Hey, That's Mine!
August 7, 2008 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Dude, You Stole My Article They say everyone's a critic, but in this case, the critic is everyone. Today in Slate, Jody Rosen uncovers what just might be "in purely statistical terms ... the greatest plagiarism scandal in the annals of American journalism". Via Stolen from Zoilus.
posted by Paid In Full (97 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dude, You Stole My Article They say everyone's a critic, but in this case, the critic is everyone. Today in Slate, Jody Rosen uncovers what just might be "in purely statistical terms ... the greatest plagiarism scandal in the annals of American journalism". Via Stolen from Zoilus Metafilter.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 12:31 PM on August 7, 2008 [15 favorites]


You know, I think everyone's a critic - but in this case, the critic is everyone. For instance - today in Metafilter, Paid In Full uncovers what just might be "in purely statistical terms ... the greatest plagiarism scandal in the annals of American journalism".
...but that's just my $0.02. =(
posted by Tbola at 12:40 PM on August 7, 2008


« Older Jimmy's Lost His Toilet Paper... | 08-08-08 is not only the start... Newer »
posted by Tbola at 12:41 PM on August 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


Jimmy Buffet turned 60? Wow, I bet he was in a meditative frame of mind, in close proximity to a tankard of Captain Morgan.

At least that was the case with birthday number 50, which, as he recounted in his autobiography A Pirate Looks At Fifty (1998), he celebrated by piloting his private jet from the Cayman Islands to Costa Rica to Colombia and drinking copiously, while contemplating "spirituality" and his goals going forward: "Learn celestial navigation," "Swim with dolphins," "Start therapy."
posted by yhbc at 12:43 PM on August 7, 2008


Who really reads those alt.weeklies, other than guys looking for 'massages'? I grew up in Indianapolis, serviced at the time by Nuvo, and although I was interested and probably close to their target demographic I could never bring myself to finish the articles - they were overlong, meandering, like someone with aspirations of the New Yorker but being paid by the word, writing while being continuously clubbed with a plastic bat. And the music reviews, at least at the time? All the bands I was glad I couldn't get into the bars to see.

I really wonder how these papers will survive, especially now that, for contrarian content in towns like Indy, you have Slate, Salon, etc, etc. If they could develop excellent local reporting they might survive, but they never had that when I was there.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:45 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Who really reads those alt.weeklies, other than guys looking for 'massages'? I grew up in Indianapolis, serviced at the time by Nuvo, and although I was interested and probably close to their target demographic I could never bring myself to finish the articles - they were overlong, meandering, like someone with aspirations of the New Yorker but being paid by the word, writing while being continuously clubbed with a plastic bat. And the music reviews, at least at the time? All the bands I was glad I couldn't get into the bars to see.

I really wonder how these papers will survive, especially now that, for contrarian content in towns like Indy, you have Slate, Salon, etc, etc. If they could develop excellent local reporting they might survive, but they never had that when I was there.
posted by Debaser626 at 12:50 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Borgesian indeed. Mirrors and plagiarists are abominable...
posted by invitapriore at 12:50 PM on August 7, 2008


Borgesian indeed. Mirrors and plagiarists are abominable...
posted by Vindaloo at 12:51 PM on August 7, 2008


ditto.
posted by mds35 at 12:52 PM on August 7, 2008


this will end well
posted by Debaser626 at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2008


Seattle's The Stranger (home of Dan Savage) rocks.
posted by Roach at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2008


echo
posted by spicynuts at 12:55 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Who really reads those alt.weeklies, other than guys looking for 'massages'?

They vary market to market. Our local alt weekly, where (full disclosure) my wife until recently was an associate editor (gone to greener pastures), actually gives better in-depth coverage than our daily does. Depends on who runs the paper and why.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:55 PM on August 7, 2008


Shit, I didn't mean to derail the whole thread. I hope it counts if I apologize here, instead of on the front of MetaTalk. Sorry.

