Well you know what they say about great artists
May 11, 2022 5:35 PM   Subscribe

An author admits that significant portions of their debut novel were plagiarized, in a "plagiarism atonement essay" [archive link] that itself plagiarized from Plagiarism Today.
posted by ordinary_magnet (29 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
So Meta!
posted by mcstayinskool at 5:57 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


Jesus, that is sad as shit. All I can tell about this is that she's ill and she's going to continue to suffer.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:01 PM on May 11 [7 favorites]


Ok, but has Shia LaBeouf adapted any of this into a short film without permission yet?
posted by mmcg at 6:18 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


Honestly, having read both Martial passages, I am having trouble seeing the plagiarism there (maybe I missed something?). But she clearly has terrible problems. What a sad story.
posted by praemunire at 6:35 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


Retelling a well known fact in your own words seems... not very plagiarizy? In an academic essay, you'd put a citation, but non-academic essays don't require it.

I'm also confused as to the novel - was it really just that she looked for descriptions of pregnancy? Again, if she wrote them in her own words, that's just doing research, like an artist using a photograph as a reference but changing the image to suit their vision.
posted by jb at 6:49 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


Yeah, surely we're missing something here, right? The etymology of a word would require citation in an academic paper, but not in a Lit Hub essay. I do think she skims over the actual plagiarism in a way that strikes me as a bit disingenuous, but calling the essay itself plagiarized seems like an unfair little gotcha by people who are little too eager to stir up the next "Bad Art Friend" feeding frenzy.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 7:16 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


Merricat Blackwood: I didn’t include the Gawker link that lays out the specific passage at issue, but it’s linked by the Plagiarism Today writer. I agree it seems pretty mild, though the context (a plagiarism apology) obviously aggravates. The PT writer sums up the situation best:

In short, Bello, an author who admitted to plagiarizing in her now-cancelled debut novel, wrote an article about the experience and, in that article, included poor paraphrasing without attribution of an article that I wrote over a decade ago.

What is most interesting to me about the PT article is the analysis of how the author’s stated approach to writing - copy-pasting others’ writing and then going in to ‘make it your own’ later - basically makes some form of plagiarism inevitable, even if not intended.
posted by ordinary_magnet at 7:34 PM on May 11 [14 favorites]


It's plagiarism all the way down.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:47 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


The test of intelligence is being able to discern Assmilliner plagiarized A.I. Poetry and still be able to function.
posted by clavdivs at 7:52 PM on May 11


It feels like the post is missing a link to something that ties it all together, or a one stop shop kind of thing. This Gawker post, mentioned on the Plagiarism Today site, seems to have that.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:15 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


I am so tired of the sampling the conversatonal the badly cited research, the rewriting the common considerd a sin like this. Was Acker a plagarist? Was Gysion?
posted by PinkMoose at 8:54 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


copy-pasting others’ writing and then going in to ‘make it your own’ later - basically makes some form of plagiarism inevitable,

Yeah, this was the sad part. So many college students work like this now, and (at least for what I do) it is difficult to find the right opportunity to explain to them that this is simply not how you write. A student will work over a whole paragraph, changing dozens of words, and they don't seem to understand how stupid it looks when you compare their creation to the source.

(In one particularly ironic example, a student inserted "in my opinion..." to the beginning of a sentence that was not her own opinion.)

Also, I've come to realize that the fastest way to find the sources they will copy-and-paste is to google my own questions, word-for-word.
posted by anhedonic at 9:22 PM on May 11 [25 favorites]


I do think she skims over the actual plagiarism in a way that strikes me as a bit disingenuous

You probably shouldn't announce your misconduct and redeem yourself for it in the same essay. But this person just seems to be so ill that probably losing the book deal is sufficient punishment.
posted by praemunire at 9:35 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


It's plagiarism all the way down.
posted by nightcoast at 9:46 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


This sucks. (Thanks for posting, but this situation just sucks. All the way down)
posted by capnsue at 10:17 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


I'm tired of this "art is itself commentry on the process of creating" movement. Isn't there something else to say about the state of the world? Who's going to get the references in 20 years time?
posted by k3ninho at 12:00 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I guess that plagiarism has been with us since the birth of language and art, and for as long as there have been words to be read, there has been someone there copying the passages.
posted by signal at 5:03 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I had looked at the manuscript almost a dozen times, but still, I couldn’t admit to myself what I had done. I think anyone else would sit in the same horror. To wake up one day and realize that the person you were before committed egregious acts.

