A Guide For Journalists: Understanding Why Malcolm Gladwell Is A Plagiarist

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

This morning, we published a piece on a pattern of heavy borrowing in Malcolm Gladwell’s recent work at The New Yorker. We came to the only conclusion merited by the facts at hand: Gladwell had plagiarized. But that’s not how Gladwell’s editor sees it. Instead, David Remnick stated what Gladwell did was very much “not plagiarism.” Unlike the public lashing he gave Jonah Lehrer in 2012 for an arguably lesser offense of self-plagiarism, Remnick seems to have had the magazine fall on its sword for Gladwell 

As with our findings with Fareed Zakaria and Benny Johnson, a few people have commented that these are “just facts” or “just usual paraphrasing.” They’re wrong, but we want to help them see why.

The following exchange with Vox.com’s Joseph Stromberg should be useful for any journalist unsure about the seriousness of Gladwell’s journalistic sins.

TIPPING POINTS? MALCOLM GLADWELL COULD USE A FEW

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

In the summer of 2012, just days before a certain columnist was found to have plagiarized from The New Yorker, a staff writer at the prominent magazine itself resigned in the wake of a widespread plagiarism scandal. The journalist, famous for pop-science works that generated scathing reviews, had been using unattributed quotations taken from other people’s interviews. He had copied-and-pasted from his peers. Generally, he had faked his credentials as an original researcher and thinker.

The New Yorker itself had a doozy on its hands. The scandal had tarred the magazine’s famed fact-checking department, despite claims that its procedure was “geared toward print, not the Web.” Editor-in-chief David Remnick was embarrassed. He’d initially kept the writer on board, distinguishing one bout of self-plagiarism from the more serious offense of “appropriating other people’s work.” Now, his magazine was losing a star that had been groomed as “Malcolm Gladwell 2.0.”

That star, of course, was Jonah Lehrer. Lehrer’s editor would later say, “I think the one good thing that will come out of it is making it very clear is that this is unacceptable… Everybody knows that they can’t do this.” But what if this wasn’t an isolated incident? What if The New Yorker had missed a far bigger star guilty of the same offenses? What if the plagiarist in question…was Malcolm Gladwell 1.0? And what if we hired Keith Morrison to narrate this post?

BLINK: THE POWER OF WRITING WITHOUT ATTRIBUTING

A writer for the New Yorker for almost two decades, Malcolm Gladwell has made a name for himself peddling social theories that attempt to explain our world in simple-to-understand and incorrect ways. Has your boss ever sat you down to explain who in the office is a Connector or a Maven? Have you heard Macklemore rap about the “10,000 hour rule,” which professes that you can become an expert at something by logging that much practice? You can thank Malcolm Gladwell.

Plenty of criticism has been written about Gladwell’s theories, usually along the lines of Gladwell being guilty of “pseudo-profundity.” The 10,000 hour rule in 2008’s Outliers? Bunk. The idea in David and Goliath that maybe you should wish dyslexia on your child for a competitive edge? Zero proof. Virtually every one of Gladwell’s ridiculously popular books has been met with criticism for playing fast and loose with the facts and using anecdotes as evidence of some larger truth. Other criticisms have drilled down extensively on Gladwell’s professional origins as a unabashedly corporate-friendly journalist who has defended everything from tobacco companies to performance-enhancing drugs.

But few have questioned the originality of Gladwell’s work in The New Yorker. After reviewing a very small sample of his articles from the last few years, we’ve found a few that lifted quotes and other material without attribution. One column in particular appears to have lifted all of its material on a historic civil rights protest from one book written 40 years earlier.

We wondered how Gladwell, with a less than stellar reputation for accuracy, managed to operate at the New Yorker. As it turned out, he usually didn’t – at least not physically. A 2008 New York profile described Gladwell’s work arrangement:

A couple of miles north in Times Square are Gladwell’s editors at The New Yorker, who don’t see him in the office very often—owing to his self-professed “aversion to midtown”—but who grant him a license to write about whatever he chooses and accommodate him with couriers to pick up his fact-checking materials, lest he be forced to overcome that aversion.

These couriers must have been stuck in traffic a year earlier when Gladwell wrote an article incorrectly claiming that the authors of “The Bell Curve” had called for Americans with low I.Q.s to be “sequestered in a ‘high-tech’ version of an Indian reservation.” The New Yorker was forced to append the article with a correction: “In fact, [the authors] deplored the prospect of such ‘custodialism’ and recommended that steps be taken to avert it.” How had it happened? As Remnick told Upstart, “Malcolm thought he was sure of what it said, and we went with it, and we were wrong, and we corrected it.” But nonetheless, he claimed, “Malcolm doesn’t have a quote-unquote problem with the checking department.”

Remnick might want to revisit with his fact checkers about that. The articles excerpted below were all published in the last four years.

GLADWELL COPIES AN AUTHOR’S XEROX ANECDOTE AND WE TAKE THE HIGH ROAD ON MAKING A PUN ABOUT IT

In May 2011, Gladwell wrote in The New Yorker on the “Creation Myth,” the supposed legend behind a young Steve Jobs’ trip to Xerox’s PARC facility. According to legend, Jobs’ encounter with the “Alto,” an early version of the PC, eventually led to the creation of the Macintosh. In one passage, Gladwell quotes Jobs as offering Xerox 100,000 shares of Apple for $1M if the company would “open its kimono,” or allow him to see their research center. In another, Gladwell quotes Xerox engineer Larry Tesler, who recalled seeing Steve Jobs react excitedly to the Alto’s features.

Gladwell cites just four sources in “Creation Myth.” The first is Dima Adamsky’s “The Culture of Military Innovation”; second, Michael Hiltzik’s book on Xerox’s PARC entitled “Dealers of Lightning”; third, Douglas Smith and Robert Alexander’s “Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer”; and finally, Keith Richards’ 2011 memoir, “Life.” Only “Dealers” and “Fumbling” discuss PARC, Jobs, and Larry Tesler. Neither includes the “kimono” quote or Tesler’s quote about Jobs’ reaction to Alto.

So, if you read Gladwell’s article—and noted how “Tesler recalled” the story of Jobs’ reaction to no one in particular—you’d naturally assume that Gladwell had interviewed Tesler himself. He didn’t. Rather, the quotes he uses are from interviews conducted by writer and Steve Jobs expert Jeffrey S. Young.

Checking this is easy: Do a Google Books search for portions of Tesler’s speech quoted in the Gladwell article, restricting your hits to before May of 2011. You’ll come up with four hits: Young’s 1988 biography of Jobs titled “Steve Jobs,” a compilation of essays on Apple that includes excerpts from Young’s biography (the text of which can be found here), Young’s 1998 “Forbes Greatest Technology Stories,” and Young’s 2005 biography of Jobs, titled “iCon.” All of these sources include both the “kimono” quote and Tesler’s exact quotes about Jobs coming to PARC in 1979. Now, take a look at the side-by-side picture pitting Gladwell’s 2011 “Creation Myth” against Young’s 1988 “Steve Jobs” (we’ve also included Young’s sourcing information to hit home the point that, yes, he is the one who got those quotes). What do you see?GladwellJobs

What about other authors telling the Xerox story? When Walter Isaacson wrote his seminal biography on Jobs (released in October 2011 – that is, six months after Gladwell wrote “Creation Myth”), he also used the “kimono” quote. Unlike Gladwell, Isaacson used a citation – pages 170-172 of Young’s 1988 Jobs biography. But at the time of Gladwell’s piece, Young was the only author using either Tesler’s quotes or the “kimono” line. The quotes had not “lost their authorship” by means of wide dissemination. Gladwell erred in not citing Young.

GLADWELL RAILROADS THE AUTHOR OF AN ARTICLE ON AN 19TH CENTURY INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT

Last year’s “The Gift of Doubt” was a typical Gladwellian review of Jeremy Adelman’s “Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman,” a biography of the famed economist. Gladwell opens the piece with three paragraphs on the construction of the Troy-Greenfield railroad in the mid-1800’s. They contain a number of incredibly specific facts about the obscure New England infrastructure project: descriptions of the Hoosac Mountain it would tunnel through; quotes from engineers, the president of Amherst, and the project’s promoters; the exact size of the cost-overrun; and the positive impact of the project on regional industry. Gladwell then notes that one of Hirschmann’s essays, “The Principle of the Hiding Hand,” “drew on an account of the Troy-Greenfield ‘folly,’ and then presented an even more elaborate series of paradoxes.” He then segues into a discussion of Hirschmann’s economic thinking, and never mentions the railroad again.

Where did Gladwell get all of that information on the Troy-Greenfield railroad? Before his article was published, the specific information he cited couldn’t be found using a wide array of Google or other publically-available database searches. Considering Gladwell is writing a book review here, a reader would likely assume that Gladwell is drawing on a description in Adelman’s biography. But no mention of the railroad appears in “Worldly Philosopher,” let alone any of the details or quotes in Gladwell’s write-up. The next likely source would be the actual 1967 Hirschmann essay that Gladwell says “drew on an account” of the railroad construction. But again, the source has no information on the railroad.

What Gladwell is referring to is a passing mention of economic historian John Sawyer in Hirschmann’s “Hiding Hand” essay. All Hirschmann says is that Sawyer “looked at development projects that were undertaken in the first half of the 19th century in the United States.” A footnote indicates the analysis discussed is Sawyer’s 1952 article, “Entrepreneurial Error and Economic Growth” (which itself discusses a 1947 piece by Edward C. Kirkland on the construction Troy-Greenfield railroad). Sawyer’s article is not widely available online, but we managed to obtain a copy of it. Look at what happens when you compare the content of Sawyer’s piece to Gladwell’s:

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There’s no question that Gladwell lifted every piece of information on the Troy-Greenfield railroad from Sawyer. There’s no question that Gladwell didn’t mention either Sawyer (or Kirkland) in his piece. The only question is whether or not The New Yorker is willing to give its star writer “the Gift of Doubt” when it comes to his appropriation of other’s work. (“The Gift of Doubt,” if you’ll recall, is the name of the article in question here—making that a play on words. Scoreboard.)

GLADWELL’S WRITING ON THE 1960 GREENSBORO SIT-INS IS LIFTED ENTIRELY FROM A 40 YEAR OLD BOOK

In 2004, Gladwell wrote an article on the extremes of the anti-plagiarism crowd, complaining that “we have somehow decided that copying is never acceptable.” But even then, he acknowledged that there were points where copying goes too far:

Borrowing crosses the line when it is used for a derivative work. It’s one thing if you’re writing a history of the Kennedys, like Doris Kearns Goodwin, and borrow, without attribution, from another history of the Kennedys.”

By those standards, Gladwell himself has crossed the line. In his 2010 New Yorker column “Small Change,” Gladwell took a skeptical look at the use of social media as a tool for activists, discussing the often over-hyped impact of Facebook and Twitter’s effects on protests around the world. He drew parallels throughout the piece to the civil rights movement, mostly by recounting the story of the historic 1960 Greensboro sit-ins, when four black college students began a protest at Woolworth’s over its whites-only lunch counter.

Whereas the previous examples may have been limited in scope, the entirety of Gladwell’s description of the Greensboro sit-ins in his column—including quotes, descriptions of the Woolworth’s, and the sequence of events—are lifted from Miles Wolff’s authoritative but obscure 1970 book, Lunch at the Five and Ten. While the sit-in itself is a milestone in the American civil rights movement, there are no books or articles outside of Wolff’s work that give such a detailed account of its history. Only two sources explicitly used by Gladwell in “Small Change” note the Greensboro sit-ins – Aldon D. Morris’s The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement and a Michael Walzer essay in Dissent titled “a cup of coffee and a seat.” Both do so briefly, and neither includes any of the fine-grain details mentioned by Gladwell. Walzer’s comes the closest, opening similarly to Gladwell. “Late in the afternoon of Monday, February 1, four freshman…” But the similarities stop there – no quotes about “the wrecking crew,” or intimate descriptions of how the four men knew each other, etc. That’s because Lunch at the Five and Ten was, according to the 1990 edition’s introduction, “based on talks with both the black actors in this drama and the whites who became involved in responding to the students’ challenge.” Wolff’s book is the only source that includes all (or, in some instances, any) of the details of the Greensboro sit-in that Gladwell uses in “Small Change.”