I'm fortunate to have an excellent local weekly paper, also better than the daily, but I can absolutely imagine this sort of thing happening at the competition.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 1:00 PM on August 7, 2008


Who really reads those alt.weeklies, other than guys looking for 'massages'?
I met my wife via one.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:04 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


You may take issue with this, but "quality control" of the industrial sort - random checks and whatnot - wouldn't necessarily work at an alt newspaper. What sounds more reasonable is what the story then goes on to suggest - that there was a serious organizational problem at the Bulletin. To be more specific, there was a problem with communication between lower-level employees and management, etc. It's a classic org theory problem. I don't think the Bulletin honchos do themselves any favors, however, by acting as if this were all solely the reporters' fault, however. "The buck almost stops with us, but not when the reporter is an emotionally unstable, dishonest and immature asshole who heaven only knows why we hired, although, y'know, maybe the f***wit can go back to college and make a life for himself - or somethin'" is a pretty weird and convoluted sort of message for the Bulletin to be sending out, even if kind of understandable.
posted by Shepherd at 1:09 PM on August 7, 2008


Slate.com is one of the strangest sites I've seen in some time. I have no idea how these people got their slates wedged into their scanners, or why.
posted by WCityMike at 1:10 PM on August 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


I love that article and the author's bemused roundup: it's worse for him, of course, because he gets paid for his writing. I guess that alt-weekly is just the print prefiguration of those rss scrapers that snag blog content wholesale, with no apologies or even credit. You can't exactly get those folks on the phone either.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:13 PM on August 7, 2008


(Jody Rosen is a woman...)

I had one of my blog posts plagiarized one time for a group blog. When one of my readers contacted the group blog editor, his response was that I was the plagiarist.
posted by Class Goat at 1:14 PM on August 7, 2008


MetaFilter: They say everyone's a critic, but in this case, the critic is everyone.
posted by not_on_display at 1:15 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


The first line of the plagiarised version reads better than the original ("this past ...", ugh). That has to sting. It's like burglars leaving your flat tidier than it was.
posted by WPW at 1:16 PM on August 7, 2008


The first line of the plagiarised version reads better than the original ("this past ...", ugh). That has to sting. It's like burglars leaving your flat tidier than it was.
posted by shmegegge at 1:17 PM on August 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Plagerism on the net is just plain idiotic. The author of the Slate article was able to get to the bottom of it with just a few Google searches of characteristic phrases.

Even if that search proved fruitless, the Internet is teeming with gumshoes who'll do the legwork.
posted by Dr-Baa at 1:19 PM on August 7, 2008


The first, line of the, plagiarized--version reads better than the original--this past. Ugh, that has to, Sting, it's like burglars; leaving your apartment tidier than it was.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:20 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Alt-weeklies vary quite broadly in quality. Some of them are really good; some are really useless. And some are full of plagiarized stuff.
posted by grouse at 1:21 PM on August 7, 2008


I wish I had said that.
posted by WPW at 1:23 PM on August 7, 2008


I'll bet the country is littered with little weeklies where plagiarized pieces run in every issue. But they should have the sense not to have websites.
posted by LarryC at 1:24 PM on August 7, 2008


You will, WPW, you will.
posted by Dr-Baa at 1:24 PM on August 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


(Jody Rosen is a woman...)

I would have picked a more informed comment to plagiarize, but that was the only one there.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:25 PM on August 7, 2008


I wish I had said that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:26 PM on August 7, 2008


You will, Astro Zombie, you will.
posted by WPW at 1:27 PM on August 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


Your favorite plagiarism-happy alt-weekly sucks.
posted by porn in the woods at 1:30 PM on August 7, 2008


WolfDaddy is plagiarizing me. This is ridiculous! I demand a moderator delete his comment.
posted by shmegegge at 1:31 PM on August 7, 2008


WPW: Unless you're Oscar Wilde, you're stealin' my bit.

Also I think the journo probably has tennis elbow from patting himself on the back so hard.
posted by boo_radley at 1:31 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


What he said.
posted by trip and a half at 1:32 PM on August 7, 2008


Also I think the journo probably has tennis elbow from patting herself on the back so hard.
posted by invitapriore at 1:34 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder if she considered the possibility that all those people were plagiarizing the alt weekly? Because the list did include Joe Conason. Just saying.
posted by felix at 1:35 PM on August 7, 2008


Reflecting deeply on this issue, I realized that the first line of the plagiarized version reads better than the original ("this past ...", ugh), with a smooth flow like a smoothly flowing river. That has to sting like a bee with a big hurtful stinger. It's like burglars picking up all the shit you left on the floor.
posted by drezdn at 1:43 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


boo_radley: Also I think the journo probably has tennis elbow from patting himself on the back so hard.

