Anonymous Bloggers Target Malcolm Gladwell With Plagiarism Charges

Malcolm Gladwell
Side-by-side comparisons of Malcolm Gladwell’s work with others purports to show plagiarism. Our Bad Media

"CrushingBort" and "BlippoBlappo," the pseudonymous media bloggers who have previously leveled plagiarism charges against CNN's Fareed Zakaria and BuzzFeed's Benny Johnson, have found a new target in longtime New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell. CrushingBort teased the supposed exposé on Twitter last week:

"After reviewing a very small sample of his articles from the last few years, we've found a few that lifted quotes and other material without attribution," the bloggers and Twitter personalities write in a post published Thursday morning. "One column in particular appears to have lifted all of its material on a historic civil rights protest from one book written 40 years earlier."

In a now familiar format, the post goes on to place highlighted screenshots from three Gladwell pieces side by side with the sources they are alleged to have borrowed from—including a 1988 book on Steve Jobs and a 1970 book on the early civil rights movement. Here's an example, with CrushingBort and BlippoBlappo highlighting:

Malcolm Gladwell
Side-by-side comparisons of Malcolm Gladwell's work with others purports to show plagiarism. Our Bad Media

In a statement provided to Newsweek, New Yorker editor David Remnick said that journalism sourcing is an "ongoing challenge known to writers and editors everywhere" and acknowledged that Gladwell's piece should have credited the civil rights book from 1970:

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. In retrospect, for example, we should have credited Miles Wolff's 1970 book about Greensboro, because it's central to our understanding of those events. We sometimes fall short, but our hope is always to give readers and sources the consideration they deserve.

Reached via email, Gladwell directed Newsweek to a 6,500-word essay about plagiarism charges and copyright law, which he published in The New Yorker in 2004.

"I think David Remnick is about to (or already has) said something on this," Gladwell wrote. "This, from long ago, perhaps best captures my feelings on this subject:"