I think these sentences get at why I find the confession so unbelievable, so unsympathetic. Anyone else would sit in the same horror? No. Amplifying this into a crime, into egregious acts, makes a drama of something that is stultifyingly mundane. One of the things you quickly learn about writing a book--no matter how mentally ill you are--is how boring it is. Maybe you can whip through a short story in a fever dream, maybe you can write the first twenty pages of your book in a state of dissociative antibliss, but an entire book? Eventually you end up trying to think of how to say what furniture looks like, or you're googling scarves trying to figure out what's around your character's neck, or you're adjusting commas and trying to decide whether you've got too many italics, and somehow in all that, the work gets done, and if you've done something silly like copying someone else's words, so what? You haven't Committed A Crime. You've traced a picture instead of drawing it freehand. You've played the chords off a top-40 song and run your own melody over it. And part of the necessary drudgery is to clean that up.

You do it all the time, other bits of clean-up. Unless you're some magical genius who manages to get everything right in the first draft, you've got all this stuff that doesn't quite work--conversations that sound a little too much like they're from TV, characters who look a little too much like people who pissed you off in real life--or, really, whatever little crutches you used to get through the chapters. You cover it all up so you don't look stupid or lazy. And you don't get to say oh but my beautiful mental illness prevents me because it doesn't.

To refuse that task isn't a great and spiritual sin that will put you on the path to redemption; the idea of redemption is just imposing a grand narrative on having left off a very dull but important task. Like cleaning your bedroom after a long depression, it's important but it's not a journey. Making the mess in the first place isn't tragic, it's just sad in the way most things are a little sad. We shouldn't call upon all our rhetorical powers to look for sympathy and meaning in not cleaning up our rooms. Just...y'know. Put the dirty clothes away and make the bed. Do the work.
posted by mittens at 5:49 AM on May 12 [10 favorites]


So many college students work like this now, and (at least for what I do) it is difficult to find the right opportunity to explain to them that this is simply not how you write.

That's not surprising, I guess, but it is shocking. It's such a bad writing process that I can hardly think of it as writing at all. The best analogy I could think of for that is that it's like going into a store, putting on a full outfit of clothes from underwear to outerwear, filling your new pockets and new purse, and then going to the checkout counter. There's bound to be some mistakes, and even if there's not, there's going to be some bad feeling about it because your understanding is so poor. You're like that AI article bot that avoided plagiarism by putting out an article about the new star of "Physician Who."* More seriously, it's no way to think and no way to process thoughts. It is a good way to quote exactly, which is excellent for nonfiction, but that is not what was happening here.

I have always been stern about academic integrity, but then, I have always led a fairly comfortable life. Writers on Twitter point out that there's a lot of inherent racism in the way that Bello was treated compared to other writers. I can think of at least one white lady writer who's comfortable and has big friends now but -- well, leave that aside. In checking it out, I see that the young Indian girl whose YA book deal was cancelled for plagiarism is now a lawyer. That sounds like things turned out all right for her, but my guess is she feels chained to it. Every lawyer-writer dreams of quitting the business to write full time, and that's closed to her now.

Should we treat plagiarism like leprosy? I really don't know how to answer that, especially as to Bello, who has fucked up twice now. But, as is clear, she is also very ill. I am growing suspicious of the phrase "I hope they get the help they need," since it seems to have become the Northern version of "bless their heart." I think the help she needs is not just psychiatric, but professional support in a number of ways, if she is to be able to use her gifts in life.
----
* This really happened, but it is very hard to Google
posted by Countess Elena at 6:00 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


In my opinion, it's plagiarism all the way down.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:14 AM on May 12 [8 favorites]


>>So many college students work like this now, and (at least for what I do) it is difficult to find the right opportunity to explain to them that this is simply not how you write.

>That's not surprising, I guess, but it is shocking. It's such a bad writing process that I can hardly think of it as writing at all.