It is very flattering to have someone value your work enough to want to steal it.

I was the "victim" of a minor act of plagiarism about a year ago. A large blog was reproducing pieces I had written, keeping my byline on them, but not mentioning the name of the magazine I work for or linking to our website. Anyway, we sent them a letter asking them to either remove the content or link to our website, and they removed the content. It was all very strange.

Dr Baa makes a good point; for all the brouhaha about internet plagiarism being the end of the authorial model as we know it (or whatever), it's undeniably an incredibly powerful tool for uncovering plagiarism. As LarryC says, I'm certain copying thrives and always has thrived offline, undetected. So the internet doesn't mean that there's more stealing, it just means it's easier to see.
posted by WPW at 1:43 PM on August 7, 2008


Amen Repro, Te Dium.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:44 PM on August 7, 2008


MetaFilter:Your favorite plagiarism-happy alt-weekly sucks.

See what I did there?
posted by fixedgear at 1:55 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is a crying need for software which will take your plagiarized piece and tweak it just enough so that the original authors can't find you by Googling. (Letter of markov?)
posted by jamjam at 1:57 PM on August 7, 2008


For a few years I used to write for an electronic music magazine. It was disconcerting at first to see my words and phrasing lifted into related pieces in other print and online work, but after I gave up writing, I started to enjoy seeing my style appropriated and recycled in bits and pieces by others. I felt and still feel a kind of parental pride, on some level.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:03 PM on August 7, 2008


Lesson Learned: Keep your plagarism filled cash-cow alt weekly offline only.

It's more ALT that way.
posted by Mick at 2:09 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


jamjam: There's plenty of anti-plagiarism software (I've seen it used in college) out there that will allow you to search for a minimum string of words -- even if you fuddle up the piece a bit you are still bound to have enough identical strings that it would raise a red flag.
posted by sararah at 2:10 PM on August 7, 2008


I read alt-weeklies, and when I'm in a new town, I generally look to pick up whichever one is around. Where Yat? in New Orleans is particularly good, as is Gambit Weekly. The Washington City Paper is some of the most interesting and thorough journalism that town has to offer. Etc. I was staying in Montomery County last week for a few days, and saw The Bulletin, picked it up, and immediately set it back down.

I know I shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but it just seemed shitty to me in some immediate way. I guess I was right.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:14 PM on August 7, 2008


If this is anyone but Steve Allen, you're stealing my bit.
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:15 PM on August 7, 2008


Glad to see everyone is joking and having a good time and making the same joke over and over and over, but this is a pretty serious issue, and I hope that this Ladyman fella and his alter-ego "Mark Williams" get(s) hit by a truck.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:20 PM on August 7, 2008


On a similar note: There's a considerable amount of anti-plagiarism applications a la TurnitIn (which is in use at my university) which are in use in higher education that will enable faculty to browse for a minimum string of words. Even if you shuffle around the text of up the work, one is likely to locate enough identical strings which would flag a suspect essay.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:22 PM on August 7, 2008


In a sudden epiphany, I realized that the first line of the plagiarized version reads better than the original ("this past ...", ugh), with a smooth flow like yellow mustard custard dripping from a dead dog's eye. That must float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. It's like rain on your wedding day.
posted by box at 2:30 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Jody Rosen is a woman...)

I would have picked a more informed comment to plagiarize, but that was the only one there.


Really?
Jody Rosen is Slate's music critic. He lives in New York City. He can be reached at slatemusic@gmail.com.
posted by chococat at 2:49 PM on August 7, 2008


From the article:

The masthead also reveals that the Bulletin is part of the Alternative Weekly Network, a nationwide consortium of 110 weekly publications.

It's worth noting (more as Interesting than Surprising, certainly): the Bulletin is no longer listed on the Publications list of AWN, though it was back in October, 2007.

Who really reads those alt.weeklies, other than guys looking for 'massages'?

Portland has a couple of good ones; Willamette Week is a pretty solid local news/journo paper, and The Portland Mercury is a lighter, snarkier Stranger clone that's good for lunchtime reading and occasionally tries to take itself seriously as a news feature outlet too.

