zakaria scandal, several more examples of his word crimes were discovered after the initial charges.

Werleman better hope these are isolated incidents. As someone who writes primarily online, I know how easy it is to let something you want to quote slip through as if it’s your own work, but it’s such an easy problem to fix. All you have to do is cite (or link to) your sources. That’s pretty much all they teach you in Online Writing 101.

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