We double-checked the print versions of The New Yorker to check if the online edition omitted any attributions or citations. It doesn’t. Gladwell again makes no mention of the author or his book despite building an entire column around it.

Below are the side-by-side comparisons of all Greensboro-related passages from the print edition of Gladwell’s article (in order) and the relevant passages from Wolff’s book.

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WHAT THE DOG STOLE: AND OTHER BOGUS EXCUSES FOR PLAGIARISM

How could The New Yorker’s fact-checking department fail catch all this? How could an editor see the detail in Gladwell’s descriptions and not ask for backup? There are only two plausible answers here. The first is this: Gladwell may have said that he was describing well-documented events and that the quotes and details had “escaped their source.” Indeed, as reported by the Columbia Journalism Review’s Edirin Oputu, the fact-checking director at The New Yorker, Peter Canby, has used this exact defense in the past.

This past April, a New Yorker article by Elizabeth Kolbert quoted the following from chemist F. Sherwood Rowland, without attribution:

“What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”

The quote, Oputu noted, had originally appeared in a 1986 New Yorker piece by Paul Brodeur. “The New Yorker,” she wrote, “had effectively plagiarized itself.” In response, Canby said that the quote was “so widely used without attribution that it has effectively escaped its authorship.”

But that defense simply doesn’t pass the sniff test here. Almost none of the quotes – not those from Tesler or Jobs, or those from the Troy-Greenfield railroad promoters, or those of the participants in the Greensboro sit-ins – have reached escape velocity and broken free from the need for attribution. It’s almost impossible to find any of them before they appeared in Gladwell’s articles. And it’s not just the quotes that haven’t escaped their original, obscure sources – the vast majority of the details used by Gladwell haven’t, either.

So is this on The New Yorker’s factcheckers? As former New Yorker factchecker Jon Swan wrote in reply to the Rowland incident, “surely the checker is not alone at fault for this breach of journalistic ethics. Editor and author are involved in the process. Did the editor ask for verification? Did the author know where the quote had originated?” In this case, probably not. As we’ve seen demonstrated by Fareed Zakaria, as well as the initial protection of both Lehrer and BuzzFeed’s “deeply original” Benny Johnson, sometimes an outlet’s superstar gets a little more leeway.

DAVID AND UNGOLIANT: UNTANGLING MELKOR GLADWELL’S WEB OF DECEIT

In 2012 when the New Yorker’s Jonah Lehrer was found to be self-plagiarizing in the magazine by re-using his own previously published work, Remnick called his actions “wrong and foolish” but kept Lehrer on board, distinguishing the self-plagiarism from “making things up or appropriating other people’s work.”

Gladwell, on the other hand, defended Lehrer—even after bloggers pointed out that his own work appeared to have been lifted by Lehrer as well. He wrote:

“If Lehrer is plagiarizing me, by quoting the same quote I quoted, then I am plagiarizing the person who used that quote before me, and that person is plagiarizing the person who quoted it before them, and so on and so forth, and we have a daisy chain of ‘plagiarizing’ going back forty years and plagiarism, as a ethical concept, has ceased to mean anything at all.”

We’d ask if Remnick and Gladwell feel the same way about the work lifted in this post. It’s true that Gladwell hasn’t been shy about welcoming Lehrer back to blogging. But then again, given the examples we’ve listed, it’s possible that Gladwell may have just been doing some CYA.

Edited, as always, for typos. 

Fareed Zakaria Is Apparently Editing His Own Wikipedia To Remove Plagiarism Allegations

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

A number of interesting things have happened since yesterday’s post on Fareed Zakaria’s Washington Post columns. Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski pointed out that Slate had quietly added a correction to Zakaria’s 1998 column on martinis after we flagged some attribution issues last September. Later that evening, the Post’s editorial editor Fred Hiatt told Politico that he found five of our flagged columns “problematic in their absence of full attribution,” which he called “unfair to readers and the original sources.”

But what caught our eye last night was some very specific activity on Fareed Zakaria’s Wikipedia page. Over the last few months, someone with a New York City IP address has made 7 edits to Wikipedia, all of which have been to Fareed Zakaria’s page over the last few months (friendly reminder to readers – Zakaria lives in New York City).

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The account’s first edit, in August 2014, was to remove language discussing Slate’s reporting on plagiarism in Zakaria’s The Post-American World, and to note that the allegations came from “anonymous bloggers” – the same incorrect smear (we’re pseudonymous, folks) that Zakaria used in his initial reply to us.

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The account’s second edit, made the same day as the first, strengthened his bio by noting he was not just an author, but an author of THREE BOOKS.

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The account’s third, fourth, fifth, and sixth edits were all made in September. Here, the editor removed a note about Zakaria having “apologized for a journalistic lapse” regarding his plagiarism, noted his books’  status as “international bestsellers,” and updated Zakaria’s bio to reflect his new status as an editor at the Atlantic. Finally – and most tellingly – the editor did what only a good son would: fix the name of Zakaria’s mother, from “Fatima” to “Fatma.”

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Last Friday – the same day Newsweek issued 7 corrections on Zakaria’s columns – the editor was back again. But instead of noting the issuing of the specific corrections, the account simply removed an entire paragraph about Newsweek’s blanket note calling for help correcting Zakaria’s articles. The editor’s reasoning? “Newsweek has removed the note.”

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Since his statement to Politico, Zakaria has refused to comment publicly on our work. But that doesn’t mean he’s been ignoring it. Capital New York reported last week on grumbling from journalists who believed Zakaria had called the Huffington Post to complain about coverage of his plagiarism. So here’s a question for anyone reaching out to Zakaria for further comment: has he also been editing out plagiarism allegations, or is there someone else in New York City with a particularly keen (and friendly) familiarity with not just his career but the correct spelling of his family members’ names?

Newsweek Corrected 7 of Fareed Zakaria’s Plagiarized Articles; The Washington Post Needs To Do The Same For These 6

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

UPDATE, 11/10/14, 2:45 PM: BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski has pointed out that Slate appears to have updated one of Zakaria’s “Wine’s World” columns with an editor’s note regarding plagiarized text. Our story has been updated to reflect this note.


Yesterday on his widely acclaimed Sunday news show, Fareed Zakaria did a segment on a recent international “Index of Ignorance” survey that placed Americans’ ignorance on current issues second to only Italians. Sacre bleu!

This revelation troubled Zakaria deeply. “We all worry about the quality of politicians in today’s democracies. But what about the quality of voters?” he asked. “How can we make decisions about war and peace, expenditures and values if citizens are totally wrong about the basic facts involved?”

Zakaria raises a valid concern: it’s important to any functioning society that voters are informed, not “totally wrong about basic facts involved.” Otherwise, they might go on to host a foreign affairs show under the impression that Syria is a landlocked country or that Egypt and Syria traded flags when nobody was looking. It would be particularly unfortunate if those people, uneducated and unable to understand the consequences of war, flippantly advocated for torture or supported invading Iraq on the basis that “any stirring of the pot is good.”  So why don’t more Americans know more about their country and the world they live in? One reason might be because their media is more interested in covering its own ass than covering the issues.

THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO’VE BEEN PUNISHED SO FAR FOR ZAKARIA’S PLAGIARISM ARE THE REPORTERS COVERING IT

That seemed to be confirmed this past Friday when Capital New York reported that Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, had taken disciplinary action against her own journalists for covering our work on Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism. The official reason given according to Capital New York was that the writer didn’t reach out to Zakaria for comment. That’s pretty convenient for Zakaria, who has refused to comment on the story to even his own network.

Sources within HuffPo itself, however, say that “punitive actions were only taken after Huffington received complaints from … Zakaria,” and not because of the strict “general editorial standards” of a website that runs stories on 50-Cent agreeing to pee in a fan’s mouth. We’re more inclined to believe HuffPo’s staff’’s version of the story, especially given Huffington’s regular appearances on GPS. And so it stands that as of now, the only people to be punished for Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism are journalists who made the mistake of reporting on it on his friend’s website.

Luckily we’re not under the same restrictions. After flagging the issue late last September, we submitted more examples of Zakaria’s plagiarism to Newsweek. This Friday, the magazine issued corrections on seven articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7) written by Zakaria over the course of a decade that “fail to meet editorial standards” and “borrow extensively” from other works without proper attribution.  In other words: plagiarism. It’s worth noting that the last time a journalist got caught plagiarizing in seven different articles, they were fired. Despite the editor-in-chief of Slate Group calling us “J. Edgar Hoover,” Slate appears to have also issued a correction to one of Zakaria’s “Wine’s World” columns with an editor’s note regarding plagiarized text.

So far, Newsweek and Slate are the only outlets that have acknowledged Zakaria’s impropriety. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Washington Post’s editorial editor Fred Hiatt hasn’t commented further on Zakaria’s plagiarism since calling our initial work “reckless.” But in his defense, that was a few dozen examples ago. For the Post’s benefit, we’ve put together six more examples of Zakaria plagiarizing in their pages. While they’re not all of the examples we found, the passages below should be more than enough for the Washington Post to follow in Newsweek’s footsteps and consider retracting or correcting what is obviously lifted work.

Example #1: Zakaria steals a quote from TIME Magazine – and gets it wrong

On the left, you’ll see a 2001 Time column by Robert Wright on lobbyists that quotes political scientist James Thurber. On the right, you’ll see Zakaria also quoting Thurber in a 2011 column for the Post. The column cites the quote to Zakaria’s 2003 book, The Future of Freedom. Neither of these sources indicate that Zakaria didn’t get the quote himself, but is rather taking it from Wright.

The last time we caught Zakaria touting a quote obtained by another journalist as his own, he denied any wrongdoing. There’s no excuse this time. Here’s why: take a look at the text highlighted in red below. Those are Wright’s words, which Zakaria mistakenly attributes to Thurber.

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Example #2: Zakaria copies and pastes from UPI on the ETA in Spain

In this 2004 column, Zakaria copy and pastes an entire UPI report on the ETA in Spain, stopping only to add up the number of attacks and deaths (43+44= 87 bombings; 23+15= 38 killed). “As UPI reported” is really all it would have taken here, but then people wouldn’t know how well-read Fareed Zakaria is on the Basque separatist movement. Here’s why this one is notable – Zakaria committed an identical theft in a Newsweek column. On Friday, Newsweek corrected that article, saying it “borrows extensively from UPI without proper attribution.” So here’s the question: does the Washington Post have the same editorial standards as Newsweek?

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Example #3: Zakaria copies 44 words verbatim from Foreign Affairs on the economy

In August 2011, Zakaria wrote a column about job creation that cited (and linked to) a Michael Spence piece in Foreign Affairs. The problem here, though, is that citation is not a pass to copy 50 words, delete 6, and paste them into your article. We’d love to hear Fred Hiatt come up with an excuse for this one beyond, “Golly, I guess he forgot the quotation marks!”

