Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Establishment New Republic Smears Chris Hedges as a Plagiarist

The New Republic is a corporate Democrat pimping mouthpiece from which some of the most cowardly and dishonest smear campaigns are launched into the national media cesspool on behalf of the corrupt establishment. It was earlier this year that the magazine/website did abrutal hatchet job on former government contractor turned heroic NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald. The epic sliming - which also threw in Wikileaks leader Julian Assange for good measure - was penned by Sean Wilentz, a pal of Bill and Hillary Clinton and logged in at over 6,000 words, throwing the kitchen sink at the two in an effort to kill the messenger. The magazine also promoted last years Rand Paul plagiarism smear campaign and in targeting their latest victim, the same charge is leveled at Pulitzer Prize winning former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, a fierce critic of the warfare state and the menace of mutated vulture capitalism.

While Hedges' writings are anathema to many, particularly those who still naively believe in the fantasy of "free markets" and the wishful thinking that capitalism is anything other than a pact with death and destruction he has emerged as a leading figure of the push back. His relentless pillorying of a system rigged and rotten as well as the feckless liberal elite that failed to stand for anything at the time when it mattered most have earned him a good many enemies, especially on the so-called left. He is thoroughly loathed by liberals of a certain type, especially after his book "Death of the Liberal Class" was released and his book on the Christian Right"American Fascists" made the already hateful lemmings of chicken fried, weaponized American Christianity furious. Hedges has been a relentless critic of the gargantuan fraud that is Barack Obama and his criticism of Queen Hillary the inevitable will likely be just as blistering. Mr. Hedges ran afoul of the Obama regime when he sued him over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the suit made it to the Supreme Court where it the fascists in the nation's highest judiciary covered the administration's ass by refusing to even hear the case. Like Snowden, Greenwald, Chris Hedges is one of the good guys so the massive article accusing him of plagiarism smells like it is a preemptive strike to discredit him well in advance of the 2016 election season.

The huge hit piece entitled "The Troubling Case of Chris Hedges" delivers a broadside to the writer with selected snippets of his work that could technically be called plagiarism on some level but more likely are just sloppy sourcing, editing and a lack of due diligence on Hedges' part. As a longtime reader of his work my opinion is that he relies very much on literature as well as the accounts of others when making his points but in doing so provides proper credit. He is overly reliant on this at times and this has been seized upon in the TNR piece (Ernest Hemingway) although the piece itself is rife with its own array of inconsistencies and was turned down by two potential publishers -Salon and The American Prospect - before finding a home at TNR.
That the hit piece was written by Christopher Ketcham - who has done some fine work in the past - particularly when writing on the surveillance state as in "The Last Roundup" and "Trojan Horse" - is disappointing in that he isn't a guy who I would have expected to prostitute himself out to a politically motivated chop shop like The New Republic but hey, everyone has to keep the bills paid. It also may be a bit personal as Ketcham's wife is one of the writers that Hedges has been accused of plagiarizing. His complicity in this shitty endeavor will in the long run taint him more than Hedges - at least to those who matter. It is also likely a bit personal in that Ketcham accuses Hedges of plagiarizing the work of his own wife Petra Bartosiewicz.

Excerpting from the piece itself:

In early 2010, the editors at Harper's Magazine began reviewing a lengthy manuscript submitted by Chris Hedges, a former New York Times reporter. In the piece, Hedges had turned his eye to Camden, New Jersey, one of the most downtrodden cities in the nation. Hedges's editor at Harper's, Theodore Ross, who left the magazine in 2011 and is now a freelance writer, was excited when he saw the draft. "I thought it was a great story about a topic--poverty--that nobody covers enough," Ross said.

The trouble began when Ross passed the piece along to the fact-checker assigned to the story. As Ross and the fact-checker began working through the material, they discovered that sections of Hedges's draft appeared to have been lifted directly from the work of a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter named Matt Katz, who in 2009 had published a four-part series on social and political dysfunction in Camden.

Given Hedges's institutional pedigree, this discovery shocked the editors at Harper's. Hedges had been a star foreign correspondent at the Times, where he reported from war zones and was part of the team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for covering global terrorism. In 2002, he had received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. He is a fellow at the Nation Institute. He has taught at Princeton University and Columbia University. He writes a weekly column published in the widely read progressive website Truthdig and frequently republished on the Truthout website. He is the author of twelve books, including the best-selling American Fascists. Since leaving the Times in 2005, he has evolved into apolemicist of the American left. For his fierce denunciations of the corporate state, his attacks on the political elite, and his enthusiasm for grassroots revolt, he has secured a place as a firebrand revered among progressive readers.

A leading moralist of the left, however, had now been caught plagiarizing at one of the oldest magazines of the left.

