Is CJ Werleman A Plagiarist?

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Update: 22/10/2014 – Soon after publishing this article on 17/10/2014, the charges of plagiarism contained within were confirmed to be accurate, revealing CJ Werleman to be a serial plagiarist. As a result, many new developments have occurred – including the discovery of 14 additional instances of plagiarism and a number of Werleman’s publishing outlets taking action against him. I have now added additional footnotes to highlight these developments.

I recently documented a number of concerns regarding the unpleasant behaviour of ‘Author’ and ‘Social Commentator’ CJ Werleman in my article: ‘CJ Werleman: Misrepresentation, Dubious Ethics and Unoriginal Hackery’. Expressed within that article and reproduced below are my thoughts on some of Werleman’s published writing:

‘[Werleman] is simply regurgitating past hack jobs and slapping sensationalist headlines on them’

‘…you’ve already heard this elsewhere, many times before, many years ago.’

‘Also, what he has cobbled together in his attack on Harris has already been written by others many years ago’

I attributed his imitative output to an absence of original thought rather than something altogether more cynical. But it’s now possible my feeling of ‘having read this all before’ was a symptom of literally having read some of this before.

The above article mentions Dr. Peter Boghossian (@PeterBoghossian), which subsequently prompted a conversation between us. During our conversation, Dr. Boghossian called attention to some things he’d identified in CJ Werleman’s writing that I hadn’t previously considered, and so I decided to conduct an independent investigation to determine whether or not CJ Werleman is guilty of actual plagiarism. (Parts of Dr. Boghossian’s letter have been reprinted here with his permission.)

I’m not an Investigative Journalist or academic, so knowing how and where to begin was a problem. Then I quickly remembered Google exists. I lifted choice sections from some of the articles Werleman published on prominent platforms such as Salon and Alternet. I paid specific attention to paragraphs containing information that would usually require a certain level of knowledge and diligence on the part of the author. My findings raise some serious questions. I shall provide examples below.

The following examples assume all of the dates and names stated on these articles are accurate:

Take this article from Fareed Zakaria: ‘America’s educational failings’ from The Washington Post dated May 1st 2014 and the following passage:

“The United States had a wide gap between its best performers and worst performers… And it had the widest gap in scores between people with rich, educated parents and poor, undereducated parents.”

And then compare it with this from Werleman’s article published days later at Salon and Alternet:

“The United States has a wide gap between its best performers and its worst performers. And it had the widest gap in scores between people with rich, educated parents and poor, undereducated parents….”

There is no indication that this isn’t Werleman’s original writing or any citation given.

Take some extracts from this article: ‘The Prison-Industrial Complex and the Global Economy’ by Eve Goldberg and Linda Evans from 2001:

‘… the prison/industrial complex is an interweaving of private business and government interests. Its twofold purpose is profit and social control. Its public rationale is the fight against crime.

… Violence occurs in less than 14% of all reported crime, and injuries occur in just 3%….Violent crimes like murder, rape, manslaughter and kidnaping don’t even make the top ten.’

Then compare it with this extract from Werleman’s article in Salon dated Aug 2014:

‘The prison industrial complex is an interweaving of business and government interests. It serves to feed two private purposes: profit and social control. Its publicly stated goals are a little more Orwellian: “to fight crime and keep violent criminals off our streets.” But the latter is a self-serving lie. Violence occurs in less than 14 percent of reported crime, and injuries occur in less than 3 percent. In fact, violent crimes don’t even occur in the top 10 reasons for incarceration.’

There is no indication that this isn’t Werleman’s original writing or any citation given.

Take an extract from this article: ‘In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich’ from Nov 2013 By Eduardo Porter:

‘The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.’

Then compare it with this extract from Werleman’s article on Alternet dated June 2014:

Among OECD nations, America remains an outlier, one of the few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children are afforded more funding than those serving poor students. Among the 34 OECD nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students

There is no indication that this isn’t Werleman’s original writing or any citation given.

Take part of an interview with Robert Pape from the articleIn God’s Name? Evaluating the Links between Religious Extremism and Terrorism’ from Oct 2005:

“Instead, what more than 95 percent of all suicide terrorist attacks since 1980 have in common is not religion, but a specific secular goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Chechnya to Kashmir to Sri Lanka to the West Bank, every suicide terrorist campaign since 1980 has had as its main objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces from territory that the terrorists prize.”

Then compare it with this extract from Werleman’s articleRichard Dawkins, Sam Harris and atheists’ ugly Islamophobia‘ on Salon:

More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks have a strategic goal in common—to compel an occupying force to withdraw from territory the terrorists prize. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to the West Bank to Chechnya, the central goal of every suicide terrorist campaign has been to resist military occupation by a democracy.”

Werleman’s article does discuss Pape’s actual research, but gives no indication that the above passage isn’t Werleman’s own original writing.

There is also this line from Why Men Love War  by William Broyles Jr. in Esquire, November 1984 (also reprinted in May 2014 as part of a retrospective):

“There is a reason for every war and a war for every reason.”

The line is also used in the first paragraph of Werleman’s article: Why Do We Lust for War? On Alternet:

“There is a reason for every war and a war for every reason.”

There is no indication that this isn’t Werleman’s original writing or any citation given.

In Boghossian’s correspondence with me, he notices an issue of tense regarding the reference to Khomeini in Werleman’s article ‘We are ISIS‘:

“Iran has broad ambitions to spread its influence over the whole Middle East. But excluding pockets of support in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq – the Middle East remains a hostile world for the predominantly Shiite Iranians, which is why Ayatollah Khomeini’s strategy has always been that Iran must be more Arab than the Arabs. Iran’s posturing against Israel is nothing more than Khomeini’s tactic to win Arab hearts and minds.”

As noted by Boghossian, Werleman must actually mean Ayatollah Khamenei as Khomeini died in 1989.  Werleman’s words appear to be lifted from the book The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat By Vali Nasr (view section here). The relevant line reads:

“Khomeini’s strategy had always been that Iran had to be more Arab than the Arabs…”

It seems Werleman has changed the tense, but the fact he is now talking about a dead man as though he were alive appears to have gone unnoticed.

There is no indication that this isn’t Werleman’s original writing or any citation given.

There are many more examples1, but the ones provided here seem adequately revealing. I’m not lettered in journalistic ethics, but as a former student I know academic institutions take acts of plagiarism very, very seriously. Consider this taken from the University Of Oxford’s guidelines: Intentional or reckless plagiarism may incur severe penalties, including failure of your degree or expulsion from the university’. I would be incredibly surprised to learn that award-winning news platforms such as Salon and Alternet don’t require their contributors to adhere to a similar code of ethics.

Perhaps Werleman has personally sought and received permission from all of the sources he’s ‘borrowed’ from. However, if that is the case, failing to clearly indicate, cite or quote this — yet publishing solely under his own name — is an unacceptable exercise in deceiving readers while overstating his proficiency. Needless to say, I’d like Werleman2, Salon3, Middle East Eye4, Alternet5 and others6, to clear up these concerns with some convincing answers.

Update 22/10/2014:

Werleman felt the appropriate response to accusations of plagiarism was to accuse Sam Harris of plagiarising too.  Sam Harris has provided a devastating rebuttal to these accusations here.

You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

  1. Whilst reporting on my observations over on his blog, Michael Luciano appears to have discovered an additional 14 instances of potential plagiarism
  2. Werlman eventually released an ‘apology’ via his Facebook page which is nothing more than excuse making exercise whilst playing the victim.  You can read my thoughts on that here
  3. Salon have noted this plagiarism on their corrections page: ‘Four of contributor CJ Werleman’s stories for Salon, three of which were originally published by our partner site, AlterNet, have been discovered to contain passages that were either improperly sourced or plagiarized. In the interest of transparency, we have emboldened the sections of these articles in question and included hyperlinks to the original source material. Salon deeply regrets the oversight’.  I’d submit this isn’t an appropriate response to serial plagiarism and would support calls for further action from Salon
  4. It seems Middle East Eye are standing by Werleman and continue to publish his work.  This speaks to their integrity as a news platform
  5. Alternet have taken a strong professional stance on this and have removed all of Werleman’s articles whilst releasing a statement here
  6. The Secular Global Institute appears to have removed Werleman’s profile from their page


  • Ha. Plagiarising from a plagiarist!