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Example #4: Zakaria steals an entire paragraph from the Sydney Morning Herald

In an October 2010 article in the Sydney Morning Herald, John Garnaut cited from a letter written by Yoichi Funabashi, the editor in chief of Asahi Shimbun. The letter, addressed to “high-ranking friends in China,” warned about Beijing doing damage to Japanese-Chinese relations. Garnaut quotes from the letter out-of-sequence. Curiously, a few days later Zakaria would also write on the Funabashi letter, lifting 25 of Garnaut’s words verbatim. Tellingly, Zakaria also uses the exact same out-of-order sequencing and framing as Garnaut. Zakaria links back not to the Garnaut letter, but to Funabashi’s letter. We’ve presented both below.

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Example #5: Zakaria just rejumbles a New York Times editorial on Kurds in Iraq

In December 2009, the New York Times wrote an oped about tensions between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments. Three days later Zakaria ran a piece in the Post that has identical ideas similar sentence structure, and slightly different word choice. This is classic patch-writing. If you’ve read Zakaria’s astute observations on the Middle East earlier in this post, you’d be right to doubt his originality here.

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Example #6: Plagiarism? Or just acting as the White House stenographer?

In a January 2012 column on this economy of ours, Zakaria links to a White House report/press release entitled “Investing in America,” also released that month. He does so to back up his point that investment in equipment and software dropped 15% as a share of GDP from 2001 to 2007. While he never specifically mentions the White House report in the column, Zakaria then goes on to reprint much of it without attribution. With that sort of stealthy messaging, it’s no wonder the guy gets invited to White House State Dinners.

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THE ONLY “RECKLESS” THING HERE IS FRED HIATT’S EDITORIAL STANDARDS

As we said, these aren’t all the examples. But there’s not much wiggle room here. Fred Hiatt’s Washington Post is a Galapagos Island of uniquely disturbing editorial horrors, employing a racist Roman Polanski apologist, a “torture groupie,” and a man who thinks people want to become victims of sexual assault. The very least they could do is demand some sort of citation standard.

Edited for typos.

Our Bad Media Presents: Six People Offered A Bud By Pulitzer-Prize Winning Columnist Tom Friedman

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1. Gen. Qassem Suleimani

Maybe Iran, and its wily Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander, Gen. Qassem Suleimani, aren’t so smart after all. It was Iran that armed its Iraqi Shiite allies with the specially shaped bombs that killed and wounded many American soldiers. Iran wanted us out. It was Iran that pressured Maliki into not signing an agreement with the U.S. to give our troops legal cover to stay in Iraq. Iran wanted to be the regional hegemon. Well, Suleimani: ‘This Bud’s for you.'” –New York Times, “5 Principles for Iraq,” June 14th, 2014

2. President Barack Obama

“Let’s say Bibi had stood before Congress and said, you know, my fellow friends and my American friends, your president, President Obama, has come to me and said that he believes that there’s an opportunity here for a breakthrough with the Palestinians. I have to tell you, I personally don’t believe it. But I know one thing. When our best friend, our oldest ally, our most important strategic partner in the world, comes to me and makes the request, there’s only one right answer. Mr. President, yes. You want a six-month moratorium on settlement building? I’ve already got 500,000 settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank. You know what, Mr. President? That’s not really a strategic risk for me. The potential payoff of that is so great, I don’t believe it. I’m skeptical. But when you, President Obama, ask me that, there’s only one right answer. Yes, sir. We will do that. Barack Obama, this Bud’s for you.”–Interview with Fareed Zakaria, May 29th, 2011

3. Muqtada al-Sadr

“Whoever they choose is fine with me, and if it’s a guy with a turban, that’s also fine with me, because they may have to work some stuff out. They may have to try some bad ideas before they get around to good ideas. But while the Iraqi voters have shown a lot of courage and a lot of wisdom here, you know, so far–and, you know, Tim, I’m a big believer; there’s nothing like the burden of responsibility, you know? And, you know, Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand, you know, I’d like to nominate him for minister of labor, OK? Muqtada, this Bud’s for you, pal.” -Interview with Tim Russert on CNBC, February 5th, 2005

4. Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein

BLITZER: “What do you think of the decision to make, in effect, Saddam Hussein and his henchmen watch the inauguration of Jalal Talabani and these others, his enemies, make him watch it in his cell on television.” FRIEDMAN: “I rather like that. Saddam, this Bud’s for you, OK. You told us all along that your people could never do this, OK, that they were incapable of a horizontal dialogue. All that would bring them together was an iron fist. Well, you’re wrong, bud. This Bud’s for you.” –Interview with Wolf Blitzer, April 10th, 2005

5. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

“Thinking that this is just going to become Iran, you know–and, you know, a lot of people say, `God, if we–you know, we fought the war and Iran won, you know? Well, Iran’s there for defensive purpo–remember, they fought an eight-year war with this country. I’m not trying to justify this. I’m just looking at it from their perspective, but at the same time, if we leave, if we ever left Iraq and then people say, `Oh, the Iranians won.’ Oh, no, no. You think the Iranians want to manage southern Iraq? `Oh, Ayatollah, this Bud’s for you’–OK? You know, `This Bud’s for you, pal.’ –Interview on CNBC, October 8th, 2005

6. Former Vice President Dick Cheney

“Those choices need to be put to the Iraqis in the most frank, tough-minded way by the most nasty, brutish and short-tempered senior official we’ve got — and that is Dick ‘Darth Vader’ Cheney. Mr. Veep, this Bud’s for you.” –The New York Times, “Mr. Nasty, Brutish and Short Tempered,” March 10th, 2006

Yes, The Indefensible Fareed Zakaria Also Plagiarized In His Fancy Liquor Columns For Slate

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

UPDATE, 11/10/14, 3:00 PM: Although some might cast it as a concession to J. Edgar Hoover, Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski has pointed out that Slate has quietly corrected Zakaria’s martini column, which now features this editor’s note at the top:

“This piece does not meet Slate’s editorial standards, having failed to properly attribute quotations and information drawn from Max Rudin’s history of the martini, which appeared in American Heritage in 1997. Slate regrets the error.”

Cheers!


Yesterday, Slate Group editor-in-chief Jacob Weisberg took a break from promoting iPhone pants to harrumph about our coverage of Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism. Weisberg, the head of a website that publishes articles like “Mass Death For Bangladeshi People Is How Its Supposed To Work” and “Black People Have Lower IQs According To This Data I Cited From White Supremacists”, called our charges “silly” and “totally off base.” He proceeded to completely ignore or address anything we actually posted, including articles that were lifted verbatim and unaccredited mistakes that Zakaria could only have made by taking someone else’s words. Weisberg called citing sources on-air “pedantic,” saying there was a different rule for print. In Weisberg’s world, who could possibly complain about stealing in non-print media? As it turns out, Jacob Weisberg would. In 2005, when an investment adviser for NPR’s public radio show “Marketplace” lifted word-for-word from a Slate article about “British Ski Instructor Theory” and immigration, Weisberg was nothing short of outraged. “It is the most extreme example of plagiarism I’ve ever seen by a major news organization,” he said at the time. But why would the head of Slate stake this ethically questionable stance out now? Does he even read his own website? Perhaps it’s because Zakaria used to write for Slate when Weisberg served as editor-in-chief, or because Zakaria featured the book Weisberg co-wrote with Bob Rubin on Fareed Zakaria GPS, or because they’re fellow “liberal hawks” from the ’03 Iraq War (they “reconsidered” the war on a first-name basis). But let’s be generous – maybe Weisberg really just doesn’t care about plagiarism. We said previously that there was no need for us to publish more examples of Zakaria’s plagiarism because they wouldn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. CNN and the other outlets in question have given the green light to what can only be described as a gigantic journalistic fraud perpetrated on the general public. If you’re a small fish who plagiarized, you publicly get the boot. But if you bring in the ratings, you’ll have people like CNN President Jeff Zucker sputtering talking points about having “complete confidence” in your work while your own network’s media critic is left twisting in the wind. But we want to take the opportunity to make one more point on just how completely and utterly indefensible and long-running Zakaria’s plagiarism has been. The following is a side-by-side comparison of Zakaria’s February 1998 Slate column, “Toward The Wet Martini” and Max Rudin’s “There Is Something About A Martini” in the July/August 1997 issue of American Heritage. As Zakaria has done many times over the years, he mentions the article briefly while lifting passages from it elsewhere in his column, without any hint of attribution. Rudin’s 1997 article ends quoting filmmaker Luis Bunuel’s creepy recommendation on how a good dry martini “should resemble the Immaculate Conception.” While Rudin doesn’t cite the quotation, we tracked it down to Bunuel’s 1983 biography, “My Last Sigh.” Zakaria’s article opens with an unusually formatted version of the quote. The block quote indicates Zakaria is citing from somewhere, but the source isn’t clear. Maybe we should assume that Zakaria pulled from “My Last Sigh” and just forgot to put a citation. But it becomes obvious he didn’t do that because, by lifting from Rudin, he botches the quote. Rudin’s article uses ellipses to delete the “who like their martinis very dry.” In Zakaria’s mangled quote, you’d never know those words were even there. Bunuel Now a Jacob Weisberg might say, “Sure, Zakaria messed up by missing an ellipsis and not citing Rudin. But that’s nitpicking – plus, he cites Rudin later on in the piece! That should count, somehow, because he’s plugged my book!” Weisberg would be right that a few hundred words later, Zakaria then mentions Rudin’s article for the first and last time— but it’s only as a citation for the first published recipes for the martini. Zakaria doesn’t just stop there. He then proceeds to lift a number of lines from it, a decision made all the more glaring by Zakaria referring to himself personally while making the same observations as Rudin:

  1. Zakaria lifts Rudin’s passage that in the 19th century, cocktails were known as morning “eye-openers.”
  1. While Rudin says the martini “acquired…a glamorous mystique” in the post-war era, Zakaria thinks it “acquired an air of mystery and glamour.”
  1. Rudin states that FDR, Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nick Charles—a fictional character from the novel and movie The Thin Man—enjoyed a martini.

Fareed Zakaria not only mentions all the same people, but appears to have gotten the impression from Rudin’s article that Nick Charles, among “the most debonair men of the time,” was a real person who appeared in a movie.

  1. Zakaria also uses Rudin’s note on FDR’s preference for a teaspoon of olive brine.Long

A Jacob Weisberg might say, after checking his Google Alerts for “British Ski Instructor Theory,” something like “Alright, I admit – Zakaria clearly mined the shit out of Rudin’s piece for anecdotes and language. But that’s still not theft!” Take a look at the final example below, where Zakaria somehow stumbles onto the same idea that the martini came to represent modernism and that the person to validate that quote was Paul Desmond of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Where would he ever get that idea (and the same language to express it)? Dave-Brubeck Come on. Come on. This took all of a few minutes to find, and while he wasn’t the editor-in-chief of Slate when this column was written, Weisberg presumably has a say today in retracting it. And he should take note that we haven’t even looked at any of Zakaria’s 17 other Slate columns because it’s too early in the day to start drinking. Not that that’s stopping anyone else. By now you get the gist: Fareed Zakaria was, is, and will be a massive plagiarist in what some in older times may have called the most extreme example of plagiarism we’ve ever seen by major news organizations.

Updated for typos, please excuse our mess!

Fareed Zakaria Never Stopped Plagiarizing: How Dozens Of Episodes Of His CNN Show Ripped Others Off

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

Earlier this year, a certain CNN employee specializing in international news was caught red-handed plagiarizing dozens of instances of reporting. What did the network do? The answer depends on which CNN staff member we’re talking about. If it was Marie Louise Gumuchian, whose “repeated plagiarism offenses” were discovered this May, the network fired her and issued an apology. If it was Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s “flagship foreign affairs show” Fareed Zakaria GPS, then CNN sat on its hands. Last month, when we found that the outlets who ran his work failed to properly review his previous writing for plagiarism, the network immediately said it had “the highest confidence in the excellence and integrity” in his work at Fareed Zakaria GPS.

