The Left gives its awards to any writer it deems politically useful, even if that writer is a sex criminal or didn’t actually do the original writing. Christopher Ketcham exposes the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chris Hedges as a serial plagiarist:
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 a polemicist 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.
Ross and the fact-checker, who remains an editor at the magazine and asked that his name not be used in this story, sat down to discuss the matter before approaching Ellen Rosenbush, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, and Rick MacArthur, the publisher, who knew Hedges personally. The fact-checker was assigned to speak to Hedges about the material lifted from Matt Katz. According to Ross and the fact-checker, Hedges told them that he had shared the draft with Katz, who, Hedges claimed, had approved his use of Katz’s language and reporting. (Rosenbush and MacArthur declined to comment on the record for this article.)
But when the editors at Harper’s asked Katz about Hedges’s account, Katz told them he had not in fact seen the manuscript. “When I went back to Hedges, he tried to clarify by saying he didn’t mean that he had actually showed Katz the draft,” the fact-checker said. “He lied to me—lied to his fact-checker.”
At this point, Ross said, he brought the matter to Rosenbush, and together—after a series of meetings that included the fact-checker, literary editor Ben Metcalf, and MacArthur—they decided Harper’s could no longer stand behind the piece.
“I do not believe I shared a text with Matt Katz, but this was a few years ago,” Hedges wrote to me when I asked him about this account. “I know I spoke with him several times as he wrote the series and covered Camden.” Katz told me that he did not remember seeing a draft, and he confirmed speaking with a Harper’s fact-checker. He declined to comment further.
The plagiarism at Harper’s was not an isolated incident. Hedges has a history of lifting material from other writers that goes back at least to his first book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, published in 2002. He has echoed language from Nation author Naomi Klein. He has lifted lines from radical social critic Neil Postman. He has even purloined lines from Ernest Hemingway.
One has to say this for the Hugo Award-winning John Scalzi. Unlike Mr. Hedges, at least Mr. Scalzi is willing to admit that he ripped off Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, H. Beam Piper, and Star Trek.
Forget the morality of Hedges’s plagiarism. What sort of idiot thinks stealing lines from ERNEST HEMINGWAY is going to pass unnoticed? And isn’t it remarkable how many of these former New York Times reporters turn out to be plagiarists?