    • Bravo, good sir!
      I’m glad you didn’t any pressing need to actually comment anything of merit or value!
      (stress can be unhealthy, after all!)

  • Given that his ‘reference’ section for ‘God Hates You’ was merely a list of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens books, with no in text or footnote citation anywhere in the book (I’ll tweet a screenshot for confirmation later) this is hardly surprising.

    Well done, GSC.

  • Richard Dawkins has summed it up nicely:

    “Evidence of plagiarism by a second-rate hack.”

    Great work!

  • Great job! I’m really looking forward to CJ’s response and I want to see how all those sites take this research. Unethical and despicable.

  • I just discovered your blog, and I’m do glad I did. Excellent work here. Don’t let up until CJ, Salon, etc. responds accordingly.

  • How extraordinary. The first is from the study the piece spoke to those exact findings. These are the citations of the facts from that study.

    The second WTF are you talking about?: “The findings of the Flinders University study are supported by the research conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, which was partly funded by the Defense Department’s Threat Reduction Agency. The authors, Robert A. Pape.”

    The third is a commonly used cliche. “War for every reason. A reason for every war.”

    The fourth is another commonly used cliche when speaking to Iran’s anti-Israel strategy: “Khomeini’s strategy had always been that Iran had to be more Arab than the Arabs…”

    Finally, here’s a quote from Hitchens: “Plagiarism = that most obvious and banal discovery of the literary truth.”

  • Correction: “Hitchens: “Plagiarism = that most obvious and banal discovery of the literary sleuth.”

  • I’ve published 5 books and apx 100+ op-eds, and you have 2 commonly used cliches and the summary of cited studies or the statement of facts. Ok!

  • Wait, so “The United States had a wide gap between its best performers and worst performers… And it had the widest gap in scores between people with rich, educated parents and poor, undereducated parents.” is a ‘cliché?’ Seriously?

    • If only I’d known this earlier, I could’ve ‘clichéd’ my way through my degree! It looks much easier than actually doing the work myself was.

  • ““There is a reason for every war and a war for every reason” is also in Vali Nasr’s book, and Chuck Thompson’s. Both use at as a cliche without quoting anyone.

  • “Iran must demonstrate to the Arab world it is more Arab than Arabs” is in Mersheimer’s book, without quoting anyone.

  • Kevin: I have listed the two cliches above.

  • On further thought, I have no excuse for the OECD ‘Education Failing’s’ quote. Why I hadn’t enclosed that, I don’t know. It should’ve been. Very sloppy. But if you look over the entire body of my work, you’ll see that all of my op-eds are riddled with citations and quotes.

  • CJ doesn’t seem to get it. There’s no such thing as a ‘little bit’ of plagiarism. You either have plagiarised or you haven’t.

    “Would you sleep with me for $100?”
    “Ok, would you sleep with me for $1000?”
    “Hmmm, alright then.”
    “So now we know what you are, we’re just negotiating price.”

    All of your work may not be plagiarised but that’s besides the point. Countless people in academia have had entire careers ruined because of a single misplaced quote, a missing footnote or an incomplete reference list. If only you were making such benign and trivial mistakes. You are not and your transgressions appear pathological at this point.

  • cliché: a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. An expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.

    OK, maybe you base some of your work on clichés. That’s not a good defense, it’s actually another very unprofessional and cheap method. It means you’re not saying anything, or that what you’re saying is false. What about the four other examples that cannot be attributed to clichés or summaries, just plain copy+paste?

