It was not my intention to write more about the allegations of plagiarism swirling around atheist writer C.J. Werleman. This is partly because I didn’t wish to pile on, and partly because I imagined that Werleman would admit wrongdoing and offer an earnest apology, perhaps after a day or two of reflection. And though I’ve vehementlycriticized his work in the past, there was no reason to inject any glee or invective into the situation. After all, this is a man’s career, and colleagues of his have already started to call him out.
Unfortunately, Werleman has reacted with all the grace and humility of an angry village drunkard. Perhaps in hindsight this was to be expected, given his spectacular track record of dishonest hackery. Werleman’s meltdown (which is still ongoing as of Monday afternoon), began Friday morning shortly after Godless Spellchecker’s Blog documented several instances in which Werleman appeared to have clearly lifted others’ work without attribution. Taking to the comments section of the post, as well as Friendly Atheist, Werleman haughtily dismissed the evidence.
Where there’s smoke, typically there’s fire, so I perused some of Werleman’s articles myself and thereafter documented several more possible appropriations of others’ work by Werleman without attribution. After these were posted on this site in a series of updates, Werleman went silent on the issue until Saturday morning:
Notice that Werleman doesn’t say who “vetted” the pieces.
Then, rather than strike a conciliatory note and admit he had screwed up, Werleman was glib and passive aggressive:
It needs to be pointed on that Alternet has taken offline seven of Werleman’s articles that were flagged for possible plagiarism. Furthermore, keep in mind that neither Alternet, nor Salon has yet to issue a statement on the allegations. Also, notice that Werleman cites four “editing errors,” as if to suggest the lack of citations and lifting of others’ work verbatim was the result of editing that was so poor, it yielded the appearance of serial plagiarism on Werleman’s part. To say these tweets are suspect is an understatement.
Incredibly, Werleman then proceeded to tweet that he had evidence that his longtime target, Sam Harris, had plagiarized conservative writer Mark Steyn, and that there was “More to come.” After deleting that tweet, he posted the same claim, albeit in a less aggressive tone:
Not content to level this unsupported charge at Harris, Werleman also decided to hurl an accusation at Richard Dawkins, which again, he did not back up:
Not only did a Google search fail to return any such results for “no suicide bombers without the Quran,” but Richard Dawkins flatly denied ever having said anything of the sort: “I never said it. As you guessed, he’s a liar. He fabricates quotes he attributes & plagiarises those he doesn’t.”
Let’s pause and review the situation. When faced with serious and numerous instances of alleged plagiarism documented on Godless Spellchecker’s Blog and The Daily Banter, Werleman’s response was to:
1) implicate and perhaps even blame editors at Alternet and Salon for the current fiasco
2) flippantly “apologize” on twitter for copying others’ work and deceiving his readers
3) bizarrely attempt to deflect attention away from the allegations against him by lobbing vague and as yet, unsubstantiated charges that Sam Harris did the same
4) attribute a dubious quote to Richard Dawkins without providing a source in an effort to make him look bad
Even if the Harris charge somehow turns out to be true, it’s obvious to everyone — except Werleman, apparently — that this fact wouldn’t absolve him. It would be like a captured thief trying to get out of his predicament by noting that other people steal too. It’s immaterial, and furthermore, downright pathetic.
It should also be said that “justice” is a strange thing for Werleman to suddenly care about, since justice entails fairness, respect, and truth — three values which have been sorely lacking in his work and behavior. Anyone who his familiar with his horrendously dishonest email debacle involving Harris will understand this.
Without asking Harris, Werleman published excerpts from a private email exchange the two had. Harris in turn wanted to publish the whole exchange for the sake of context, and gave Werleman the courtesy of asking him first. Werleman agreed, but subsequently published the exchange to get the drop on Harris. This episode, along with the email exchange itself, gives a telling glimpse of Werleman’s modus operandi. It also explains why, in the midst of a shitstorm that threatens to irreparably damage his career, Werleman would reflexively try to goad Harris once more.
Before his twitter tantrum on Saturday morning, it was difficult to imagine that Werleman’s handling of the situation could get any worse. Now, I can only wonder how much worse it will get.
*UPDATE I: On his Facebook page, Werleman has issued a half-baked apology in which he says, “From a total of 55 Salon/Alternet op-eds, totaling 65,000 words, a vetting process has revealed a half-dozen instances of paragraphs that should have been enclosed in quotations.” But anyone who’s been following this knows full well that this explanation is a total joke.
*UPDATE II: Alternet has removed every article Werleman has written for the site, and released the following statement to us on Monday:
“AlterNet has discovered, along with other publications, that we have published articles by CJ Werleman that include unattributed content from other journalists’ work and from other sources. We regret that this has happened. We have removed Werleman’s articles from our archives.”
And this note was posted on Alternet’s website on Monday:
“Dear Reader, it is with regret that we announce that frequent AlterNet author CJ Werleman was discovered to have failed to attribute text taken directly from other news and information sources. AlterNet takes allegations of plagiarism seriously, and has removed Werleman’s articles from our archives. Our apologies to the various sources and writers whose work was misappropriated in Werleman’s articles published on AlterNet. “
RELATED: C.J. Werleman, who said ISIS isn’t motivated by Islam and that it’s not as big of a threat as a potential Christian theocracy, now faces plagiarism allegations.