Plagiarism, Wilson, and the Omnibus

[Note: Please note that the name of the author of the essay does not mean that the author is the one responsible for the plagiarism. This is especially true of the image captions and side bars (large text inserts). Typically those parts of books are added by others after the authors have already written their essay text. I’m sorry for the confusion.]

As was the case in Omnibus I, numerous experts have contributed to this monumental work. –Veritas Press

Your final product will, of course, differ from the example given (if it does not, you might want to start over and confess the sin of plagiarism). (Omnibus II: Confessions, G. Tyler Fischer, pg 45)

How do Google, Wikipedia, and other online sources affect the value we place on information? While things like Google and Wikipedia can be an enormous blessing, they do tend to devalue information. Because we do not have to quest for knowledge, but can get pretty much anything we need in a few seconds online, we sometimes cease to see the value of thinking through difficult concepts or reading through difficult books. (Omnibus V: Le Morte d’Arthur, Rick Davis, pg 413)

When I was researching the Omnibus Curriculum for my posts on Doug Wilson and Classical Christian Education, I noticed that Steve Wilkins and Randy Booth had both written essays. Wilkins and Booth were Wilson’s co-authors for two books that were pulled for plagiarism. Wondering if they had plagiarized any text in their Omnibus essays, I decided to check Wilkins’ essay on Of Plymouth Plantation by running sections of the text through a commercial plagiarism checking software. I found that portions of text were unoriginal and without citation. In other words, I found plagiarism.

I noticed that there were large text captions on the images throughout the essay. I checked a couple of those and found that there were significant amounts of text taken from other sources and not cited.

At that point, I began to wonder if other essays had similar problems. I started by looking at various image captions. I found several examples of plagiarism. I also looked at portions of essays and large text inserts as well. What follows is a representative sample of the over 100 instances of plagiarism that I found. There are examples from image captions, essay text, end notes, sessions text, and text inserts. There are many more examples that I found, and given the size of the volumes, I was not able to search everything. I would also like to note that all of the research here was done exclusively by me.

A caption explaining the example appears on each image. To view the caption, hover over the image. I have included the names of the editors and essay authors for citation purposes. I do not know who is responsible for the plagiarism in each example.

Clicking on an image below will open a gallery for that volume. Each of the images can be viewed full sized by right clicking. The legend for the image is as follows. Each image is a comparison of the Omnibus text and the original source material. The plagiarized text is usually highlighted in yellow. In some examples, more than one source was used. In those cases, a different color of highlighting is used to represent each source. A dark green line is used to separate the separate sources the text was taken from. Some examples have text that was rearranged in a different order from the original source. In those cases, the moved text has been highlighted in a different color, usually light blue. A dark red line indicates that there is a break in the text.

Omnibus I: Biblical and Classical Civilizations, ed. Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2005

Omnibus II: Church Fathers through the Reformation, ed. Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2005

Omnibus III: Reformation to the Present, ed. Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2006

Omnibus IV: The Ancient World, ed. Gene Edward Veith, Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2009

Omnibus V: The Medieval World, ed. Gene Edward Veith, Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2010

Omnibus VI: The Modern World, ed. Gene Edward Veith, Douglas Wilson, G. Tyler Fischer; Veritas Press, 2011

As these example show, the plagiarism in the Omnibus volumes is extensive and pervasive. These are only a small portion of the more than 100 instances I found.

56 thoughts on “Plagiarism, Wilson, and the Omnibus

  1. NJ says:

    I was alerted to this post by The Truth About Moscow blog. I got into your first paragraph and the theme from “Jaws” started going through my head…

    I’m not sure which is funnier : that copyright infringement notice right after Moondrunk, or that second quote from the top that has the explicit plagiarism warning to students.


  2. rosejhuskey says:

    Rachel, the countless hours of research and related work you have done to amass the material, is almost unimaginable. – God bless you for speaking truth to power and helping others to open their eyes to the danger, indeed, the spiritual malignancy, of those who contributed to and edited the Omnibus volumes.
    Rose Huskey


  3. John Barach says:

    I note that almost (though not all) of these examples are from sidebars (textual inserts) and from image captions. It should be pointed out that the author of a particular essay did not write the sidebars or the image captions that Veritas inserted to go along with that essay.

    For example, Peter Leithart wrote an essay for Omnibus on *The Great Gatsby*. He did not include the picture of a Duesenberg car or write up a caption for that picture, nor did he write a sidebar with definitions of slang from the Gatsby era. Those things were inserted by someone else in the process of producing the volume.