Both also feature ads for massages in the back. WW used to carry Dan Savage's column but dropped it at one point when "Hey, faggot" was still the standard salutation; later on in the post-HF era the Merc picked it up.
posted by cortex at 2:50 PM on August 7, 2008


I bet I could plagiarize 100 articles.
posted by Skorgu at 2:52 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lazy plagiarists always fail. Great plagiarists become best sellers.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 3:01 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm thrilled you're all laughing it up you ditto jokebutts but it's no laughing matter. These people need to have their genitals ripped out and get thrown in a threshing machine.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:03 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read the article, but the outcome was unclear. Presumably Rosen has since contacted some or all of the other writers she found were plagiarized, and they are considering legal action? Seems like a good lawyer could demand compensation for the writers, and it sounds as if Rosen has already done much of the legwork.
posted by ornate insect at 3:17 PM on August 7, 2008


Hey guys, check out this poem I wrote all on my own.

Night Piece

The swung torch scatters seeds
In the umbelliferous dark
And a frog makes guttural comment
On the naked and trespassing
Nymph of the lake.

The symbols were evident,
Though on park-gates
The iron birds looked disapproval
With rusty invidious beaks.

Among the water-lilies
A splash — white foam in the dark!
And you lay sobbing then
Upon my trembling intuitive arm.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:22 PM on August 7, 2008


I'm thrilled you're all laughing it up you ditto jokebutts but it's no laughing matter. These people need to have their genitals ripped out and get thrown in a threshing machine.
posted by saysthis at 3:22 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I bet I could plagiarize 101 articles, and nine goats.
posted by fixedgear at 3:26 PM on August 7, 2008


The copy-and-paste joke is funnier each time. Not. (And yes I'm aware this will likely be copied and pasted; it falls under fair-use; but it won't be funny, as the joke has staled--as all jokes do).
posted by ornate insect at 3:28 PM on August 7, 2008


The copy-and-paste joke is funnier each time. Not. (And yes I'm aware this will likely be copied and pasted; it falls under fair-use; but it won't be funny, as the joke has staled--as all jokes do).
posted by ornate insect at 3:28 PM on August 7 [+] [!]


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posted by jewzilla at 3:38 PM on August 7, 2008


porn in the woods: Indeed.
posted by mindless progress at 3:41 PM on August 7, 2008


You Thought We Wouldn't Notice. A site deticated to shaming those who think it's ok to take others art and use it without permission.
posted by carsonb at 3:54 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Here's a true story about how awesome The Bulletin is.

As some of you know, when the Jimmy Buffett article first came out, my girlfriend, Courtney, burst into tears at the writing. She was emabrrassed but somewhat amused by this, as so she made a video of herself reading the article, knowing she would start crying every time that little robot said his own name.

After a few months, she started to get trickles of emails from people at The Bulletin who said they had seen her video and really appreciated it. It was all sort of under the radar -- mostly Mark Williams, and he was sort of circumspect about the subject.

Then she got an email from Mike Ladyman, saying they wanted to send her something for Christmas. She received a coupon for a local coffee house at a nice note saying that the folk at The Bulletin had appreciated the film.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:59 PM on August 7, 2008 [8 favorites]


My wife teaches a film studies course. A student once turned in a paper copy-pasted in its entirety from a piece she'd written for her online film magazine (with a prominent byline).
When he came to complain about his lowest-possible-grade, she just said "look at the byline".
He never showed up for class again.
posted by signal at 4:15 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Jody Rosen is a woman...

No, Jody Beth Rosen is a woman, and also a pretty decent music writer. They're both on ILX from time to time, and get annoyed at the confusion.
posted by klangklangston at 4:18 PM on August 7, 2008


Plagiarism Cat sees what you did there. And steals it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:23 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jody Rosen -- a woman.
posted by grimcity at 4:27 PM on August 7, 2008


Despicable.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:41 PM on August 7, 2008


Plagerism on the net is just plain idiotic.

Well, I'm not sure, but Playjerizem certainly would be.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:49 PM on August 7, 2008


I can haz cheezburger in paradise?
posted by fixedgear at 5:05 PM on August 7, 2008


this will end well, if it ever ends
posted by wendell at 5:36 PM on August 7, 2008


Glad to see everyone is joking and having a good time and making the same joke over and over and over, but this is a pretty serious issue, and I hope that this Ladyman fella and his alter-ego "Mark Williams" get(s) hit by a truck.