  • Did nobody ever teach you to paraphrase? Sounds like you received a slack education.

  • also does a very good job in searching for stolen text on the internet.

  • “CJ Werleman is a hack and a scumbag.”

    How’s that for a cliche? Go use it CJ.

  • Copy cat, copy cat.
    Sitting right there on my fucking doormat.


    Interesting that CJ would just happen to be applying these ‘clichés’ to the very same subjects as these writers were…But then, what do we know? He’s a professional.

    Just imagine how much better this would be if he just held his hands up and apologised. Maybe something like:

    ‘I’m sorry. Times were hard. The wife left me. I hit the bottle. Lost my money gambling. Had to get paid somehow. Please forgive me.’

    Then he could go away and write a book about coming clean, maybe ‘CJ Werleman – Stopping The Lies’. And it may become a best-seller? And he’d be world famous and respected as the man who changed his ways and embraced honesty and integrity.

    Would also link nicely to Sam Harris’ book Lying too and you could do book tours together…CJ. Get at me, I got a plan all worked out for you!

  • Please carry on, this is most entertaining

  • Not that we need more evidence at this point, but I just posted this comment to the Salon article “Atheists don’t get terrorism” by Mr. Werleman:

    As we are quickly discovering (@GSpellchecker et al.), Mr. Werleman either doesn’t understand how or is too sloppy (or perhaps there’s a third, worse explanation) to quote and cite his sources properly.

    He quotes Arun Kundani (but misspells his name) and cites the author (good job), but he introduces the quotation with this unquoted sentence:

    Al-Awlaki’s radicalization is consistent with the historical pattern of political activists adopting a belief in terrorism when political action fails to bring about change.

    That sentence, with the exception of “Al-Awlaki’s,” is simply copied and pasted from Kundnani, without quotation, as if Werleman wrote it.

    Excuses about “it was just a paraphrase of the author cited” or “I misplaced the quotation marks” don’t fly. They don’t even crawl at this point.

    Salon should 1) correct the misspelling of Kundnani’s name; 2) acknowledge the improper paraprhase/quotation; and 3) review every last one of Werleman’s articles for sloppy and/or questionable work.

  • Reading CJ’s comments on here is like watching someone be addicted to a shovel. He just… keeps… digging.

  • “I’ve published 5 books and apx 100+ op-eds, and you have 2 commonly used cliches and the summary of cited studies or the statement of facts. Ok!”

    I stole those three cars, but look at all the cars I didn’t steal! Or at least, the ones you haven’t yet proven I stole. Ok!

  • Wow you guys know how to pile on.

    The only one here in the comments with any class is GSC for plainly pointing this out. It’s clear that CJW hasn’t given credit for these quotes. That’s it. He’ll either learn to quote and credit and move on or he won’t.

    Is it the fact that he disagrees slightly with other prominent atheists that everyone seems to have such venom? Any voice that shines light on religion vs. atheism is good. Do enough reading and like GSC you’re bound to find these types of things.

    The rest of you are rather like piranha or better yet, unreasonable villagers yelling “witch – WITCH – Burn her!”

    The internet is awesome because everyone but the most notable few, have ivory towers of anonymity to sit in and throw stones. I said that.

    Those that care about such matters of disagreement should be the only people with a dog in the fight. The rest of us really should just make note and move on. I’m saying this because it is so tiring to see humans with such mob mentality. There’s a little blood and “ohh ahhh we got ’em boys”. Since you all know so much about right and wrong, then tell us what you’ve done wrong, here on this page. Bet some of you will argue that you’ve done the right thing somehow, but that’s the lesson. Learn and move on.

    • Funny how you criticize others for the “ivory towers of anonymity” they’ve erected, under an entirely vague an untraceable handle such as “Fred G.”. Hypocrisy much? I at least am posting via my Facebook account, aka I hold myself accountable for my comments.

