Jonah Lehrer's "Creativity"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Jonah Lehrer Jonah Lehrer (Charles William Pelletier/flickr)

Bestselling author (and frequent guest on this show) Jonah Lehrer has resigned from his post at the New Yorker over having fabricated or embellished Bob Dylan quotes in his book Imagine: How Creativity WorksJohn McQuaid, veteran science journalist who wrote about the Lehrer story for, discusses how he sees the story as a warning tale about what can happen when a "personal brand supersedes everything else, including the drab scutwork of journalism."


John McQuaid

Comments [17]

Anne Mendelson from North Bergen, NJ

Anybody else startled by McQuaid's emphasis on Jonah Lehrer's status as a "brand?" This new demand for writers to establish and maintain themselves as "brands" creates weird, unrealistic kinds of pressure that are just asking for trouble.

Aug. 01 2012 07:41 AM
kevin from upper LS

"how many times can a man plagiarize, before you can call him a fraud,the answer my friend, is piling in da bank,the answer is piling in da bank"

Aug. 01 2012 01:05 AM
Glork from Glen Ridge, NJ

Precision, thoroughness, clarity and impeccable honesty are valuable characteristics. That they are partner to the, as you say, "drab scutwork of journalism" should be a lesson in itself. Educators toil- and I do mean toil- incessantly to convey to students that copying the Wikipedia paragraphs does not constitute their research paper. For Mr. Lehrer to get as far as he did and then neglect the basic elements of truth, obviously in favor of the glamour, reveals a character that lacks honor. Perhaps it is time for him to withdraw,with dignity, from the "star race" and use the blessings of his talent in a different manner.

Jul. 31 2012 03:28 PM
John A

A quick look yesterday showed that he attracted his fair share of criticism for what he wrote as science fact; poorly researched or not of adequate depth was the typical analysis.

Jul. 31 2012 10:48 AM

If the science behind it all is ok, does it matter whether there are quotes from pop culture figures backing the ideas up? Do the pop culture figures need to be involved in the explanations at all? Isn't that just a dumbed-down hook that we should be able to do without?

Jul. 31 2012 10:42 AM
bif from bococa

This guy is a small fish. How about we talk about an administration who lied to go to war. It costed people thousands of deaths.
These are buji crimes that only folks who are bored of their organic tote bags and need something to do until the next whole foods opens in their hood...

Jul. 31 2012 10:42 AM
Bob from Westchester, NY

Years ago I attended a sportswriting class given by the sportswriter Dick Schaap, who stated that the vast majority of the Yogi Berra's famous sayings were made up by sports reporters out of whole cloth or said by others and attributed to Yogi for comic effect.

Jul. 31 2012 10:41 AM

There is no excuse for what Lehrer did; I'm surprised to see people defend him via the combinatorial workings of creativity. Your guest is right that Lehrer's *type* of writing -- aggregating and popularizing other people's work -- is predisposed to "liberal borrowing." He is just an AGGREGATOR with fancy credentials. There are so many like him out there; they just didn't get platforms like The New Yorker.

Jul. 31 2012 10:39 AM
john from office

Dylan had some paintings that he stole from some old photos, why was this ignored, because he is Dylan??

Jul. 31 2012 10:39 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Why do people read fiction at all? Why do so many people love to be lied to?
I guess that's what you're left with when you are born with a low IQ.

P.S., I love Stephen Colbert. At least his phony act is funny! I love the way he unmasks other liars.

Jul. 31 2012 10:38 AM
michael from manhattan

What a bizarre coincidence and bit of irony, since Joni Mitchell refers to Dylan himself as a plagiarist...

Jul. 31 2012 10:36 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Robert Zimmerman is also a brand. The brand's name is "Bob Dylan." (The Dylan connection to the real topic at hand is merely tangential, but I wanted to make that point.)

Jul. 31 2012 10:35 AM
Mark from New York

For the record, Michael Moynihan — the fellow who discovered the fraudulent Dylan quote — is a journalist, not simply a "Dylan fan":

Jul. 31 2012 10:35 AM
John A.

Gosh, look the number of times he was used, on RadioLab, your show, other NPR. Over a dozen.

Jul. 31 2012 10:33 AM
Edward from NJ

If making up stuff about Bob Dylan is wrong, shouldn't Bob Dylan have to resign?

Jul. 31 2012 10:27 AM
john from office

This kind of activity is made worst by the internet and made easier to uncover because of the internet. It is hard to always be creative. I sort of feel sorry for the author.

This reminds me of the Apple I pad matter and Mr. Daisey (Ck Spell), the author should have acknowledge that he to poetic license.

Jul. 31 2012 10:25 AM
oscar from ny

I once got sued by a famous artist in ny when i was 12 because i copied a little of her art and i solde it to citybank wich made calendars for the year 91...i lost.
Ps: later in my years i made a painting refuting copy infrigment..isnt art done when you visualize anything?

Jul. 31 2012 10:04 AM

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