I cannot believe we are back to this point.
The repeated vows of many of my colleagues never to speak again of CJ Werleman have been made with an overwhelming futility that speaks not against dedication of these fine writers, journalists, and debaters, but to the seriousness and calumny of Werleman’s statements and actions. For many, acknowledging the existence of what numerous people believe to be a highly capable troll is feeding the fires of his infamy, and to some extent, I agree. But when legitimate intellectual poison is being disseminated with measurable effects, responses are not only necessary–they are a moral obligation.
Let me be clear: this is not a statement on CJ Werleman’s politics which, ghastly though they are, are fully available to anyone who wants to buy what amounts to one of his self-published books. This is rather a sincere question to the many who still seem to be in his corner, who purchase his lame materials and who with fecund mania rejoice at his juvenile tactics. I put it to you, should you care to identify as one of these individuals, that there are plenty of public intellectuals whose views on foreign and domestic policy enhance and illuminate your own–people whose journalistic character has never been in question, and whose literary skills clearly outstrip the infantile scribblings of a proven plagiarist. Why not support any of these other people, and give them your voice? Your politics and attitudes, while I disagree with them, would be better served by a better mascot.
The list of indictments leveled at Werleman is outweighed only by the force of the evidence supporting them. The good work of Stephen Knight, which has been predictably met with impotent cries of legal action and whines concerning cult mentalities, is but one example of the dossier of dishonesty which CJ has created. His instances of plagiarism which far outnumber the paltry few for which he has barely deigned to take responsibility; his misquotation and malicious twisting of the comments and intentions of those with whom he disagrees, his very probable sock-puppetry and masturbatory policy concerning Amazon reviews, his puerile and glib attitude toward a number of abhorrent religious practices that curtail the humanity both of women and minorities–none of which are ambiguous or in question to their veracity, and this is the man you’re choosing to stand by, whose books you buy and Tweets you share?
Despite whatever CJ thinks, my misgivings for him did not begin when he disagreed with Sam Harris. As one of my posts from last year clearly states, I disagreed with his stance on any number of issues and this gave me great pause, but my public separation from him occurred when his intellectual malpractice came to light. This is not, nor has it ever been, an academic contention of a legitimate scholar with whom I disagree; I could better (though with effort) reserve that kind of right to men like Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald. For a year now, I have not been contesting with a man whose opinions contend with mine, but with a liar, a literary fraud, a plagiarist, and a “writer” whose primary achievements resemble less polemic than the B-rate smear campaign of a municipal politician.
To followers of CJ, let me beg you with utmost sincerity: do yourselves the favor of forsaking this man who gives your political and philosophical conclusions the gravitas of an elementary school playground fracas. You and I are at ends on an infinite number of subjects, and our dialogue is one that I respect. But it is impossible to do so if a primary source of yours is Werleman’s, if your facts are his conjured (and proven) inaccuracies and his opinions, inspired very likely at his own dismal failure of being the next Sam Harris, are imprinted onto your own. I cannot repeat enough that this is not a letter designed to slight your moral conclusions, but to insist that you do yourself a wrong to ally with the contemptible racket of an apparently opportunistic huckster whose charlatanism is matched only by his cowardice. For you, any number of journalists and activists on the left, even those who think anti-theism is a poison, are waiting to serve–most of whom in their darkest dreams could not be accused of the horrifying list of transgressions of which it seems Werleman is undoubtedly guilty. All of this is without mentioning the masochistic wet-dream Werleman clearly harbors of being made some kind of martyr at the hands of New Atheism, as his indescribably disgusting Tweet comparing himself to Salman Rushdie implies.
This is a serious conversation in which we are all engaged–the crucial dialogue concerning the place of religion in the world and our attitude toward it. If you want to be seriously involved, champion a serious commentator. Invigorate yourself with the work and rhetoric of someone whose credentials and record are not so irrevocably and fundamentally unstable. Hold yourself above a level of flashy hackery, and hold anything below the the critical threshold of the most basic of fact-checks beneath your contempt. Such an easy evaluation is one Werleman has failed countlessly, and will no doubt do so for as long as his little remaining relevance struggles for recognition.
[Image: CJ Werleman appears on The Young Turks / YouTube screen capture]