[Whipping out the "polemicist of the American left" pejorative in just the second paragraph sets the table, the reference to Harper's being some sort of magazine of the "left" is horseshit, I have a subscription and it can be more accurately described as center-left]


"The Katz stuff was flat out plagiarism," says the Harper's fact-checker. "At least twenty instances of sentences that were exactly the same. Three grafs where a 'that' was changed to a 'which.'" The fact-checker reiterated to me that first-person accounts in Hedges's draft had him quoting the same sources as in Katz's pieces, with the sources using exactly the same wording as in Katz's pieces. "Hedges not only used another journalist's quotes," says the fact-checker, "but he used them in first-person scenes, claiming he himself gathered the quotes. It was one of the worst things I'd ever seen as a fact-checker at the magazine. And it was endemic throughout the piece."

The fact-checker spoke on the phone with Hedges at least three times and exchanged about a dozen e-mails with him. "He was very unhelpful from the beginning, and very aggressive," said the fact-checker. Hedges repeatedly claimed he had done original reporting. "Hedges reassured me there were no problems," said Ross. "He then went to the fact-checker and tried to intimidate him and give him a hard time. Hedges told him, 'Why are you going to the editor?'"

[Notable is that the "at least twenty instances" are not provided by Ketcham, TNR or Harpers - one would think that they would be the twenty nails with which to seal Hedges' coffin yet they are omitted - it is no wonder that Salon and The American Prospect passed on the piece]

The Ketcham piece is just too long to bother with more excerpts here so go and read it yourselfand be the judge. The examples provided are but a minuscule sample of Hedges' extensive body of work which would be in the millions of words as well as speeches and interviews. As I already have stated, Hedges has a tendency to be use references to others, Neil Postman, Herman Melville and Fyodor Dostoevsky to name a few and he often refers to the effect that classical literature has had on him in the formation of his worldview. Ketcham's selected examples while similar to the work of others are describing the same situation or event so there will naturally be some similarity but they were obviously cherry picked to make the case for the writer's crucifixion. Other than the grave offense of suing Obama and challenging the corrupt post 9/11 system it seems like Hedges' only real crime is bad editing and sloppy attributions and in my personal opinion Ketcham is guilty of exactly the same sloppiness in his hit piece.

That the early outlets pushing the Hedges as plagiarist narrative are all notorious neocon right-wing propaganda mills is telling. There is the warmonger bible that is William Kristol's Weekly Standard with "War is a Force that Makes Us Plagiarize", the odious with "Pulitzer Prize Winning Lefty Writer Hit With Serial Plagiarism Charges" , the Stormfront for neocons Front Page Magazine with "Plagiarism is a Force that Gives Chris Hedges Meaning" and a universe of lesser known bottom-feeders as well as what might as well be a DNC-Clinton propaganda organ Daily Kos and there will be more piling on as the story makes it's way through the sausage machine.

So the worst case scenario is that Hedges fucked up, it happens to the the best of them but when you are as outspoken as he has been his number of enemies grows by the day and a general rule of survival in this savage society is that you never give anyone the knife that they would use to cut your throat with. Hedges did and now all of his really good work will always be tainted by linkage with the New Republic piece which will bear a lasting effect exactly how liberal blogger Jane Hamsher of Firedog Lake puts it here:

The piece was passed on by the American Prospect and Salon before TNR decided to pick it up. I started reading it thinking "okay, plagiarism, Chris Hedges, I'll read this," expecting to find some legitimate examples. But the best they could do was one section of a Harper's Magazine article Hedges said he used with permission, and the original author wouldn't comment. Then the article goes on to document times where Hedges' writing was "close" to other pieces.
This story was maybe worth 500 words. Maybe. Apparently the Prospect and Salon didn't think the Harper's story wasn't worth of publication without some sort of confirmation, and I have to say I'd make the same call. The only reason you'd publish a 5700 word long screed like this is if you really, really hated the guy and wanted to defame him and tarnish his image. (The next step will be to consistently refer to the fact that Hedges has been "accused of plagiarism in the past" -- typical Neocon circle-jerk disinformation hatchet job).

And it will stick in that unlike a man who revels in the raw brutality of trench warfare like Glenn Greenwald, Hedges lacks the killer instinct necessary to counterattack. It is disappointing that other than Hamsher that there is no defense of Hedges to this point from progressives and liberals who don't drink the Obama-Clinton Kool Aid. Nor is there a defense from libertarians who are jumping on the neocon bandwagon to bash Hedges largely out of ideological differences and a knee jerk aversion to anything that even remotely resembles socialism despite much common ground on the police state, war and civil liberties.

If Hedges is guilty of anything it is hubris which is something that a man with an appreciation for classical literature and philosophy should understand much better than he does. He should have understood that sooner or later there would be an effort to discredit him and covered his ass better than he did. That being said though, Hedges will likely have far more success if he just sues the hell out of Ketcham, The New Republic and Harpers than he did in suing Obama. He would be foolish if he didn't immediately lawyer up to settle this matter once and for all in a court of law so as to remove this ugly blight on his reputation that will be used going forward to discredit his message by those seeking to protect the corrupt system and keep the wars going.