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.”
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. 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:
- Zakaria lifts Rudin’s passage that in the 19th century, cocktails were known as morning “eye-openers.”
- While Rudin says the martini “acquired…a glamorous mystique” in the post-war era, Zakaria thinks it “acquired an air of mystery and glamour.”
- 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.
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)? 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!