Ho boy

Chris Hedges, plagarist.

“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?’”

The fact-checker told me, “Not only was the plagiarism more egregious than I had seen before, but it was shocking how unapologetic Hedges was when it was put in his face. He got very heavy-handed about it. He kept claiming that the people quoted in the Katz piece gave him the exact same quotes.”

According to Ross and the fact-checker, Hedges then tried to circumvent their questions by appealing privately to Harper’s publisher Rick MacArthur, who at the time was a personal friend.

“After it became clear that we had a serious problem, the reaction at the magazine was admirable,” Ross said. “Ellen brought me in to talk to Hedges on the phone when we killed it. He was very upset. He didn’t believe he did anything wrong. It was a hostile conversation between the three of us. It got heated. I said words to the effect of ‘Chris, we’re doing you a favor here. You don’t want to go out with that kind of work. Because you’ll get caught. Someone is going to catch you.’ I thought it was all pretty sad. Here was a chance to do a creative, smart, impactful story on poverty and we lost it because he wasn’t willing to do the work.” Hedges has not been invited to write for Harper’s again.

7 thoughts on “Ho boy

  1. There is nothing new under the sun. Who said that? Maybe Hedges should be given the benefit of the doubt? Harper’s is a bathroom read anyway.

  2. This bears further investigation. I’ve been rather impressed by his writing, particularly War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. Doubtless, there are also many people who would love to destroy him. This account is one-sided; I’d be interested in hearing his side.

  3. Hamsher at FDL did a takedown on that Harper’s article. According to her, there’s a lot less there than meets the eye of the Harper’s guy. She says all they’ve got is that one attributed author whose words Hedges says he used by permission. The author hasn’t commented.

    Frankly, if the whole big deal is whether he personally spoke to or did not speak to someone whose words he correctly attributes, then it’s really a tempest in a teapot. Get a life, Harper’s.

    Plagiarism is stealing someone else’s work *without* attribution.

  4. I don’t know what to think on this. I have had a funny feeling about Chris Hedges for a while. He just seems so heavy and portentous, like he sees himself as a minor prophet. I skip reading his stuff because I feel bad enough already, and I already know what he is going to say. Maybe he got PTSD from all that war reporting.

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