Malcolm Gladwell Accused of Plagiarism On Multiple Counts In His New Yorker Articles

Our Bad Media has already tackled several journalists at high-profile publications with accusations of plagiarism, at least two of which have resulted in serious damage to their careers of their targets. Malcolm Gladwell, storied contributor to the New Yorker, is the latest in their series of takedowns of popular, mainstream journalists who they accuse of habitual plagiarism.

It’s clear the publication is not a fan of Malcolm from the beginning. Before even digging into the plagiarism accusations, they tear Gladwell’s New Yorker articles down as a largely discredited pseudo-science.

“Plenty of criticism has been written about Gladwell’s theories, usually along the lines of Gladwell being guilty of ‘pseudo-profundity.’ The 10,000 hour rule in 2008’s Outliers? Bunk. The idea in David and Goliath that maybe you should wish dyslexia on your child for a competitive edge? Zero proof. Virtually every one of Gladwell’s ridiculously popular books has been met with criticism for playing fast and loose with the facts and using anecdotes asevidence of some larger truth. Other criticisms have drilled down extensively on Gladwell’s professional origins as a unabashedly corporate-friendly journalist who has defended everything from tobacco companies to performance-enhancing drugs.”

Eventually, Our Bad Media gets to the plagiarism accusations that they are levying against Malcolm. Although they do not produce instances of direct copying of passages, it does appear Gladwell gleaned anecdotes and quotes from other sources without giving them any credit. One such instance cited was from Malcolm’s Steve Jobs story “Creation Myth,” where the New Yorker reporter lifted a story from a 1988 Steve Jobs biography by Jeffrey S. Young.

“Checking this is easy: Do a Google Books search for portions of Tesler’s speech quoted in the Gladwell article… All of these sources include both the ‘kimono’ quote and Tesler’s exact quotes about Jobs coming to PARC in 1979. Now, take a look at the side-by-side picture pitting Gladwell’s 2011 ‘Creation Myth’ against Young’s 1988 ‘Steve Jobs’ (we’ve also included Young’s sourcing information to hit home the point that, yes, he is the one who got those quotes). What do you see?”

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At least one publication associated with Malcolm is not ready to call the practice plagiarism just yet. Instead of making accusations, the New Yorker’s editor in chief, David Remnick, told Mediaite that the issue is an unclear set of rules for how authors should cite a secondary source within a larger article, not brash plagiarism.

“The issue is not really about Malcolm. And, to be clear, it isn’t about plagiarism. The issue is an ongoing editorial challenge known to writers and editors everywhere — to what extent should a piece of journalism, which doesn’t have the apparatus of academic footnotes, credit secondary sources? It’s an issue that can get complicated when there are many sources with overlapping information. There are cases where the details of an episode have passed into history and are widespread in the literature. There are cases that involve a unique source. We try to make judgments about source attribution with fairness and in good faith. But we don’t always get it right.”

Do you think Malcolm Gladwell deserves to be accused of plagiarism?

[Images via Wikipedia, Our Bad Media and Flickr]