Jonah Lehrer — of plagiarism, of Bob Dylan quote fabrication and “self-plagiarism” pioneer — gave a talk yesterday about his various journalistic misdeeds. A talk for which he was given a $20,000 dollar honorarium.
The New York Times gives a rundown on the whole event and reactions to it. Jim Romenesko’s blog has the opening of the Lehrer speech, where the former New Yorker writer briefly outlines what he did wrong, or at least what he was caught doing wrong. It’s interesting stuff, even if it doesn’t justify what he did:
I wanted to understand the mechanics of every lapse, to relive all those errors that led to my disgrace. I wanted to understand so I could explain it to people, so I could explain it in a talk like this, so I could say I found the broken part and that part has a name. My arrogance; my desire for attention; my willingness to take shortcuts provided I don’t think anyone else will notice; my carelessness, matched with an ability to excuse my carelessness away; my tendency to believe my own excuses. But then, once I came up with this list of flaws, once I began to understand how these flaws led to each of my mistakes, I realized that all of my explanations changed nothing. They cannot undo what I’ve done, not even a little.
Reading the “my arrogance” part seems rich with his honorarium in mind. Jonah Lehrer should still be on the Great Apology Tour. Giving a talk like this would go a ways to helping his employers and readers understand why he did what he did. It’s just arrogant for him to accept such a big lump of money to do so, like his apparent contrition is something worth paying for.