Jonah Lehrer Gets Caught Fabricating Bob Dylan Quotes

A “Dylan obsessive” at Tablet outed the New Yorker writer and controversial self-plagiarizer, leading to Lehrer’s resignation.

Image by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis.

According to Tablet writer Michael C. Moynihan, this is what happened when he began to question noted self-plagiarizer Jonah Lehrer about quotes attributed to Bob Dylan in Lehrer’s book Imagine: How Creativity Works.

When contacted, Lehrer provided an explanation for some of my archival failures: He claimed to have been given access, by Dylan’s manager Jeff Rosen, to an extended — and unreleased — interview shot for Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home. Two of the quotes confounding me, he explained, could be found in a more complete version of that interview, that is not publically available. As corroboration, he offered details of the context in which the comments were delivered, and brought up other topics he claimed Dylan discussed in this unreleased footage.

Over the next three weeks, Lehrer stonewalled, misled and, eventually, outright lied to me. Yesterday, Lehrer finally confessed that he has never met or corresponded with Jeff Rosen, Dylan’s manager; he has never seen an unexpurgated version of Dylan’s interview for No Direction Home, something he offered up to stymie my search; that a missing quote he claimed could be found in an episode of Dylan’s “Theme Time Radio Hour” cannot, in fact, be found there; and that a 1995 radio interview, supposedly available in a printed collection of Dylan interviews called The Fiddler Now Upspoke, also didn’t exist. When, three weeks after our first contact, I asked Lehrer to explain his deceptions, he responded, for the first time in our communication, forthrightly: “I couldn’t find the original sources,” he said. “I panicked. And I’m deeply sorry for lying.”

3. The Not-Quite-Dylan Quotes In Question:

Maybe Lehrer just had trouble translating Dylan for a broader audience — the folk singer is notorious for his incoherent interviews. In fact, if you piece together a few words from the streams of consciousness in these interviews, you can probably find the fabricated Lehrer quotes.

The Tablet story is here, although the site’s server is currently down. (You can access a cached version here.)

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