It’s not surprising that CNN would stand behind Zakaria. What was curious about their statement was the claim that “In the years since [his 2012 scandal] we have found nothing that gives us cause for concern.” It was a response that seemed to imply that CNN has continued to review Zakaria’s show and other content for “lapses.”

After our own review of Fareed Zakaria GPS from 2011 to the present, we’ve found CNN’s claim is evidently false or a sign of gross incompetence at the network. Two dozen episodes of Fareed Zakaria GPS contain content that has been lifted without proper attribution or sourcing – including one he earned a Peabody for. One episode on vacation time was broadcast just two weeks ago. In other words, after having issued his only denial on the issue, Fareed Zakaria went back to plagiarizing while we were writing this blog post about him plagiarizing. It’s possible he’s plagiarizing right now.

Before we list these, we’re going to quote CNN’s editors note on standards following Gumuchian’s firing:

“Trust, integrity and simply giving credit where it’s due are among the tenets of journalism we hold dear, and we regret that we published material that did not reflect those essential standards.”

The content lifted in the examples below come from a wide range of outlets and writers, from The New York Times to The Economist to the National Review. In many instances, Zakaria will simply recite numbers and facts without any attribution. In others, he’ll cite a study or paper when he really only lifted someone else’s reporting on it. In all of them, Zakaria fails to give credit where it’s due, either on the show itself or the blog posts that accompany most segments on CNN’s website (text of show transcripts seen below are all from the GPS blog).

And, for those wondering – Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon has yet to hear back from Norton, Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, or Atlantic Media on Zakaria’s wrongdoing.

#1. Zakaria copied the introduction to an obscure documentary on Sergei Magnitsky word-for-word

In January 2012, Fareed Zakaria GPS ran a segment on plagiarism. Australian politician Anthony Albanese had made news for giving a speech that had very obviously ripped off Aaron Sorkin’s “The American President.” Zakaria, possibly self-conscious about his own “borrowing” over the years, never actually labels Albanese’s speech as the theft it is. Instead, he labels the speech “remarkable” before playing side-by-sides of Sorkin’s movie and Albanese’s stolen quotes. “Coincidence?” he asks about nothing in particular. “I’ll let you be the judge.”

In 2010, Dutch filmmakers Hans Hermans and Martin Maat released “Justice for Sergei,” a documentary on the imprisonment and death of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnistky. The film opens with narration discussing Magnitsky’s death and the events that led to it. In November 2011, Zakaria decided to run a “What in the World?” segment on Russia that focused on Magnitsky. It’s obvious that he’s seen the film – a visual from the movie appears behind him for a second during the broadcast. But what isn’t obvious is that Zakaria is literally repeating the film’s introduction, word-for-word. We’ve edited the documentary and the episode side-by-side in the video below, with credit to Fareed Zakaria for the idea.

Apparently, one theft wasn’t enough for that particular “What in the World?” segment. Zakaria continues by stealing the words and reporting of a Financial Times piece by Charles Clover on Vladimir Putin being booed at what looks like a Rocky IV reshoot, even citing the same anonymous Twitter account.

#6 - 11.27.11

#2. Zakaria forgets to check his sources while plagiarizing from The Economist

In an April 2012 segment, Zakaria discusses the drop of Mexican immigration to the U.S. Like an Economist article on the Mexican economy, Zakaria credits NAFTA for benefiting Mexico’s competitiveness and cites the two same countries, Argentina and Brazil, that ranked behind Mexico in trade with the U.S. He also mentions the $400 billion in annual trade between the U.S. and Mexico, showing the number on screen with no source.

Untitled 2

That’s where Zakaria sloppily gives his game away. The Economist article, written in 2011, cites the $400 billion Mexico did in trade with the U.S. “last year” – that is, 2010. Zakaria, apparently forgetting that The Economist article was written the previous August, also says “last year.” According to government statistics, the U.S. and Mexico did just short of $400 billion in trade in 2010. But in 2011, they did $461 billion in trade. So either Zakaria lifted this passage from The Economist, or he was off by the GDP of Luxembourg.

In the same segment, Zakaria goes on to discuss the increasing median age in China. Here he appears to be lifting from another Economist article written earlier that month, rephrasing the same statistics The Economist pulled to make the same points. Both The Economist and Zakaria cite the United Nations as their source, without specifying an exact office or report, and what follows indicates that Zakaria lifted from the magazine and confused his statistics in the process.

#8 (Pt.-3) - 4.29.12The UN report The Economist pulls its data from appears to be the 2010 UN World Population Prospects, which was released in 2011 and features the same statistics the Economist uses–mostly. In what was either a typo or a revised statistic, the report lists the median age in China as 34.9 in 2011, whereas The Economist states it was 34.5.

That discrepancy would explain why Zakaria rounded down The Economist’s number of 34.5 to 34 years. If he’d looked at the UN report, he would have realized that not only was the number almost 35, but that the statistic applied to 2011, not 2010.

#3. Someone in TIME Magazine wrote a piece on Belgium and Zakaria lifted it like a bird of prey carrying off a baby lamb

Here is a February 2011 article by Time’s Leo Cendrowicz on Belgium’s lack of a government and its citizens have reacted by holding “celebrations.” For example, Cendrowicz writes, “in Dutch-speaking Flanders, locals handed out free French fries, while in Louvain-la-Neuve, in French-speaking Wallonia, free beer was on offer.”

Here is a WITW segment a month later on Belgium’s lack of a government. In it, Zakaria also notes that “in Dutch-speaking Flanders, locals handed out free French fries while in French-speaking Wallonia, you could swig some free beer.” Coincidence? We’ll let you be the judge. Just kidding, he stole it.

#18 - 3.6.11

#4. Zakaria plagiarized from an economic think tank days after claiming he hadn’t plagiarized

Folks, it’s not often that we’re flabbergasted, but this example prompted a particularly flabbery gastation. Here is a May 2013 report on the U.S. as “No-Vacation Nation” by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. And here is a Fareed Zakaria WITW segment that aired only a couple of weeks ago on Americans’ lack of vacation. This would be days after Zakaria denied to Politico that he’d lifted any content.

Despite the fact the two mirror each other, Zakaria never mentions the CEPR. The closest he musters to citing a source is passively claiming “it’s said” that nearly a quarter of Americans don’t take vacation, as if it’s a common expression you might find sewn on sweatshirts sold at mall kiosks.

#16 - 8.31.14

#5. Zakaria goes back to the well and rips off the same China article

In a July 2012 segment, Zakaria again rips off the same April 2012 China article in The Economist. This time, the onscreen graphic credits the UN World Population Prospects report. But Zakaria then goes on to repeat The Economist article nearly verbatim, including the claim that China will be “old before it gets rich.” The only number Zakaria changes is the percentage of Chinese over the age of 65, which despite its attribution to the UN report appears to come from China’s national census. The UN report on page 103 breaks down China’s population in percentages of those 60+ and 80+.

#10 - 7.8.12

#6. Zakaria re-revisits China’s aging population and gets the numbers wrong, again

 For the umpteenth time in November of 2012, Zakaria revisited China’s aging population for another WITW segment, using statistics he originally pulled from The Economist in April. Only this time he also discussed a Chinese population “completely imbalanced by gender,” calling it a “social tinderbox.” For every 100 girls in China, there were 117 boys.

The problem with the statistic is that it was dated. According to available data at the time, the number was up to 118 boys for every 100 girls. But the 117/100 ratio does appear in a 2004 Christian Science Monitor article by Robert Marquand—one that like Zakaria, discussed a “dramatic gender imbalance” in China that could bring “a tinderbox of social tension.”

#15 - 11.4.12

#7. Zakaria copy-and-pastes from The New Yorker and Al-Jazeera on prisons & education

In 2012, Zakaria ran a special on America’s prison system titled “Incarceration Nation.” One segment compared state and federal prison spending to education spending, opening with a quote from Adam Gopnik’s “The Caging of America.” But later on in the segment, Zakaria lifts another line from the Gopnik post entirely unattributed into his piece, right before he cribs statistics and words from an Al-Jazeera piece by Rose Aguilar. Maybe Fareed should have titled his piece… “The Stealing of Zakaria.” If he does this, he should cite to us to avoid the appearance of plagiarism.

#7 - 4.1.12

It should also be noted that much of the episode – including the lifted text – appears in Zakaria’s similarly named April 2012 piece in TIME Magazine. Not that we’re expecting TIME to do much about it – it’s been nearly a month since they were informed of other extensive plagiarism in his columns. They have yet to issue a single correction.

#8. Zakaria lifts from the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review to discuss teeth whitening

This past January, Washington Post blogger Sasha Volokh wrote on a court case bound for the Supreme Court that involved North Carolina’s state dentistry board and potential violations of federal antitrust law. He begins by citing a Fourth Circuit opinion on teeth whitening, then moves on to summarize the case. Later in June in a WITW segment, Zakaria gave a rundown of the North Carolina case using the same phrasing as Volokh, with no credit given on-screen to his fellow Washington Post writer.

#5 - 6.8.14

Zakaria goes on to explain that only 5% of American workers were subject to licensing requirements in the 1950s, compared to nearly one third of workers today. This, says Zakaria, includes fortune tellers, shampooers, and florists. The numbers appear on screen without a source, failing to mention or credit the 2013 U Penn Law Review article using the exact same statistics and professions in one sole paragraph that itself cited from several different sources. Only later does Zakaria cite the article, and then only to note “occupational licensing can raise wages by as much as 18 percent.”

#9. Zakaria rips off Paul Krugman and The Economist to discuss Japan’s sagging economy

In addition to appearing sad and frustrated on ABC’s “This Week,” Paul Krugman is also a Nobel Prize-winning economist who’s been on Zakaria’s show. When he wrote in a January 2012 blog post on the issues facing Japan’s economy, he not only cited his numbers but crunched them further to get an even bigger picture of the country’s challenges. Which is why it’s unfortunate that Zakaria lifted his words a few days later, as well as an earlier November 2011 article in The Economist:

#23 - 1.29.12

#10. Zakaria plagiarized a graf on Shay’s Rebellion from Niall Ferguson’s 2011 book, Civilization: The West and the Rest

Look at this paragraph from Niall Ferguson’s book and Fareed Zakaria’s WITW segment a couple of months later and again ask yourself what the odds are:

#20 - 2.5.12

#11. Zakaria borrows entirely from the New York Times’ report on Armenians’ rejection of Eurovision

In March 2012, the New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer reported on Armenia’s boycott of Eurovision due to it being held in “neighbor and enemy” Azerbaijan. Days later, Zakaria would do his own WITW segment on Eurovision. His comments on Armenia are pulled entirely from Kramer’s report:

#19 - 3.18.12

#12. Zakaria again takes from the New York Times in a segment on tax flight

Below are side-by-side comparisons of a February 2013 article on tax flight in the New York Times by James B. Stewart and a March 2013 WITW segment on the same subject. Zakaria uses the same anecdotes as Stewart’s reporting, the same statistics, the same economists, and all in the same sequences, without credit to the Times.

#1 - 3.24.13

#13. Fareed Zakaria Purloins a Piece on Putin’s Plutocracy from the Pfinancial Ptimes

Once again, Zakaria fails to cite any source as he throws statistics on the screen as his reporting tracks a Financial Times report on Russian billionaires from earlier that month. The slight discrepancy in Russian income between the two articles indicate the number comes from OECD statistics – apparently Zakaria thought it was appropriate to update numbers, but not cite his original source.