    The responsibility for the sidebars, textual inserts, and image captions rests with the publisher and editors.


  4. JB Aitken says:

    I used to use a software like this in teaching ( Great stuff.

    Normally, I would say, “See the evidence right there? You can’t deny at this point.” But I’ve learned otherwise.


  5. Grendel says:

    Thanks for your hard work on this. The whole mess has been a real education for me, I even attribute my own Bible study notes now in case I ever want to publish something.


  6. Eric says:

    Speaking as an actual academic*, this review does not merely devastate Douglas Wilson’s claim to scholarly credibility; it annihilates it. The level of plagiarism here is egregious. A single one—any one— of these occurrences in a published book or article would be sufficient to ruin the reputation of a legitimate career scholar. Heck, any college freshman should know better. No professor who saw this kind of dishonesty in student work would accept the excuse that this was accidental or that they didn’t know it was wrong.

    Adding insult to injury is the fact that many of these plagiarisms are quotes taken from online sources including none other than Wikipedia. This means that you can quite literally get more reliable information from Wikipedia than you can from the book Mr. Wilson edited. In at least one case, the editors even introduced a spelling error (“Ninevah”) into their plagiarized quote!

    Faced with this evidence, the Christian Classical Education movement as a whole either has to immediately dissociate itself from Mr. Wilson and his colleagues, or concede that they have less regard for intellectual standards than the administrators at any community college in the nation.

    I wonder, how many more of Mr. Wilson’s logorrheic books contain plagiarism? This pattern can no longer be deflected as coincidence.

    * (A current graduate assistant, but in order to get my lowly job you need more education than Mr. Wilson has. That should tell you something, too.)


    • Refugee says:

      I notice there is always another name besides Wilson on each of the books. Plausible deniability? All he has to do is get his co-editors to take full blame, as in previous incidents, and he will claim to be off the hook.

      What does it take to establish this pattern as more than coincidence? And if Wilson were to ask anyone to co-author or co-edit anything, they would do best to turn and flee.


      • Eric says:

        > “I notice there is always another name besides Wilson on each of the books….”

        Yes, but at this point the pattern to notice is that the name Wilson is on each of the books. The others are not. This is precisely the kind of pattern that can’t reasonably be attributed to coincidence. Are we really expected to suppose that several co-authors, each independent of the others, coincidentally happened to think, “Hey, I’m working with Douglas Wilson; maybe I should plagiarize something”?

        “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, statistically significant.” —

        That said, it would perhaps be shrewd of Rachel to do some plagiarism analysis on some of Wilson’s solo-authored books if she wanted to put that canard to rest with the others.


  7. Eric says:

    Interestingly, Wilson wrote a blog post in which he discusses a scenario like the one that seems to have transpired here:

    “…his sin would be the sin of lying — seeking to create the impression that he is cleverer than he actually is. He is implicitly telling the congregation “I did the work necessary for this sermon,” when in fact he did not do that work. If he is stealing, he is stealing an intangible thing, something like honor. […]

    “When a man includes in his sermon the fact that “Cambyses II reigned from 530 to 522,” and he only knows this because he looked it up during sermon prep, and he is going to forget it as rapidly as everybody else will, he is also creating the impression that he is more clever than he is. […]

    “But make no mistake — if we are pursuing scrupulous honesty, we will get to a point where this issue is not complicated at all. […]

    “A small industry (dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.) is dedicated to the hope that people will look up and use the information found in them. The expectation is that they will not lift the definition verbatim in order to pass it off as something of their own devising….”

    (Incidentally, in Wilson’s hypothetical example sentences about Cambyses II in the post, the answer is indeed ‘not complicated at all’: They are all strictly plagiarism since none of them cite where they got their information.)


  8. John g says:

    Rachel, thank you for your work on this subject. debunking the mythology that characters like Wilson have cultivated about themselves will reap untold benefits.


  9. Terri Rice says:

    Thank you, John Barach, for the clarification. And thank you, Rachel, for your research. I am sure that just like last time when you found Wilson and Booth had plagiarized the “Justice Primer,” Wilson will once again be eternally grateful… Until he spins it and attacks you. Again.

    So is it only the students at the Wilson schools who are held to the higher standard of not plagiarizing? Is it only the students who have to leave the school, tail between their legs, for plagiarism? I wait breathlessly for the spin that will be forthcoming.


