Australia’s newest and most secretive current affairs magazine Investigate has been causing a bit of a stir since hitting news stands a few months ago. But the August issue (out today) is likely to ruffle more than a few feathers with a stinging attack on outspoken left-wing columnist, Phillip Adams, accusing him of being a habitual plagiarist in his weekly The Weekend Australian column.

Columnist Alan RM Jones goes to town on Adams, describing his work as “fundamentally dishonest” and an “abject embarrassment to The Australian,” in a critique that also includes attacks against Media Watch and the ABC for not pursuing what he claims is Adams’s glaring plagiarism.

“What animates Adams’s critics so much is not that he has borrowed a phrase or two now and then; it is that he is seen to be habitually ‘paying homage’. And even when Adams is caught out, he re-offends,” says Jones.

In his biggest example, Jones lets readers ‘compare and contrast’ a May 7 Toledo Blade obit about a retired US Army Colonel and the subsequent June 18 Adams piece which included some of the same information.

Toledo Blade: “The Secretary of the Army allowed the colonel to retire to Australia, where he made millions in a restaurant business and duck farm.”

Adams: “To avoid scandal, the Secretary of the Army allowed Hack to retire to Australia where he continued his winning ways, making millions out of a restaurant and, of all things, a duck farm…”

The problem for Jones, though, is that although the basic facts are the same, anyone else who read the Associated Press report used by the Toledo Blade would have come up with similar information because facts are facts no matter where you get them. To call Adams “fundamentally dishonest” is a remarkably strong accusation, and on the evidence presented here just doesn’t stack up. (He even acknowledges the Toledo Blade in his article.)

Information is scarce about the origins and background of Investigate magazine. Editor James Morrow told Crikey that although there is a perception that Investigate is being used to push a hard right ideology, it’s more just a money making venture that’s being used to sell advertising. “We like to think of ourselves as an independent magazine,” he said. “People aren’t doing this to push an ideology, I’m not taking orders from on high to push some agenda.”

But thin attacks on lefty commentators like Adams definitely don’t discourage this perception, and we’ll be interested to see if the Australian magazine reading public has much of an appetite for such rants.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey