Once upon a time I came across a site that annoyed me. It had a wealth of material on esoteric subjects, details that were available nowhere else on the web, and in some cases nowhere else at all. The only problem was that not one piece of it had any citations, and that made it essentially useless for my purposes. It is standard scholarly practice if you are talking about something that happened 300 years ago to describe the sources upon which you base your conclusions. Other scholars such as myself can then go back to the sources and verify your research, or come to different conclusions. But if you have only the conclusions without the sources, than the opinions are essentially worthless. The author of the site was revealed after some clicking around to be Eric P. Wijnants. I wrote as much in a blog post entitled “How Not to Write Occult History”.
It turns out I stumbled on something a little bit larger than just a personal annoyance. In the comments of my blog a graduate student came forward to tell how Eric P. Wijnants had conned her into sending review material, pretending to be a professor at the University of Vienna. Her entire research, previously unpublished, showed up on his website as his own work. In a follow-up post a few years later I summarized the whole affair: “Eric P. Wijnants and the problem of pseudo-scholarly writing without footnotes”. Eric himself, using psudonyms, jumped to his own defense in the blog comments.
But the story continues. It seems Susan Olsson was not the only researcher and graduate student whose material was “borrowed” by Eric P. Wijnants – solicited for scholarly review and then posted wholesale on his site. Brendan French’s Ph.D. thesis was similarly plagiarized, as was that of Dr. Walter Penrose.
Because his own name is now linked to this broadening plagiarism scandal, Eric P. Wijnants has increasingly used pseudonyms to solicit work. He also uses the pseudonyms to reference his own work, support himself and his other pseudonyms, and defend himself in public discussions (a tactic known as sock puppeting). Ah the wonders of the Internet, when you can pretend to be anyone you want!
Among Eric’s many pseudonyms:
Eric P. Wynants
Dr. Brigitte Muehlegger
Robert Anton Wilson
Francois Martinet PhD
Bhakti Ananda Goswami
Dr. Raphael Vishanu
Amara Das Wilhelm
And there are doubtless dozens more. Some of these pseudonyms Eric P. Wijnants uses may be real people, but they are also names that have been borrowed and used by him on the Internet, either to post in public forums or to solicit articles from scholars and researchers.
Eric P. Wijnants’s own website (http://sociologyesoscience.com/) continues to be a hotbed of activity, to which Eric posts up to 20,000 words of unreferenced, often uncited, and unsigned material per day. Much of it is highly specialize and thoroughly researched (by somebody, though if Eric P. Wijnants did the research, you’d think he’d bother to mention the sources – but then if he was actually researching the stuff, there’s no way he would be writing 20,000 words of proofed, edited, and publishable <except for the frequent absences of references> material per day). Either he spends all day in front of a keyboard retyping everything he’s ever read in slightly different words and without a single citation or reference, or – more likely – he is copying and pasting wholesale from all over the place, leaving out the citations and references, and sticking it on his site, where it sits unsigned an unreferenced, but nonetheless implicitly as his own work. For more evidence that he is likely cutting and pasting (and/or scanning and OCR-ing) consider the page “Historical Overview” on his site (http://soc.world-journal.net/HistoricalOverview.html). The entire page is a bunch of scanned pages from some book and/or magazines(s) showing the history of the world. No, he did not master Adobe Illustrator and make all the charts himself; he scanned them and posted the images on his site. And he did not say where they came from, either. So aside from the blatant copyright violation, if anyone wanted to use them, it would be extremely difficult to find the original source so as to be able to cite it.
Consider Eric P. Wijnants’s output in the first 10 days of March, 2008: 9700 words on the beginning of the cold war, part one. 15,700 words on the beginning of the cold war, part two (between them, 260 citations to over 200 books and documents – I’ll get to that in a minute). A 1500 word commentary to a BBC article on Hitler and the occult. 5500 words on Chinese Tantra (a separate citations page lists 384 sources consulted, including over 100 primary documents – in the original Chinese!). 14,257 words on the end of the cold war (60 references). 628 words on the state of Eastern Europe today (no citations, but a scan of a map, uncredited). 17,700 words on “Populations at War” with 40 citations to over 80 sources. 1900 words on Kurdish nationalism (no references).
That is a total of 66,825 words in 10 days, or about a 200 page book. The topics span at least three different academic specialties, and the references (for 10 days of work, mind you) total 744 different books and documents (over 100 of them in Chinese). Not a bad output for 10 days! At that rate you should be able to complete about 10 doctoral dissertations per year, easily!
Aside from the improbable quantity (he’s been going at close to this rate for years now; in February he posted 24 different “articles” – there are 8 so far this March), what might cause us to believe that this isn’t all Eric’s original output? Well, there are the obvious OCR errors, for one. To give an example, “From romantic hero to man of steel; such was [he evolution of Stalin’s self-image.2” (taken from http://soc.world-journal.net/startColdWar.html). Notice the “[he”. That is an OCR error. No typist would ever make that keystroke error. The [ symbol is the left pinky finger. A “t” is the right index finger. You don’t mix those up. But to an OCR program, t can look a lot like [. Notice also how the footnotes have lost their superscript. If you typed the document in MS Word, you could transfer it to the web easily while maintaining the footnotes properly. Instead Eric uses Netscape Navigator 4.7 to create his web pages.
The well turned phrase “From romantic hero to man of steel” is enough for Amazon to locate the book (thanks to the “Search Inside the Book” feature). Eric P. Wijnants has lifted the entire chapter from Melvyn P. Leffler’s recently (September 2007) published book “For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War”. Does Leffler’s name appear anywhere on Eric P. Wijnants’ website? No.
So what are we to conclude? Eric P. Wijnants is a blatant, serial, high-volume plagiarist. Almost everything on his site comes from somewhere else, and none of it is credited to the original authors. The strange thing is that he becomes indignant when this is pointed out. And the biggest irony is that he runs around the world pretending to be an academic. Half his pseudonyms have PhD’s!