Firedoglake is helping circle the wagons around Chris Hedges by posting a sneerily dismissive post about the New Republic article. (Don’t get me wrong, TNR can be full of shit and often is, but that doesn’t mean Ketcham’s article was.)
The New Republic has published a hit piece on Chris Hedges that accuses him of plagiarism — without ever really documenting any direct plagiarism as far as I can tell. I’ll admit that my eyes started to glaze over as I read the 5700 word piece, so it may have crept in there and I had simply gone catatonic.
Documentation? What kind of documentation would you expect other than what he provided? Photographs of the original copy? (Granted, he did ask for that in the case of the Harper’s piece, and was refused, so maybe that is the kind you’d expect.)
In mainstream journalism, with editors and fact-checkers, you assume that they’re not going to publish something of this kind unless they know it’s solid. That’s in fact part of why the Harper’s fact-checker kept on checking those facts: the reputation of Harper’s depends on not blithely publishing mistakes or lies or plagiarism. I really doubt the editors of TNR just read Ketcham’s article and said “cool story” and published it.
The piece was passed on by the American Prospect and Salon before TNR decided to pick it up. I started reading it thinking “okay, plagiarism, Chris Hedges, I’ll read this,” expecting to find some legitimate examples. But the best they could do was one section of a Harper’s Magazine article Hedges said he used with permission, and the original author wouldn’t comment. Then the article goes on to document times where Hedges’ writing was “close” to other pieces.
This story was maybe worth 500 words. Maybe. Apparently the Prospect and Salon didn’t think the Harper’s story wasn’t worth of publication without some sort of confirmation, and I have to say I’d make the same call. The only reason you’d publish a 5700 word long screed like this is if you really, really hated the guy and wanted to defame him and tarnish his image. (The next step will be to consistently refer to the fact that Hedges has been “accused of plagiarism in the past” — typical Neocon circle-jerk disinformation hatchet job).
Ah, no. That’s bullshit. Those places where Hedges’s writing was close to other pieces? They count. You cite people when you quote them, at least in non-fiction. (Allusions are part of the conventions of literature, including sticking them in without identifying them.) It can be just three words – “to paraphrase Hemingway.” But you’re supposed to say at least those three words rather than pass off an idea as your own if you’re imitating it as closely as Hedges did.
Maybe Prospect and Salon did think the story was worth publication but just didn’t feel like publishing it themselves. Maybe they said oh damn, Hedges plagiarizes, but we love him so…we’re not going to be the ones to go with this.
Regardless of whether the section was lifted or not, it does not take away from the fact that Hedges is a remarkable writer and a very original thinker. If you’re going to take the time and energy to read something, I’d highly recommend his “Rules of Revolt” published earlier this week, where he ruminates on the lessons of Tiananmen Square. I tweeted it out when I first read it, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
I’m sorry I wasted my time reading the TNR piece. It’s just juvenile neener-neener link bait.
Well he’s clearly not “a very original thinker” and from what I know of his writing he’s a terrible writer. Maybe I Don’t Believe in Atheists was unusual in its badness, maybe all his other stuff is well-written, but I found his ragey dishonesty in that book way too repellent to want to read anything else he wrote.
And at the end there it is, just as I said – “neener-neener link bait.” Uh huh. Jane Hamsher knows that how? Maybe the same way Chris Hedges knew all the untrue things he said in I Don’t Believe in Atheists.