It is a serious issue, but getting hit by a truck is far too quick and merciful an end for these two. I'd rather see Ladyman and Williams subjected to scorn and ridicule everywhere they go for the rest of their lives and to have to take jobs which involve hard and honest work. Bricklaying, for example. Man, I haven't been this irritated since I used to see Chris Reynolds cheating on his spelling tests in fourth grade. People who do their own work shouldn't have to be watching their backs to make sure no one's stealing from them.
posted by orange swan at 6:28 PM on August 7, 2008


Of course, plenty of non-plagiarizing journalists deserve scorn and ridicule too.
posted by ryanrs at 9:00 PM on August 7, 2008


Everything with the article was just humming along nicely, about to draw to a close, then he does this:

"But perhaps the Bulletin is merely on-trend—or even ahead of its time. The Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, and Real Clear Politics have made names and money by sifting through RSS feeds; Tina Brown and Barry Diller are preparing the launch of their own news aggregator. Mike Ladyman and company may simply be bringing guerilla-style 21st-century content aggregation to 20th-century print media: publishing the Napster of newspapers."

Come on.

Completely irrelevant and not necessary. Comes off like he's jealous. Sorta blows the end. In fact, you could improve it further by cutting from that point onward.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:08 PM on August 7, 2008


These posts did little to dispel the feeling that I had been sucked into a Charlie Kaufman screenplay.
posted by benzenedream at 11:36 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm just impressed that such a half-assed operation managed to snag the URL.

Or did they steal that, too?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:38 PM on August 7, 2008


Never work for the government. My husband writes policy documents, and because the IP is owned by his Department, people feel free to cut-and-paste his work into their own without attribution. What he finds really sucks is when they take his good work (he's my husband, of course his work is good) and use it in shitty work.

(sorry for getting all boring and stuff. back to your regular MeFi absurdity now folks.)
posted by Megami at 12:03 AM on August 8, 2008


krinklyfig, i don't know. i'd say that point is pretty valid. the distinction is that the bulletin was making ad bucks from unattributed ripoffs i guess...
posted by punkbitch at 1:35 AM on August 8, 2008


a great article but I wished the author hadn't dropped the ball mid-field. she didn't really write about her own feelings, what the lawyers said, how the slate et all editors reacted, what they did, how she came to choose writing about this as opposed to suing them out of business first. this feels like a piece that ken auletta would have turned into something much, much more satisfying.

Who really reads those alt.weeklies, other than guys looking for 'massages'?
are you seriously suggesting the village voice/la weekly/newtimes and all those fun papers are just about massage ads or are you just hoping to win some ignorant-jackass-of-the-day award?
posted by krautland at 2:13 AM on August 8, 2008


Megami: that's not boring, that's a potential FPP post. I bet you could find some wonderfully funny examples.
posted by krautland at 2:14 AM on August 8, 2008


Plagiarize,
Let no one else's work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don't shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize...
Only be sure always to call it please, "research".

By Sparx, Just now.
posted by Sparx at 3:41 AM on August 8, 2008


Never work for the government. My husband writes policy documents, and because the IP is owned by his Department, people feel free to cut-and-paste his work into their own without attribution. What he finds really sucks is when they take his good work (he's my husband, of course his work is good) and use it in shitty work.

I don't doubt that your husband (and you, too!) are great people and all, and he's probably a terrific writer. But seriously, pride of authorship in government documents? Man, I wrote the greatest Statement of Work last week! And the are still talking about my Source Selection Document. My Contract Quality Improvement Plan is the stuff of legend.
posted by fixedgear at 5:05 AM on August 8, 2008


'Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.'
TS Elliott Smith (written in 1920)

'Good artists copy. Great artists steal.'
Pablo Naruda Picasa (unsourced)
posted by Cantdosleepy at 5:23 AM on August 8, 2008


Never work for the government. My husband writes policy documents, and because the IP is owned by his Department, people feel free to cut-and-paste his work into their own without attribution.

Government is funded with tax dollars, so what they produce belongs to the taxpayers.
At my company, we make a muiltimillion dollar business out of reproducing and repackaging stuff the government offers on the net for free. Heh!
posted by orange swan at 5:52 AM on August 8, 2008


benzenedream: "These posts did little to dispel the feeling that I had been sucked into a Charlie Kaufman screenplay."

