The news that Jonah Lehrer is resigning from the New Yorker having been revealed to have made up “quotes” from (and about) Bob Dylan in his most recent book Imagine: How Creativity Works (Oh, irony of ironies, that title) is as depressing as it is surprising. This statement from Lehrer on the matter, just depressing:
The lies are over now. I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers. I also owe a sincere apology to Mr. Moynihan [Matt Moynihan, the journalist who uncovered that the quotes were fake]. I will do my best to correct the record and ensure that my misquotations and mistakes are fixed. I have resigned my position as staff writer at The New Yorker.
The thing I just don’t understand about this is… there was no way this was never going to be discovered. Even if we didn’t live in a world where the Internet has made it amazingly easy to fact-check things, Lehrer was writing about a musician who fans are obsessive about, so the discovery of “new” quotes was always going to be of interest – and looked into – for/by them. It’s one of those “I don’t understand why he’s done it” things, because he had to have known that he was going to be found out. It’s as if there’s some epic self-sabotage going on here.
I had – back when it seemed as if Lehrer was simply stealing from himself and recycling without telling anyone – a lot of sympathy for him, knowing just what it’s like to have to continually come up with new thoughts over and over again. But this… this is just sad. He’s killed his career with this. People will never take him seriously again.