Plaigarism in Jim Webb Novel

The Allen Campaign is flogging another controversy about Jim Webb’s novels. Unlike the pure nonsense about sexual passages indicating some secret perversion in its author, this one is actually at least somewhat interesting.

It appears that Webb lifted significant passages of David Bergamini’s 1971 history Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy for his 1999 book The Emperor’s General. Even longtime Allen nemesis Larry Sabato admits, “There are some passages that were lifted, that’s just obvious.”

Team Allen notes that Webb has made a big fuss about plagiarism before, trying to argue that Allen used very similar language to Senator Dick Durbin in a one-sentence amendment to a bill.

Now, frankly, novels aren’t scholarly works and footnoting is rather rare. Still, I agree with Sabato that, “It could have been taken care of with one line in the author’s note. Even in fiction you have to acknowledge an intellectual debt.”

I also agree with Ramesh Ponnuru, though, when he writes,

How heavily should voters weigh this lapse on Webb’s part? Not very, I should think: It would be exceedingly odd for someone to base his vote on it. It is only a bit more relevant to the race than, say, the Jewishness of Allen’s mother or his reaction to questions about it, topics to which the press devoted a good deal of attention.

I would note, too, that these charges would have more traction if the Allen campaign (and both sides, really) had not cried Wolf so many times in the past with idiotic charges. At some point, one begins to ignore them.

This is not only among the nastiest but easily the most insipid Senate contest I’ve ever witnessed. I’ll be glad when it’s over. Sadly, however, it appears that one of these men will emerge the winner.



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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    Just typical luck for Bergamini, whose thesis — that Hirohito was no figurehead, but rather a player in Japan’s aggression — is pretty much accepted nowadays. IIRC, B. took lots of flak for it at the time.

  2. Anderson says:

    Hm, missed the dig at Webb. The other day, Greenwald linked a Sept. 2002 op-ed by Webb, opposing an invasion of Iraq. Man, what foresight.

  3. Triumph says:

    This is not only among the nastiest but easily the most insipid Senate contest I’ve ever witnessed.

    More so than what’s going on in Pennsylvania? Where you have Bush’s former campaign lawyer sending out mailers from a group he established called the “Progressive Policy Council” whose mission is to “advocate for progressive public policy solutions to contemporary social issues”?

    Bush’s guy is sending out mailers actually chiding Santorum & Casey’s opposition to abortion and gun regulation.