Benzene Dream sat at a keyboard. "These posts," Benzene tapped out, "did little to dispel the feeling that I had been chucked into a Charlie Kaufman screenplay."
posted by WCityMike at 7:47 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]



INT. OFFICE - WCITYMIKE'S DESK

WCITYMIKE sits in front of a LCD screen on a metal stand, tapping away at a desk as a printer spews out pages in the background.

WCITYMIKE

Heh. Charlie Kaufman. Good one.

WCITYMIKE snaps his fingers, then hunches over the keyboard once more. Looking over his shoulder, we see him quote BENZENE DREAM's original post, and then type the following: "Benzene Dream sat at a keyboard. 'These posts,' Benezene tapped out, 'did little to dispel the feeling that I had been chucked into a Charlie Kaufman screenplay.'"

WCITYMIKE adjusts his chair a bit, then blinks sleepily, realizing he's not had his morning caffeine yet. We see him get up and walk away from the camera towards the soda machine.

posted by WCityMike at 7:48 AM on August 11, 2008


INT. HEAVEN - GOD'S DESK

GOD sits in front of a heavenly 60" LCD screen in a plush leather chair, tapping away at the HeavenKeyboard. We see him minimize a WORLD OF WARCRAFT window and bring up a METAFILTER page. [Note: the Metafilter page should be at the Web address "http://www.metafilter.com/73929/Hey-Thats-Mine".]

GOD
Heh. Charlie Kaufman. Good one.

GOD snaps his fingers, then hunches over the keyboard once more. Looking over his shoulder, we see him type:
INT. OFFICE - WCITYMIKE'S DESK

WCITYMIKE sits in front of a LCD screen on a metal stand, tapping away at a desk as a printer spews out pages in the background.

WCITYMIKE

Heh. Charlie Kaufman. Good one.

WCITYMIKE snaps his fingers, then hunches over the keyboard once more. Looking over his shoulder, we see him quote BENZENE DREAM's original post, and then type the following: "Benzene Dream sat at a keyboard. 'These posts,' Benezene tapped out, 'did little to dispel the feeling that I had been chucked into a Charlie Kaufman screenplay.'"

WCITYMIKE adjusts his chair a bit, then blinks sleepily, realizing he's not had his morning caffeine yet. We see him get up and walk away from the camera towards the soda machine.
GOD adjusts his chair a bit, then blinks sleepily, realizing he's not had his morning caffeine yet. We see Him get up and walk away from the camera towards what is presumably the Celestial Coffee Room.

posted by WCityMike at 7:51 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Update: RIP Plagarizing Montgomery County Paper.
posted by Paid In Full at 9:17 AM on August 12, 2008


Huh.

I can sort of sympathize on a human level with Ladyman if he feels like he was dealing with asymmetrical warfare from Rosen, but it's more of a pitying kind of shit, that must suck to realize he's pushing this story thing than anything reasonably pragmatic. It'd be one thing if Rosen had called him in June and then run up a big feature article three days later, but it sounds like there was something like a span of a month or going on two between the initial revelation of plagiarism and the big article going up.

In that time, Ladyman had...one conversation with Williams about the plagiarism, and accepted (even only half-believing) a handwaving "oh it's just PR blurbing, everybody does it" explanation? And dropped it? And didn't do any sort of research into Williams' work?

“The mistake I made was not working fast enough for Jody Rosen and apparently I needed to be punished for it.”

The mistake you made was apparently being too busy to look into the content of your publiciation, at all, for like a month. That's not crazy city-slicker hard sell stuff there, that's just plain negligence.
posted by cortex at 9:48 AM on August 12, 2008


Mark Williams' work on "Open Letter to Jody Rosen" kind of makes Ladyman look like the classiest guy in the world, though. It's weird sometimes to be reminded that all the stupid, hackneyed rhetoric that has come to seem like the domain of lowbelly internetland actually existed perfectly well in letters to the editor and kiss-off rants before the web was more than a glint in Berners-Lee's eye.

Behold, the condensed, forum-squabbling-only edition of said open letter:

I seem to be your favorite new obsession...it is obvious that you have an abundance of free time in your daily schedule.