#11 - 5.27.12

#14. Fareed Zakaria lifts a fracking article nearly verbatim from The Economist…or someone else

Take a look at the eerie similarities between a June 2012 Economist article on fracking and a WITW segment that aired a week later:

#12 - 6.10.12

We’ve noticed that Zakaria has talked a lot about fracking in recent years. The columns and segments could be mistaken for pro-fracking ad inserts and infomercials, which gave us the idea of investigating whether Zakaria had any conflicts of interest he wasn’t disclosing. As it turns out, Boston Review’s David V. Johnson already wrote that article two years ago. In it, he found potential conflicts of interest, along with error-ridden reporting by Zakaria in his “strikingly optimistic endorsement” of fracking. In a response that gave us déjà vu, CNN and the Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt brushed off concerns. It’s a lengthy piece worth reading and why we’re not as sure here where Zakaria got his talking points from.

#15. Zakaria lifts another Financial Times article on Mexico’s economy

In an April 2012 Financial Times article, John Paul Rathbone wrote on the ups and downs of the Mexican and Brazilian economies. Zakaria liked the idea so much he did a similar segment two months later that drew largely from Rathbone’s piece. If you watch the video, which appears to be down on CNN’s website but can be viewed here, you’ll see Zakaria discussing how Brazil’s GDP has rocketed past Mexico’s. “If I had to cite one main reason for this,” says Zakaria, apparently for comic relief, “it would be China.” He then proceeds to paraphrase Rathbone’s article, stopping briefly to thumb through a well-worn thesaurus to change China’s “voracious demand for commodities” to a “growing appetite for commodities.”

#13 - 6.24.12

#16. Zakaria plagiarizes in a 2012 segment on Borat boosting tourism in Kazakhstan

In April of 2012, the BBC and Radio Free Europe ran articles on the government of Kazakhstan thanking Borat for boosting tourism, a turnaround from their reaction to the film’s initial release. A few days later, Zakaria went on to cover the same story. Paraphrasing much of the BBC article, he then goes on to lift the story of a 67-minute tourism video and statistics from various reports compiled by Radio Free Europe.

#8 - 4.29.12

#17. Zakaria rips off his own network and The Economist in a segment on China

In an April 2012 segment on China’s international relations, Zakaria lifts from one of his own network’s correspondents. Zakaria’s report mirrors the language of a February 2012 article by CNN correspondent Sara Sidner. He also very blatantly rips off a February 2012 Economist article on relations between Norway and China, right down to a dispute involving salmon imports.

#7 (Pt. 2) - 4.1.12

#18. We’re running out of ways to say Zakaria stole work, but this one involves grain and incorrect statistics from the National Review Online

In early October 2011, Peter Thiel penned a piece in the National Review on how we’d arrived at a future that’d fallen short of expectations when it came to advancements in science and technology. One example of society’s shortfalls was the inability to improve our grain yields at the same rate as what Thiel called the true “Green Revolution,” where he claims grain yields increased 126% from 1950 to 1980. Days later, Zakaria used the same statistic on his show, with no mention of where the number came from.

#17 - 10.16.11

We can be certain that Zakaria pulled from Thiel, rather than looking up the numbers on his own, because we actually pulled the numbers from the USDA’s Production, Supply and Distribution database (the contents of which are easily viewable here). Grain yields, measured in tons per hectare, rose from 1.06 in 1950 to 1.98 – that’s only an increase of about 86%. Yields as of 2008 stood at 3.22 tons per hectare – an increase of 62%. Thiel likely mixed up grain yields with grain production, which (measured in millions of tons) rose from 631 in 1950 to 1,429 in 1980 (126% increase) to 2,213 in 2008 (48% increase). So perhaps we can give Thiel the benefit of the doubt. But what are the odds that Zakaria happened to make the exact same error using the exact same obscure data? Let’s say zero, considering David Brooks also used the factoid and decided to properly cite Thiel.

#19. In lifting the Wall Street Journal’s reporting on cities going bankrupt, Zakaria reveals a bankruptcy of the personal sort

Weeks before his 2012 suspension, Zakaria lifted reporting and anecdotes from a Wall Street Journal report in July of 2012.

#9 - 7.22.12

#20. Zakaria rips from The Washington Post’s Wonkblog on America’s prison system 

In 2013, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas of Wonkblog wrote a piece contextualizing a recent speech by Attorney General Eric Holder on America’s prison population. Less than a week later, Zakaria used the same statistics, in the same order, using the same language – “the group Holder is talking about” transforms to the vastly different “the group Holder was referring to.”

#4 - 8.18.13

#21. Zakaria was definitely reading The Economist on October 22nd, 2011

Here’s The Economist in two separate articles on Argentina’s presidential election and economic troubles being used without attribution by Zakaria in one segment a week later:

#22 - 10.30.11

#22. Zakaria lifts from Reuters in a 2011 report on India’s lack of foreign direct investment

Reuters. Zakaria.

#25 - 12.18.11

#23. Zakaria again lifts from Reuters in a 2014 report on economic reforms in China

When Zakaria emphasizes with lines like “and here’s the key part” it’s hard to not get the impression that he wants you to know that this is his analysis and not something Reuters had noted Chinese officials had stressed.

#2 - 4.13.14

#24. Zakaria steals 24 words verbatim from an AP report without attribution

This one needs no explanation. AP, November 2011. Zakaria, one week later. Remember, it’s generally OK to incorporate wire reporting into a story, so long as you properly attribute. Zakaria doesn’t on air, and he doesn’t in his blog post.

#24 - 11.20.11

#25. Zakaria tries very hard to avoid giving any credit on a fable involving mountains of rice grain

In a March 2014 segment on the possibilities of computing power, Zakaria mentions a book published earlier this year by Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee entitled The Second Machine Age. The book notes that computers are getting smarter, Zakaria sagely notes.

What follows is a pretty slick move by Zakaria—he goes on to give a lengthy recounting of the rice and chessboard problem where a king is tricked by a man into owing a multiplying and increasingly infeasible amount of rice that started out as one grain on the first of 64 chessboard squares. The segment is complete with a computer-generated animation showing said multiplied rice. What Zakaria doesn’t say, and what most viewers wouldn’t reasonably infer, is that his telling of the story, right down to the Mount Everest comparison, comes from The Second Machine Age, the book he briefly cited at the top of the segment.

#3 - 3.23.14

#26. Zakaria’s Peabody-award winning special on education lifts from the Washington Post, CNN, and McKinsey

In November 2011, GPS ran a special titled, “Saving the American Dream: Fixing Education.” For the most part, the episode toed the party line on corporate education reform, showcasing glowing interviews with Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee while quoting Malcolm Gladwell’s widely debunked “10,000 hour” rule to justify harshing on teachers. So it’s not surprising that the episode, like the reforms it touts, has won plaudits from the establishment – including a Peabody. We wonder if the episode would have earned the award had its board members known that Zakaria had stolen so much of its content.

In April 2011, the Washington Post reported on South Korea’s “cram schools,” noting its enrollment numbers and how much the average family spends on tuition. Zakaria uses nearly identical language in his recitation of the same facts. He goes on clip together various bits from an August 2011 CNN report on Finland’s education system, using similar language and statistics in the same order. Finally, Zakaria decides to “cite” an April 2009 McKinsey report on education by saying, “McKinsey estimates…” While it’s clear he’s using data from McKinsey, you would never know that he spends the next 30 seconds on air reading verbatim from the report itself. Watch for yourself – here’s a link to the full episode.

#14 - 11.12.11

To Conclude: On Looking Closely

This latest installment shows the consistent, widespread practice of plagiarism by Fareed Zakaria extends to television. Rather than being an isolated mixup or lapse that happened a couple of years ago, Zakaria has unapologetically continued to appropriate others’ work to this day. Even putting aside the ethics of the issue, the examples above show how his practice of copying and pasting has resulted in significant factual errors on the show that would have been easily avoided had actual reporting taken place.

We can’t read Fareed Zakaria’s mind but we can reasonably draw the conclusion that ethics are secondary to his need to be perceived as a “thought leader.” We can also infer that he thinks his viewers and the reporters who cover him are idiots, lazy, or both. After getting caught the first time in 2012, Zakaria apologized and, as we can now see, quickly resumed his bad habits. After being caught last month, he flat out lied about any wrongdoing before immediately doing wrong again.

Some might take issue with our “anonymity.” It’s a complaint that doesn’t hold water. Reporters rely heavily on “tips” forwarded to their inbox from advocacy groups, press flacks, government officials, and other organizations whose contributions are never disclosed to readers, to say nothing of their interests. These sources are often downplayed with euphemisms like “tipster,” or a reader sharing “insights.” It’s the kind of practice that goes unnoticed until it doesn’t. We’re not a shadowy astroturf group or campaign or sentient computer program that scans the news for plagiarism in a desperate attempt to understand the emotion humans call “love.” But let’s say we were: how does that make Zakaria’s plagiarism any less substantive?

The answer is that it doesn’t. Crimes aren’t ignored on the basis that the person who reported them was anonymous. But it’s a common result when the suspect in question has enough influence. Had CNN done the review of his show they claimed to have done, this would have been avoided. Instead, they reinstated him a week after his suspension, because standards on trust and proper sourcing only apply to relatively unknown news editors. Brian Stelter, CNN’s media reporter, is the host of Reliable Sources, a show that touts itself as “one of television’s only regular programs to examine how journalists do their jobs.” Stelter also doesn’t appear to have commented on the situation despite having written on Benny Johnson as well as having tweeted about the CNN news editor fired for plagiarism. He was promoting Zakaria’s “must-see” work as recently as yesterday.

Likewise, whereas Benny Johnson merited a relatively lengthy article by Politico’s media reporter Dylan Byers, our last post laying out Zakaria’s plagiarism had been online maybe an hour before he declared it “[didn’t] seem to be gaining nearly as much steam.” Maybe, Byers mused, it’s because “we don’t want to look too closely” at someone the media had deemed “one of its elder statesmen.”

Well, we did. And to those who would blame this on staff or interns or anyone else but Fareed Zakaria, we leave you with the first article he wrote for The New Republic way back in 1987. At the time, Zakaria was a 23-year-old graduate of Yale with a bright future ahead of him. He didn’t have his Washington Post column, his CNN show, or his doctorate from Harvard. All he had was an opportunity to write a column on Oliver North and the National Security Council for The New Republic. And he totally blew it by plagiarizing over and over from The New York Times. The New Republic article is behind a paywall, but the Times articles are available here and here.

TNR-Final

Correction: we misspelled the acronym for the Center for Economic Policy & Research as “CEBR” instead of “CEPR.” Thanks to @samknight1 for pointing it out. 

The Paste-American World: How Fareed Zakaria Plagiarized In His International Bestseller (And The Magazines He Used To Run)

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

Last Tuesday, Fareed Zakaria responded to our initial blog post showing that he had clearly and inappropriately copied and pasted other journalists’ work. He did so by demonstrably lying and getting a number of facts just plain wrong. We think our work held up pretty well, even more so after the response from a pretty diverse group of journalists. For those wondering what constitutes plagiarism, it might be helpful to first read this walkthrough from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Then keep scrolling, because today we’re adding even more to the pile by showing how Zakaria blatantly and repeatedly plagiarized in not just what is his most popular book, but two different cover stories for the magazines he used to serve as editor for, Foreign Affairs and Newsweek.

[Note: while we’re still using side-by-side image files to document our examples here, for convenience’s sake the end of this post also includes text versions.]

A LOOK AT PRECEDENT

Before looking at today’s examples, it’s important to keep in mind that it only took one paragraph to land Zakaria in hot water in 2012. As Newsbusters pointed out back then, here is the passage on gun control from Jill Lepore’s 2012 New Yorker article:

FAREED UNO

And here is Zakaria’s passage lifting from that same piece:

FAREED DUO

When called out on this, Zakaria did not, as he did Tuesday, claim to be just citing facts. Instead, he called it a “terrible mistake.” It’s not clear how his standards have changed since then, but we’re hoping the examples below will give him a chance to elaborate.

