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Plagiarism As It Is

The neo-Confederates involved in controversy over their defense of slavery have now been accused of plagiarism. It turns out that at least 22 passages, some of them quite lengthy, were from a 1974 book.

The two neo-Confederate pastors who were recently at the center of controversy in Idaho over their defense of bondage, Southern Slavery As It Was, are facing a new brouhaha. It turns out that at least 22 passages, some of them quite lengthy, were plagiarized from a 1974 book.

In early August, Nicholas Gier, a retired philosophy professor at the University of Idaho, dropped a bombshell by announcing that his former student, Doug Wilson, and Wilson's co-author, Steve Wilkins, were "guilty of plagiarism."

Gier wrote a letter to a local newspaper, began circulating a petition denouncing the plagiarism, and produced a series of side-by-side comparisons of pages from the 1996 Wilson/Wilkins booklet and Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery, by R.W. Fogel and S.L. Engerman.

"I'm a professional academic and he's a former student," Geir told the Lewiston Morning Tribune. "I feel a responsibility for the product."

Wilson, who has regularly mocked mainstream academics as having no depth or intellectual integrity, hotly denied plagiarizing Time on the Cross. He described the lifted passages as simply reflecting a citation problem, and attributed the latest uproar to "some of our local Banshees [who] have got wind of all this and raised the cry of plagiarism (between intermittent sobs of outrage)."

Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, and Wilkins, who leads Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Monroe, La., are key thinkers in the neo-Confederate movement. Their defense of "biblical" slavery, exceedingly unorthodox views of American history, and harsh theocratic ideology put them at the center of a major controversy when they hosted a "history" conference at ui last February. Some 350 students and others demonstrated against racism outside the conference.

Wilson told a reporter that he'd immediately pulled Southern Slavery As It Was from the shelves of Canon Press, which is owned by Wilson's church, when he was first informed of the problems by a local scholar last winter. He said that Canon Press is now preparing a corrected version of the booklet, whose thesis Wilson still stands by.

But the scholar who contacted Wilson, history professor Robert McKenzie, told a reporter that he actually first raised the problems with Wilson after reading the booklet several years ago.

McKenzie, of the University of Washington, said that Wilson and Wilkins appeared to have been more "sloppy" than "malevolent." But, he told The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, "A professional historian would be totally humiliated."