...as you have so subtly pointed out, I was mistaken.

...you have most definitely garnered the attention of the bloggers that you evidently crave in abundance with this manufactured scandal. So my advice, if I may offer a small slice, is to enjoy the spotlight while it is yours -- have yourself a ball!

It must have taken years of seasoned investigative know-how to push me off my lofty perch.

So there it is, Mr. Rosen -- congratulations on breaking an already fragile soul. In the end, I’m not sure what the point of all of this truly is, other than some sort of small dully colored feather in your journalistic cap.


It's too Mr. Williams' credit that the above version is a great deal shorter than his original. But there's a bunch of pity-mongering and question-dodging in the remainder, so it's not that much of a win. His subversion of the living-in-mom's-basement meme onto himself in the main pity-me paragraph is maybe clever, but I'm not sure he's doing that on purpose so it might just be straight-up pathos attack.

It's a weird letter, anyway. Between the snarks, he apologizes, but basically just plain doesn't address at all why he should be offering it or whether the good work he props the paper for having done does or doesn't fall into the large body of work that involved plagiarism.
posted by cortex at 10:36 AM on August 12, 2008


That Williams letter is grim piece of work. To be able to ladle out self-pity in doses that toxic, you'd either have to be a master manipulator or in real need of therapeutic support. I hope he's OK. It makes for disgusting reading, though - I kept thinking of the Newman character from Seinfeld - and there's no indication of actual remorse, just woe-is-me.
posted by WPW at 1:15 PM on August 12, 2008


One thing that hit me on the first read through and did again just now:

You win, we cry uncle.

We? I mean, I understand that Ladyman is implicitly involved, but as far as I know it's not Williams' place to surrender on behalf of the paper, and there's something a little weird about the shift from the intensely personal (Feel Bad About Meeeee) to the collective (Weeee Are The Victims) like that.

Ranty angry writing, I know; what do you do. But still.
posted by cortex at 1:43 PM on August 12, 2008


It actually makes me curious about Williams. I'd kind of like to meet him and see what his life is actually like.

I know that when I was writing music crit, there was a powerful temptation to just crib from press releases and other writers. But I knew both that I would be caught and that the whole point of my writing it was to give a different view that wasn't available elsewhere.

So, when I was super lazy I'd fall back on quoting other sources (with attribution), or asking my roommates what they thought. Then, the easiest way to get extra words was to describe their clothes—something I absolutely hate when it happens to artists (but that is a common trope). Like, "Jeff overhears the album and listens thoughtfully for a moment. Dressed in sagging, smudged blue jeans and a t-shirt that reads 'Long Timer,' he exudes the casual cool that the Hiphopopotami are aiming for. He fingers the jewel case and then says, 'They sound like Handsome Boy.'"

And for political articles, when padding is needed, retreat to Great Books. Between The Bible, The Republic, The Social Contract or practically any other canonical text, you can pretty much just open to a random page, plop down a finger, and find a quote that's apt enough to look erudite even if it doesn't necessarily mean anything.

All easier than actually plagiarizing, and just as lazy, at least from my workflow.
posted by klangklangston at 1:47 PM on August 12, 2008


Here's the On The Media piece on NPR from the 8th—transcript + audio—that has a short interview with Rosen and then a bit of audio of Williams reading his Open Letter. Whole thing is a little less than six minutes total.

Rosen backpedals apologetically on the "blog aggregation = Bulletin plagiarism" thing, so that's, you know, nice. Lesson: if you don't have the column inches, don't start down the road.

Williams has a pretty good voice for radio—I saw somebody mention (blog-hopping, can't remember where) that he works talk radio in town, which doesn't surprise me in that case.
posted by cortex at 1:54 PM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


So there it is, Mr. WCityMike -- congratulations on breaking an already fragile soul. In the end, I’m not sure what the point of all of this truly is, other than some sort of small dully colored feather in your MeFi cap. We bow to you, Mr. WCityMike -- to your talent, to your humanity, to all that is you.

Best regards to Charlie Kaufman,

benzenedream
posted by benzenedream at 2:35 PM on August 12, 2008


I can see that letter becoming an example in Drama Rocket textbooks.
posted by cortex at 2:57 PM on August 12, 2008


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