A POST-ATTRIBUTION WORLD: THEFT IN ZAKARIA’S BESTSELLER

Fareed Zakaria’s 2008 The Post-American World is the book that lets him call himself “a New York Times’ bestselling author.” The Times itself called it a “relentlessly intelligent book” and it gained even more prominence when then-Senator Barack Obama was spotted holding on to it during the presidential campaign. The book proved so popular that in 2011, a “2.0” edition was released with additional material.

Post-American World can be best described up as the kind of book your dad bought at the airport to kill time reading about This Changing Planet Of Ours, then bought again later because it had a 2.0 at the end, the way his phone’s fart noise app did when it added new fart noises. Zakaria’s website says the work features “trends he identified [that] have proceeded faster than anyone could have anticipated…As Zakaria eloquently argues, Washington needs to begin a serious transformation of its global strategy, moving from its traditional role of dominating hegemon to that of a more pragmatic, honest broker.”

It all sounds like a very intense effort by Zakaria to alert the nation to our shifting role in the world. What may not be publically known is that the 2.0 update, as well as related work that appeared in other outlets, feature content that Zakaria’s lifted heavily and often word-for-word, without attribution. On more than a number of occasions, Zakaria has taken entire paragraphs from the authors and shifted them around in an apparent attempt to avoid detection.

Example 1: Zakaria lifts verbatim from London School of Economics professor Fawas Gerges

Gerges is a professor at the London School of Economics who’s written extensively about the Middle East and appeared on Zakaria’s CNN show multiple times. Barely a dozen pages into Post-American World 2.0, Zakaria discusses Gerges’ analysis of some polling on the Middle East. He doesn’t say where he’s getting the analysis from; Gerges is not cited anywhere in the endnotes of the book. A little digging reveals that Zakaria appears to have not just taken the polling data from Gerges’ 2009 version of his book, “The Far Enemy,” and updated it slightly, but appropriated almost all of Gerges’ writing verbatim:

Gerges-Poll

A paragraph later, Zakaria goes even further with his theft, lifting passages from Gerges’ October 2007 article for the Christian Science Monitor. Gerges had written about signs that Osama Bin Laden was worried about Al Qaeda in Iraq. Zakaria cribs from the article entirely word-for-word, only pausing to switch the second and third paragraphs around. For clarity, we’ve highlighted the relevant sections by color:

 Gerges-Al-Qaeda

The same text appears in a 2010 Newsweek column by Zakaria. It was the magazine’s cover story.

When caught, some plagiarists hem and haw about their theft being a mere citation error. We want to stress that Zakaria does not cite Gerges anywhere in the endnotes. See for yourself:

Gerges-Notes

Examples 2 thru 6: Zakaria copies a number of passages from Karl Meyer’s work in the World Policy Journal

Karl E. Meyer is an old-guard journalist and academic, having served as a member of the Washington Post’s editorial board, editor of the World Policy Journal, and visiting professor at Yale. He also happens to be another uncredited source of Zakaria’s. As we show below, his 2000 piece about Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee and the decline of the British Empire in the World Policy Journal, “Edwardian Warning: The Unraveling of a Colossus” was lucky it wasn’t left on cinder blocks.

Here is Meyer’s in the WPJ on one eight-year-old Arnold Toynbee’s experiences of the Diamond Jubilee, alongside Zakaria telling the same story in an extended Post-American World section on the same subject:

Meyer-1

We’re presenting this to show the extremely narrow way in which Zakaria cites Meyer. The footnote (which is the only mention of Meyer or his article in the book) is citing Meyer’s use of the quote from Toynbee, not his broader scholarship on the Diamond Jubilee. When it comes to attribution this citation is inadequate in this example alone because it doesn’t indicate that Zakaria is closely mirroring Meyer’s contextualization of the quote. Some might see a room for debate here. For the sections below, they shouldn’t.

In his article, Meyer goes on at length describing the fleet that attended the Diamond Jubilee. Zakaria writes a description of the exact same scenario, with the same description of ships and sailors and the same Rear Admiral Prince Henry of Prussia looking on. There is no credit to Meyers. Again, we’ve used color to show how Zakaria has remixed the order of Meyer’s writing:

Meyer-2

(A side note – when Zakaria lifts a passage, he often switches the spelling of the numbers within. If the numbers are spelled out, he changes them to figures, and vice versa. It’s not clear if this is an attempt to evade plagiarism software, but it’s certainly in violation of the Associated Press stylebook’s guidelines on numerals, which Meyer, on the other hand, adheres to.)

Here’s Meyer again on the British Empire and Olympic history, alongside passages that Zakaria again rearranges in an apparent attempt to evade Microsoft Plagiatron ’98 or whatever software his editors were using. We had to use a lot of colors for this one:

Meyer-3

But there’s more fruit from the tree here. In 2008, he adapted a good chunk of Post-American World into a cover story for the May/June issue Foreign Affairs entitled “The Future of American Power.” The article uses most of the same passages we’ve shown were stolen from Meyer:

FA 3

FA 1FA 2

One could expect that given Zakaria’s experience working there from 1993 to 2000, including as managing editor, he would understand the need to use citations when borrowing so extensively. As with the book, no citations appear in the Foreign Affairs piece.

TO CONCLUDE: HOW MANY EXAMPLES OF PLAGIARISM DO WE HAVE TO SHOW HERE?

Readers deserve and should be able to expect a level of trust with journalists and the outlets that publish them. When we show that someone’s work has clearly been lifted from other sources without attribution, it’s only fair to give the writer and the outlet in question a chance to do the right thing. Despite the pooh-poohing of Buzzfeed and digital media last month over Benny Johnson, what we’ve seen from more traditional sources this week is that you can apparently reach a point where ethics are no longer necessary as long as you’re bringing in ratings or a prestigious byline.

It’s hard to see how the depth and extent of the examples we’ve shown don’t already go far beyond what Zakaria was suspended for in 2012. W.W. Norton, the publisher of Zakaria’s book, Newsweek, and Foreign Affairs owe it to everyone who ever picked up a copy of his work to review and address these issues. Because while Fareed Zakaria is not the only major columnist we’ve discovered with a plagiarism problem, he is the one that’s yielded the most examples so far. If necessary, Our Bad Media will continue to highlight those examples in the days ahead.

TEXT OF THE PLAGIARISM EXAMPLES

Gerges, 2009, “The Far Enemy”: Last year Pew surveys showed that in Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh there were substantial declines in the percentages saying that the suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets can be justified to defend Islam against its enemies. Wide majorities say such attacks are, at most, rarely acceptable. The shift has been especially dramatic in Jordan, where 29 percent of Jordanians now view suicide attacks as “often or sometimes justified,” down from 57 percent in May 2005. In Indonesia, the largest majority Muslim nation, 74 percent of respondents agree that terrorist attacks are “never justified,” a substantial increase from the 41 percent level to which support had risen in March 2004; in Pakistan that figure is 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81 percent; and in Iran, 80 percent. Compare those figures with a recent study that shows that only 46 percent of Americans think that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “never justified,” while 24 percent believe these attacks are “often or sometimes justified.”

 

Zakaria, Post-American World 2.0, p. 14: The London School of Economics professor Fawaz Gerges has analyzed polls from dozens of Muslim countries over the past few years. He notes that in a range of places— Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh—there have occurred substantial declines in the number of people who say suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets can be justi ied to defend Islam. Wide majorities say such attacks are, at most, rarely acceptable. The shift has been especially dramatic in Jordan, where only 12 percent of Jordanians view suicide attacks as “often or sometimes justified” (down from 57 percent in 2005). In Indonesia, 85 percent of respondents agree that terrorist attacks are “rarely/never justi ied” (in 2002, by contrast, only 70 percent opposed such attacks). In Pakistan, that figure is 90 percent, up from 43 percent in 2002. Gerges points out that, by comparison, only 46 percent of Americans say that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “never justi ied,” while 24 percent believe these attacks are “often or sometimes justified.”

 

Gerges, October 2007: And last month, one of bin Laden’s most prominent Saudi mentors, the preacher and scholar Salman al-Odah, wrote an open letter reproaching him for “fostering a culture of suicide bombings that has caused bloodshed and suffering and brought ruin to entire Muslim communities and families.” Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda was dealt another shattering blow from within when one of its top theorists, Abdul-Aziz el-Sherif, renounced its extremes, including the killing of civilians and the choosing of targets based on religion and nationality. In the past few months, Mr. El-Sherif – a longtime associate of Zawahiri, who crafted what became known as Al Qaeda’s guide to jihad – called on militants to desist from terrorism and authored a dissenting rebuttal against his former cohorts. In early October, Abdulaziz al-Ashaikh, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a fatwa prohibiting Saudis from engaging in jihad abroad and accused both bin Laden and Arab regimes of “transforming our youth into walking bombs to accomplish their own political and military aims.”

 

Zakaria, Post-American World 2.0, p. 14-15: In 2007 one of bin Laden’s most prominent Saudi mentors, the preacher and scholar Salman al-Odah, wrote an open letter criticizing him for “fostering a culture of suicide bombings that has caused bloodshed and suffering, and brought ruin to entire Muslim communities and families.” That same year Abdulaziz al ash-Sheikh, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a fatwa prohibiting Saudis from engaging in jihad abroad and accused both bin Laden and Arab regimes of “transforming our youth into walking bombs to accomplish their own political and military aims.” One of Al Qaeda’s own top theorists, Abdul-Aziz el-Sherif, renounced its extremism, including the killing of civilians and the choosing of targets based on religion and nationality. Sherif—a longtime associate of Zawahiri who crafted what became known as Al Qaeda’s guide to jihad—has called on militants to desist from terrorism, and authored a rebuttal of his former cohorts.

 

Meyer, Winter 2000/2001, World Policy Journal: “More typical were the delighted hurrahs of eight-year-old Arnold Toynbee, who watched the Jubilee parade from his uncle’s shoulders, and felt as if the sun itself were “standing still in the midst of Heaven, as it had once stood still there at the bidding of Joshua.

  • Zakaria, Post-American World: In London, eight-year-old Arnold Toynbee was perched on his uncle’s shoulders, eagerly watching the parade. Toynbee, who grew up to become the most famous historian of his age, recalled that, watching the grandeur of the day, it felt as if the sun were “standing still in the midst of Heaven.”

Meyer: For the Diamond Jubilee, the biggest fleet ever assembled was on review at Portsmouth: 165 warships carrying 40,000 seamen and 3,000 guns, a line extending 30 ironclad miles. Observers from 14 foreign navies were able to inspect through binoculars the Royal Navy’s prize possessions, including 11 new battleships, unrivaled for their speed and armor, and 5 first-class and 13 second-class cruisers, together with scores of other battleships, cruisers, and torpedo-boat destroyers. Looking on from a creaking German battleship, British-built and now downgraded to first-class cruiser, was Rear Admiral Prince Henry of Prussia

  • Zakaria: “During the Diamond Jubilee, 165 ships carrying forty thousand seamen and three thousand guns were on display in Portsmouth—the largest fleet ever assembled. [Footnote] Observers from fourteen foreign navies were in attendance, eagerly taking in the spectacle. One of them, the German rear admiral Prince Henry of Prussia, looked on enviously from the deck of his British-built battleship, which had recently been downgraded to a cruiser.”