A while back a couple of junior employees where I work, barely out of college, did this for a document. Yes, the analysis is supposed to be based on a couple of published protocols -- but you don't do that by simply copy/pasting those previous technical write-ups into your own document and then saying "tah dah, we wrote our own protocol!" Luckily it was really easy to notice and got caught in internal review, rather than after it went out in public.

They weren't being malicious or even lazy -- they were just "writing" in the way that they thought was correct and appropriate, and probably had used all the way through school while getting good grades.

The case in the FPP seems more sad than anything, especially getting caught plagiarizing from "Plagiarism Today."
posted by Dip Flash at 7:10 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


That definitely lines up with my memories of school, the process of how to actually write wasn't taught, so people figured out how to produce the deliverable on their own, and that wasn't even really being read anyway, it's just one more point for the average.
posted by bleep at 7:56 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


so people figured out how to produce the deliverable on their own, and that wasn't even really being read anyway

This is the real core of it. The evaluation style in US schools has gotten so unbelievably worse in the 3 decades since I graduated High School. Teachers (overworked and underappreciated, to be sure) have had to resort to (it seems) near-universal non-reading of essays and papers, and just look for key words or phrases from a grading template, rewarding students who just put the things they're looking for into their essays rather than actually reading all of the text for coherence and content.

I know this because my daughter when she was in HS ended up earning a vastly higher grade on an essay after getting an abysmal grade when she asked the teacher to re-review it. Just turns out that she -- as one would hope -- assembled her points in the essay in a fashion that made a reasonable case, but used terms the teacher wasn't expecting or looking for, and since they didn't appear verbatim in the grading template, she got a crap grade until the teacher actually read the essay and realized it was good. Her lesson? Just parrot the teacher's words rather than using her own. She since has achieved a great deal, academically, and yet she was almost explicitly taught that the way to get the grades she wanted wasn't to actually write, but to word-salad a few hundred words from the lessons.
posted by tclark at 8:11 AM on May 12 [9 favorites]


[T]he idea of redemption is just imposing a grand narrative on having left off a very dull but important task.

Too real.

They weren't being malicious or even lazy -- they were just "writing" in the way that they thought was correct and appropriate

Every proposal I've ever seen has been "written" more or less like this. Take the last proposal, change a few words around, search and replace the principals, maybe add a sentence or paragraph addressing requirements that didn't exist last time around. Lather, rinse, repeat. The punchline is that it's the same committees reviewing these self-plagiarized proposals over and over and over again. Maybe it just seems pro forma to them. I feel insulted just reviewing them in my limited capacity as an engineer. If I had a formal capacity I'd be sorely tempted to reject them out of hand.
posted by kjh at 2:05 PM on May 12


If I had a formal capacity I'd be sorely tempted to reject them out of hand.

I review those kinds of proposals, and it is annoying. On the other hand, I was a consultant once, churning out those proposals, and it's just not worth it to try to reinvent the wheel. If that language got you the contract once before, it's good enough.

There's a big fear of creativity in that kind of business: in fact, if I got a proposal that was super-creative, I would be likely to reject it out of hand, assuming the contractor didn't understand the job.
posted by suelac at 3:46 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


It doesn't really make sense to have proposals or contractual instruments or plans to be significantly rewritten unless the requirements or proposed work is vastly different from before.

But a persuasive essay, or a novel, or an article for publication, it should be almost entirely from scratch.
posted by tclark at 5:34 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Most mornings, right after I wake up, my morning tasks include gathering any copyright and/or plagiarism news stories that I can find on the internet.

I read pretty much all of them, some copyright-related ones go into the 3 Count column and other stories get set aside for additional research to become full posts on the site. It’s a ritual I’ve done nearly every weekday morning for over a decade.

Today’s ritual did not go as planned.

In Google News, I ran across a Metafilter post written by ordinary_magnet, entitled "Well you know what they say about great artists". However, when I clicked it, I went to this page and wrote this comment, was was completely out of order and I'm very sorry.

Sincerely,

Roman Martial
posted by tiamat at 5:45 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Does anyone have a different link to the original essay? The google cache link doesn't seem to work any more, and the wayback machine didn't have a saved version before it was taken down.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:05 AM on May 13


Here's the Wayback Machine link.
posted by Nossidge at 8:10 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


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