      Your accusations of “venom” are oddly unidirectional too, considering it was CJW who lashed out at Harris on TYT while accusing him of being “as dangerous as Sarah Palin” and other such garbage. Care to criticize him and his “acolytes” for similarly despicable behavior?

    • It is NOT as simple as “learn to quote and credit and move on”. Plagiarism, as GSP points out, is a very serious accusation among writers and journalists. It can discredit an entire body of work from an author, and his colleagues and collaborations in past projects can be affected too. A simple apology would not suffice now, especially after calling GSP a “Harris zombie” and denying any count of plagiarism and then accepting one (since then SEVEN MORE counts have been found and not a word from CJ has been heard). To the original accusation of multiple cases of plagiarism it can be added now intention to cover it up and lying about it. It may seem as a childish fight, but, I repeat, among people that write FOR A LIVING, stealing someone elses’s writing withouth mention is PRETTY SERIOUS.

  • Nothing wrong with this. All he’s really saying is that Communism is a fantastic idea and valuing someones work over the person who developed it is ideal. So really he’s just a hypocrite.

  • Use iParadigm’s product called iThenticate. It will reveal more faster than you can ever check using Google.

  • This Werleman dudes spins out crap faster than a Wurlitzer! That’s just my take from bumping into this web post and reading his push back. Once you see the bigger picture it get’s even worse looking for the dude. Quit while you’re behind CJ. Enjoy.

  • I honestly don’t understand the argument that CJ should be granted special treatment solely on the premise that he’s an “atheist”, “like the rest of us”.
    I am 36 years of age and been an atheist for at least the past 6 years (before I was more of an “agnostic”). I feel no connections with others who, also, doesn’t believe in god/s however.
    Why on earth would I, I ask rhetorically?

    To me this all boils down to honesty and credibility. Maybe I’m just a bit too fed up with today’s social media and how information are passed un-scrutinized ten- hundred-, thousand and more of times without anyone bothering to check background info at all, but all this about CJ has made me so sick and tired of “opinions” all together.
    Honesty is so very, very hard to find nowadays.

    I have a few people I admire in the “online world”. Sam Harris, Prof. Cox, GS. Dawkins, and a few more. I don’t always agree with them, nor “like” them to an extreme extent, but at least they are honest.
    To be honest, I don’t like Richard Dawkins at all, watching him in videos. I think it has something to do with his personality, dialect, demeanor, or any combination of the three. Maybe something else. Doesn’t really matter though. I still respect his opinion as it’s soundly founded in own research and knowledge.
    Do they get things wrong sometimes? Fuck yes, in my opinion. But as I don’t have anything but my own “opinions” to counter with I don’t have much grounds to disagree…
    It helps me learn though, as I keep finding stuff to google for, either to provide better understanding or to see “the other side”.

    I’m all in for disagreement though. People should talk, argue, disagree etc. all the time, even if I don’t. That’s how one learn. But one should also consider the other’s views, however insane, for a moment before either dismiss or continue contemplate.

    CJ could’ve recovered at many stages during this, I think. A mix of pride, ego and personal gain kept him from it though, and I fear he’s over-reached. Even though I personally got really upset about his way to act and react I feel no joy in his possible downfall. Even if he’s been an ass, he’s still a person with a lively hood and feelings, and have probably felt like absolute shit these past few days.

    In an academic sense there is no excuse, however. He shouldn’t be let close to a typewriter or be published in any way or form in the future. A reader should have absolute trust in the authors credibility.

    Which brings us full circle. In today’s social media you rarely find credibility. Which is why I stick with my pompous, arrogant, but honest douche bags listed above 🙂
    (and more I must emphasize. I only mentioned them because they are related to the topic)

    (I just want to finish with a disclaimer of sorts. This is just another opinion among all others, out there. I rarely ever even write nor discuss anything, anywhere, neither written nor in talk, with anyone. Any faulty reasoning or grammar is hereby acknowledged and apologized for in advance)

  • On CJs twitter blurb he no longer identifies as a contributor to Salon so stay tuned…

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