  10. Jill says:

    I’m thankful that you and others are exposing these leaders. One after another has gone down recently. The movement has devastated so many people. I think this is because the authority figures apply rules like band-aides to our larger secular culture, rather than the practices springing naturally from the culture. We don’t have the traditions any longer to support them. I hope that makes sense. I’m so tired right now. There is nothing wrong with classical education or courtship rituals, for example, except that they are open to abuse because they aren’t woven into the fabric of our culture; nobody knows much about them outside of theoretical frameworks. This leaves little room for accountability and allows the practices to be misused by patriarchs who claim to be authorities or experts. The weak are exploited and preyed upon. And everybody else flounders.


    • Chris S says:

      “except that they are open to abuse because they aren’t woven into the fabric of our culture; nobody knows much about them outside of theoretical frameworks”

      I think this is slightly naïve. Yes, traditional frameworks do have some regulatory aspects that can deal with the most egregious abuses – quite often ones that occurred in the past – but still have plenty of scope for the charismatic and powerful to get their own way within those frameworks – often via creative re-interpretation.


  11. 60guilders says:

    Far be it from me to defend Wilson on this matter, because it’s pretty apparent that there’s some plagiarism going on here.
    However, if I may, a lot of this looks like the standard paraphrasing that one would find in summarizing these topics, because there are only so many ways to write a sentence about a topic. Also, I’m not entirely sure if the “Beowulf” example counts as plagiarism, seeing as it’s in quotes with a line citation. Maybe my citation-fu is not up to snuff, and if so please correct me, but given the degree to which Wilson’s fans are willing to laager up around Moscow, putting anything forward as part of the evidence that is not incontrovertably plagiarism is a bad idea.
    But even with all that having been said, this is still very bad for Wilson.


      • Rachel Miller says:

        From my article on the definition of plagiarism: One final type of plagiarism that I want to consider today is Uncited Quotation. The Harvard article defines it this way:

        “When you put source material in quotation marks in your essay, you are telling your reader that you have drawn that material from somewhere else. But it’s not enough to indicate that the material in quotation marks is not the product of your own thinking or experimentation: You must also credit the author of that material and provide a trail for your reader to follow back to the original document.”


    • Eric says:

      > “…there are only so many ways to write a sentence about a topic.”

      If an editor can’t easily think of six different ways to word any particular sentence, he shouldn’t bill himself as a “wordsmith.”

      Any self-described “wordsmith” should quickly be able to come up with several unique ways to write about anything.

      Rephrasing sentences shouldn’t be hard for anyone who claims a reputation in “wordsmithy.”

      Anybody who lacks the skill to rewrite any given sentence in any number of ways is no “wordsmith.”

      Rewording a sentence in half a dozen original forms should be a basic exercise for everyone who aspires to be a “wordsmith.”

      The whole point of being a “wordsmith” is the ability to express a given thought fluently, in as many ways as you choose.

      Shall I go on? 😉


  12. Jasen says:

    My wife and I were at the HEAV conference in Richmond, VA this past weekend. Veritas Press was there with Omnibus on prominent display. The presentation was compelling: The textbooks were on the top two rows of a display rack, all of the great books were arranged below: The Code of Hammurabi, The Iliad, etc. The textbooks are gorgeous. Full color. Lots of classical artwork. Veritas has a set of Omnibus-based online classes. Very slick and tempting.

    Then I noticed Doug Wilson’s name and alarm bells went off. I don’t follow him closely, but some other blog I’ve read have mentioned his views on slavery and patriarchal bent. A quick Google-search and I found your posts. Wow! Bullet dodged. Beyond the plagiarism issue is the lack of qualifications of those writing the essays. Unbelievable. Amazingly, none of the reviews I found mentioned this huge lack of credentials of the writers.

    Thank you for your work uncovering this fraud.


    • puritangirl says:

      They’re still promoting the Omnibus series? As recently as this month? I get that they might be reluctant to make an official statement about the plagiarism findings, but to press on displaying the books is unbelievably brazen. Very deceptive; so much for “Veritas”.


  13. EandD says:

    VP will never make a public statement. They will simply ignore it, thinking it will go away with minimal number of people finding out. They are only concerned about selling it, with little concern for the integrity of the work.


  14. William C. Michael says:

    Good work here. As a classicist, I wrote a chapter for the Omnibus text on Plutarch’s Lives before leaving Veritas Press/Academy. I don’t believe anyone with any background in Classics was involved in the project other than me, so I’m not surprised to learn of the plagiarism.


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