Meyer: “The world took note. From Paris, the Figaro’s editorialist commented that Rome itself had been “equaled, if not surpassed, by the Power which in Canada, Australia, India, in the China Seas, in Egypt, Central and Southern Africa, in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean rules the peoples and governs their interests.” The New York Times went further: “We are a part, and a great part, of the Greater Britain which seems so plainly destined to dominate this planet.” In Berlin, the voice of Junkerdom, the Kreuzzeitung acknowledged that the British Empire was “practically unassailable.”

  • Zakaria: The British were hardly alone in making comparisons between their empire and Rome. Paris’ Le Figaro declared that Rome itself had been “equaled, if not surpassed, by the Power which in Canada, Australia, India, in the China Seas, in Egypt, Central and Southern Africa, in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean rules the peoples and governs their interests.” The Kreuz-Zeitung in Berlin, which usually reflected the views of the anti-English Junker elite, described the empire as “practically unassailable.” Across the Atlantic, The New York Times gushed, “We are a part, and a great part, of the Greater Britain which seems so plainly destined to dominate this planet.”

Meyer: “The imperial historian Ronald Hyam notes that the British with their engineering feats laid the mechanical basis for a global marketplace. Beginning in the 1870s, the empire was linked by 170,000 nautical miles of ocean cable and 662,000 miles of aerial wire and buried cable.

  • Zakaria: “The empire was protected by the Royal Navy, the greatest seafaring force in history, and linked by 170,000 nautical miles of ocean cables and 662,000 miles of aerial and buried cables.”

Meyer: Among the unexpected results was the rebirth of the Olympics, the work of a French Anglomane, Baron de Coubertin (1865–1937), who as a youngster had read in translation Tom Brown’s School Days, by Thomas Hughes. Smitten with British ideals of fair play and amateurism, and with the lofty precepts of Dr. Arnold, headmaster at Tom Brown’s Rugby, Coubertin in 1894 founded the International Olympic Committee. Two years later, the Modern Games were launched in Athens as (in Ian Buruma words) “an English bucolic fantasy out of Thomas Hughes, mixed with a dose of Hellenism.”

  • Zakaria: “For example, the ideas of fair play, athleticism, and amateurism propounded by the famous English educator Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby (where Tom Brown’s School Days was set), heavily influenced the Frenchman Baron de Coubertin—who, in 1896, launched the modern Olympic games. The writer Ian Buruma has aptly described the Olympics as “an English Bucolic fantasy.””

 Update: edited for typos

How And Why Lying About Plagiarism Is Bad – A Response To Fareed Zakaria And Fred Hiatt

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

Yesterday, Our Bad Media posted an article about a pattern of lifted text in the work of Fareed Zakaria in TIME, the Washington Post, and CNN that came after all three outlets claimed to have reviewed Zakaria’s work for plagiarism. While the outlets are all standing by their previous reviews of his work, TIME’s statement is notable for highlighting the fact that Zakaria no longer works for them. Politico’s Dylan Byers received a response from Zakaria himself that defended his work by outright lying and obfuscating about what we posted. We understand that the global brand Fareed Zakaria brings to the table is considerable, but that doesn’t make his explanation any less bullshit.

We’re standing by our previous piece. Below, we’ve posted the entirety of Zakaria’s reply with our responses:

In August 2012, CNN, Time and the Washington Post separately conducted extensive reviews of my commentary. As one part of this process, they ran my columns and cover stories (which span over 20 years) through software programs designed to detect plagiarism. All three informed me that the reviews cleared me fully. Two anonymous bloggers today have alleged that there are 11 cases in my writing where I have cited a statistic that also appeared somewhere else. These are all facts, not someone else’s writing or opinions or expressions.

The bolded is patently untrue. What our investigation works to show is not that Zakaria forgot to cite simple statistics in his pieces, but rather that he lifted extensively from the work of others. We already know it’s a problem because lifting entire passages of facts from other writers is exactly the kind of behavior that got him suspended in 2012. Take the highlighted words in the example below. Zakaria told Byers that he tries to go “as close to the original source as possible” in his work. Then why would he take 44 of David Leonhardt’s words, paste them in the exact same order (minus the words “well-known”), and only remove the sentence mentioning the Capital IQ analysis that was done for the New York Times? Leonhardt

Or take this example, where Zakaria happens to write 11 words in the exact same order as they appeared in a Peter Beinart article.

Beinart

Or take this example. Vadim Nikitin writes a 39-word summary of a Levada Center study; Zakaria takes it, deletes the words “May/June” and “notorious,” adds the word “Russians,” and pastes it into his TIME column.

Nikitin

Other examples may take closer scrutiny to see wrongdoing. But the examples above clearly show what Zakaria professes they don’t: “someone else’s writing or opinions or expressions.” Just because another journalist’s phrases happen to include statistics does not mean they are free game for cribbing without attribution.

For example, in one column, I note that the national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan. The bloggers point out that this is also in Wikipedia’s Reagan entry. But it is also in hundreds of other articles, studies, and reports — just Google the phrase. Until today, I had never read the Wikipedia entry for Ronald Reagan. As it happens, it is incorrect. (There is a difference between “public debt” – Wikipedia’s words — and national debt.)

There are three problems with Zakaria’s defense. First, we didn’t merely point out that Zakaria used a certain statistic. We demonstrated that he did so using phrasing very similar to that of a Wikipedia entry. In the image below, you can see that Zakaria merely remixes same words written by Wikipedians – changing “during” to “under,” moving “1971 to 2009″ around in the first sentence, etc.

Wikipedia

Second – and more crucially – Zakaria leaves out that plagiarism isn’t narrowly defined as taking the same words from another source. It’s also using the same ideas. Basic facts obviously don’t count as “ideas,” but synthesis & comparison of facts do. Whoever wrote the Wikipedia article had the idea to take the spending under Reagan and compare it to spending from 1971 to 2009, and next, take the public debt in 1980 and compare it to the public debt in 1988. In that order. Zakaria’s article presents the exact same idea in a very similar presentation. That’s subtle, but nevertheless textbook, plagiarism.

Third, Zakaria’s implication that the difference between public debt and national debt (for the uninitiated, national debt = public debt + intergovernmental debt) makes his piece divergent from the Wikipedia article is bizarre. If he thought there was a difference, why did he cite the same numbers ($712 billion to $2 trillion) for the national debt that Wikipedia uses for the public debt? Here’s the kicker: by changing “public debt” to “national debt,” Zakaria is the one who ends up with an “incorrect” article. According to the CBO, public debt went from $712 billion in 1980 to $2 trillion in 1988. According to the Fed, national debt went from $909 billion in 1980 to $2.6 trillion in 1988.

My usual procedure with a piece of data that I encounter is to check it out, going as close to the original source as is possible. If the data is government generated (GDP, spending on pensions, tax rates, defense spending, etc) then I often don’t cite a source since it is in the public domain.

If Zakaria had done his research, “going as close to the original source as possible” (instead of changing a word to try and cover his tracks), he would not have made the error he did.

If it is a study or survey produced by a think tank, then I usually cite the institution that conducted the survey. In many of these cases, there was a link in my column to the source. This was not always possible, however, because Time magazine, for example, did not always allow for links.My columns are often data-heavy, so I try to use common sense, putting a source into the text when it was necessary.

Two problems here. First, Zakaria laying the blame for failure to attribute at the feet of TIME “not always allow[ing] for links” is about as bad as it gets. Any journalist knows that medium is no excuse for citation problems. If you can’t link, simply put “according to.”

Second, even if we allow all the instances of errors in TIME to fly because of a problem with the medium (which we shouldn’t), then an error like the one below is still inexcusable because it appeared in one of his online Washington Post columns, which are usually chock-full of hyperlinks. As you can see below, none of the information lifted from Korb et. al. is hyperlinked back to their original study.

Korb

 

Even when Zakaria does link to Korb, it does not go back to the Korb et. al. CAP study he cribbed from, but rather a CNNMoney op-ed by Korb that has none of the information Zakaria appeared to lift from the CAP report.

In many of the columns cited by the bloggers, I found the data they refer to in a primary source not the secondary one that they highlight. For example, in my column that mentions Greece’s debt, I noted that “one estimate” suggests that Greece has been in default for half of its existence since its independence. The bloggers found a Businessweek article that had the same fact. But I didn’t get it from there; I never read that article. The “estimate” I refer to is in the scholarly book by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, “This Time It’s Different” – which I did read. The Businessweek article, incidentally, does not cite the Rogoff book or any source at all for the same fact Does that mean that the Businessweek author was claiming that he was the source for it? No, of course not, because it was a fact in wide circulation at the time.

First, Zakaria says that we’re accusing him of using the same primary source as Businessweek for the information about Greece’s debt. We’re not. What we show is that Zakaria takes the same information as Peter Coy, changes a few key words, and puts it in his article. “Since winning independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, the nation has” is changed to “Since it gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, Greece has” while “spent half its time in various stages of default or restructuring” is chopped in half and reversed, leaving, “has been default or restricting for half this period.” Coy

 

Second Zakaria is- well, there’s no other way to say it – straight up lying here when he says Coy “does not cite the Rogoff book or any source at all for the same fact.” See for yourself:

Untitled

There is one additional case – the 12th — that involves, not a piece of data, but a quote from Richard Holbrooke that also appeared in a George Packer essay in the New Yorker. I got that from a direct conversation with Holbrooke in person several months before he died. He had made that particular comment to me many times. I asked him in this case if I could quote him. He agreed. I put it into my notebook, marked, “for attribution.”

There’s not much to add here other than the two possible conclusions that can be reached: 1. that Holbrooke regularly faced this observation, Zakaria would somehow overlook Clinton’s role in it, and then hold on to that quote for about a year, or 2. Zakaria plagiarized from the New Yorker. There’s public precedent for one of these.

Packer

 

 

Last, but not least, is a response to not just Zakaria but Mr. Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post, the paper’s editorial page editor who popped approximately eight monocles yesterday while scoffing that it was “reckless even to suggest this is plagiarism.” The use of the word “reckless” shows an incredible lack of self-awareness for someone who headed the Post’s editorial board when it was cheerleading the country into war in Iraq.

“Reckless” is also a funny choice of words for someone who just assumed that this was all we had to post. Our Bad Media will have more extensive examples of plagiarism by Fareed Zakaria later this week.

Did CNN, The Washington Post, and TIME Actually Check Fareed Zakaria’s Work For Plagiarism?

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

WHEN AN “ISOLATED” INCIDENT ISN’T

Following our reports on Benny Johnson and plagiarism last month, a number of news outlets ran articles analyzing the future of journalism in the Buzzfeed age. Politico’s Dylan Byers, discussing the lack of journalistic training among newer digital outlets, interviewed several journalists and experts on what constituted aggregation versus plagiarism. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple contrasted some of the more blatant plagiarism with the efforts of “Web journos everywhere who fiddle to no end with their copy to guarantee originality[.]” And the New York Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan warned of “the realities of journalism in the digital age” that made plagiarism so easy to find. “There’s no cover of darkness anymore for plagiarists,” she wrote. “These days, they’re always working under a searchlight.”

Who exactly has been operating that searchlight is unclear. An investigation by Our Bad Media has found that one of the nation’s most prominent journalists has a history of lifting material in his work across several major publications – despite public assurances from his employers that a previous plagiarism scandal was only an isolated incident.

As “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation,” Fareed Zakaria is a busy man—not just as the host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” but also as an editor-at-large at TIME, and a columnist at the Washington Post. Since his post-9/11 famous (or infamous) Newsweek story, “Why Do They Hate Us?” Zakaria has made the list of Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” alongside modern-day Aristotles like Thomas Friedman and Malcolm Gladwell. “My friends all say I’m going to be Secretary of State, [but] I don’t see how that would be much different from the job I have now” he allegedly told New York Magazine in a 2003 profile (a quote he later disputed). More importantly, Zakaria is a decorated journalist, having won a Peabody for his work on CNN, a Deadline Club Award for his “Why Do They Hate Us?” column, a National Magazine Award for his Newsweek work, two Overseas Press Club Awards, and an accolade from the Indian government for his contributions to journalism.

Despite these accolades, it was just two years ago this month that Zakaria was facing the fallout from a plagiarism scandal. Newsbusters’ Tim Graham and NRANews’ Cam Edwards had highlighted one of his columns for TIME that had lifted passages on gun control from a New Yorker article by Jill Lepore. They also noted that in 2009, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg had complained about Zakaria lifting quotes from his own interviews with notable subjects, without attribution. In the days that followed, Zakaria would end up issuing an apology over what he called a “terrible mistake,” and both TIME and CNN would suspend him for a month.

 

ZAKARIA’S 2012 PLAGIARISM SCANDAL AND ENSUING “REVIEWS”

When Buzzfeed conducted an “exhaustive review” of Benny Johnson’s works last month, they found dozens of additional examples of plagiarism. When Zakaria’s plagiarism story broke in 2012, TIME, CNN, and the Washington Post seemed to respond in similar fashion, reportedly conducting reviews of his past work to determine if he had lifted elsewhere without attribution. The results in this case were vastly different:

  • TIME cleared Zakaria of any additional plagiarism, with Managing Editor Richard Stengel telling the New York Times that Zakaria would recover as “one of the premier global intellectuals.” A official statement from TIME appeared to go even further, saying the column was an “unintentional error and an isolated incident.”
  • In a statement from CNN, the network claimed that after a “rigorous” review of Zakaria’s work for the network, they found “nothing that merited continuing the suspension.” Writing the incident off as a “journalistic lapse,” the statement went on the praise his work as “quality journalism.” But as Poynter’s Craig Silverman pointed out, it wasn’t entirely clear what sort of review was undertaken, and a CNN spokesperson refused to detail “the internal process” any further.
  • In a Washington Post article on the plagiarism charges and the ensuing reviews, the Post’s editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, stated that the paper “never had any reason to doubt the integrity” of Zakaria’s work. While it’s not clear what the result of the review was at the Post, the fact that Zakaria still writes for them appears to speak for itself.

In short, Zakaria was in the clear after what three of the biggest news outlets in America wrote off as an isolated, one-time mistake. Even the shame in Zakaria’s initial apology seemed to quickly dissipate. Here’s Zakaria in an apology sent to The Wire when the story first broke:

Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column this week bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore’s essay in the April 23rd issue of The New Yorker. They are right. I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time, and to my readers.

And here’s Zakaria in the New York Times a week later, blaming the mistake on a mix-up of research notes:

The mistake, he said, occurred when he confused the notes he had taken about Ms. Lepore’s article — he said he often writes his research in longhand — with notes taken from “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” by Adam Winkler (W.W. Norton, 2011), a copy of which was on his desk at his CNN office.

Unless Adam Winkler’s book on gun rights detoured into issues like the Chinese movie industry and corporate tax rates, the examples below seem unlikely to have been the result of another notes mix-up by Zakaria.

 

12 PASSAGES TIME, CNN, & THE WASHINGTON POST WOULD HAVE REVIEWED IN 2012

These are all articles that were written before the plagiarism scandal in August of 2012. In other words, these passages ostensibly would have been part of the reviews conducted by CNN, TIME and the Washington Post. Unless otherwise noted, none of the examples listed here have any kind of citation (hyperlink or otherwise) to the sources Zakaria lifted from.

1. Zakaria didn’t just lift any statistics from a New York Times article on corporate tax rates, he lifted them from a Times commissioned report

In a February 2011 article on corporate taxes by the New York Times, David Leonhardt cited research firm Capital IQ in an analysis commissioned by the Times. In an October 2011 TIME column on then-presidential candidate Herman Cain, Zakaria cited those same Capital IQ statistics nearly word-for-word—with no mention of the New York Times or the Capital IQ report they paid for.

Leonhardt

2. Zakaria appeared to lift from The Telegraph in an article on the Chinese movie industry, including a section on piracy

In a July 11th, 2011 article for the Telegraph, Shanghai correspondent Malcolm Moore penned an article on the Chinese government’s manipulation of the box office, using some very specific examples. Only several days later, Zakaria posted a TIME column on “China’s New Parochialism,” a piece highlighting the very same examples as Moore’s article in the very same sequence, including the delay of Transformers and Harry Potter, reports of empty cinema houses, and, without any apparent sense of irony, the comments section of the Chinese piracy website “VeryCD”:

Moore

3. Zakaria appears to have copied the contents of a Bloomberg report on Chinese windmills for an article on U.S. manufacturing

In February 2012, Zakaria wrote a TIME article titled, “The Case for Making It in the USA,” which argues for state supported manufacturing programs. As support for his position, Zakaria cites the case of Chinese backing of two windmill producers, lifting from an October 2011 Bloomberg report by Natalie Obiko Pearson.

Pearson

CNN published a similar version of Zakaria’s column, which includes a condensed version of Pearson’s material.

4 & 5. Zakaria appears to have cribbed from both Vanity Fair and Forbes for an article on pension reform.

In June 2012, Zakaria published an article in TIME titled, “Why We Need Pension Reform.” To bolster his argument, Zakaria spends a paragraph pointing to the fiscal turmoil in both California and San Jose. This section plagiarizes from both a November 2011 Michael Lewis piece in Vanity Fair, titled “California and Bust,” and a November 2011 Forbes article that builds on Lewis’s reporting.

Lewis

6. Zakaria re-posted the summary of a Russian think tank survey from The Nation

Writing for The Nation in a July 2011 article on Russian civil society, journalist Vadim Nikitin cites a Levada Center poll on public corruption under President Vladimir Putin. The question and results, which can be seen here on page 118, were represented in this table:

Untitled

In December 2011, Zakaria wrote a TIME article titled, “The People Vs. Putin,” in which he summarizes the results of a Levada Center survey on Russia’s political mood. Zakaria’s summary of the poll is nearly identical to the one written by Nikitin:

Nikitin

CNN published the same paragraph (as well as a link to the TIME article) on Zakaria’s GPS blog the same month.

7. Zakaria began an article on the Greek debt crisis in an identical way to a similar article by Businessweek

In June of 2011, Businessweek economics editor Peter Coy began his piece on Greece’s debt crisis, “How to Save Greece,” by putting Greece’s fiscal struggles into historical context. In May 2012, Zakaria wrote a TIME article titled, “Time for Greece to Say Danke to Germany” that begins with the same contextualization.

Coy

CNN published the offending paragraph (as well as a link to the TIME article) on Zakaria’s GPS blog the same month.

8. Zakaria pulled material from a Center for American Progress report for a column on cutting defense spending

In August 2011, Zakaria wrote a Washington Post column titled, “Why defense spending should be cut,” which attacked the growth of the Pentagon budget. Zakaria’s piece lifts text extensively from a July 2011 Center for American Progress report, “A Return to Responsibility,” written by Lawrence J. Korb, Laura Conley, and Alex Rothman.

Korb

NOTE: Zakaria does cite Korb later in the article, but just support of a $1 trillion cut to defense spending:

Lawrence Korb, who worked at the Pentagon for Ronald Reagan, believes that a $1 trillion cut over 10 to 12 years is feasible without compromising national security.

Importantly, Zakaria’s link does not go back to the Korb et. al. CAP study, but rather a CNNMoney op-ed by Korb that has none of the information Zakaria appeared to lift from the CAP report.

Shortly after the Washington Post column was published, CNN ran a similar piece by Zakaria on his GPS blog that also uses the CAP report without credit. Again, Zakaria cites a Korb op-ed for an unrelated factoid:

A recent report by Lawrence Korb, who worked at the Pentagon for Ronald Reagan, posits that a $1 trillion cut over 10 to 12 years is feasible without compromising national security.

Zakaria’s link is dead, but Archive.org indicates that it linked back to a Korb op-ed in the Huffington Post that, again, has none of the information Zakaria took from the CAP report.

9. Zakaria’s column on health insurance has striking similarities to a Washington Post analysis of an IFHP report.

On March 26, 2012, Zakaria published a TIME piece titled, “Health Insurance Is For Everyone.” In it, Zakaria plagiarizes the title and content of an article by Ezra Klein that summarizes an International Federation of Health Plans report.

Klein

In can be reasonably inferred that Zakaria was plagiarizing Klein’s interpretation of the study, rather than reading the study himself and coming to similar conclusions. Klein’s citation of the “22 of 23 cases,” “doctor’s visit to a dose of Lipitor” and specific citation of the MRI figure were all unique to his piece at the time. IFHP’s press release on the report, as well as the report itself, do not use Klein’s language.

CNN published the offending paragraph (as well as a link to the TIME article) on Zakaria’s GPS blog the same month.

 

10. Zakaria appeared to lift an anecdote about Richard Holbrooke from the New Yorker’s George Packer

In a 2009 New Yorker profile of the late Richard Holbrooke, George Packer recounted the ambassador’s response to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling him he would be Gen. David Petraeus’ “civilian counterpart.” Zakaria, in a 2011 Washington Post column, “Why defense spending should be cut,” appears to recount Holbrooke’s response in the same manner Jeffrey Goldberg found so annoying in 2009. Note Zakaria attributing the “civilian counterpart” comment to “media accounts” and leaving the reader unclear as to whether or not Holbrooke’s quote was directly to him (although he does seem to suggest a personal familiarity with the ambassador’s many cellphones):

Packer

Some might wonder if maybe the “civilian counterpart” comment was one Holbrooke faced on a regular basis, each occasion met with laughter and the same reply about phones and planes. In that case, it’s worth noting that Zakaria’s direct quote of Holbrooke, slightly different from Packer’s, doesn’t appear to exist in the public record outside of Zakaria’s column.

11. Zakaria used text in a column on the 2011 debt deal that is nearly identical to that in a Wikipedia article

In August 2011, Zakaria wrote a TIME article titled “The Debt Deal’s Failure,” taking much of the nation’s leadership to task for which plagiarizes text from the summary of the Wikipedia article for Reaganomics.

Wikipedia

12. Zakaria copy-and-pasted a line from a TIME article by Peter Beinart into his piece on the debt deal.

In the same August 2011 TIME article he used Wikipedia in, Zakaria lifts a string of text verbatim from a February 2010 article in TIME by Peter Beinart.

 Beinart

The CNN reproduction of the article on Zakaria’s GPS blog includes the same language.

A QUESTION FOR TIME, CNN, AND THE WASHINGTON POST

Fareed Zakaria is not a twenty-something digital media blogger charged with putting together Jurassic Park listicles. Fareed Zakaria is a news editor and a New York Times bestselling author who holds a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. from Harvard. In other words, someone who should be more than familiar with proper citation by now. The above examples are from a span of less than two years and do not include his work since, his columns at Newsweek from 2001-2010, or the books he wrote before 2012.

As we mentioned before, Buzzfeed’s in-house review of Benny Johnson’s work last month turned up numerous more examples of plagiarism. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that a thorough review took place. But the same can’t be said for the outlets that ran Zakaria’s work. These examples raise far more serious questions about the integrity of Zakaria’s editors at CNN, TIME, and the Washington Post, all of whom claimed to have conducted similar reviews and found nothing. In the light of our findings, we have to call bullshit. It took less than an hour and a few Google searches for us at Our Bad Media to find an example of lifting in Zakaria’s columns written before the 2012 plagiarism scandal. So we’re left to wonder: did TIME, CNN, or the Washington Post actually conduct good faith reviews of Zakaria’s work? Have they since?