Who the heck is Mark Mitchell, and how did he acquire that brain damage?

I can almost understand plagiarizing Glenn Greenwald, but what is beyond comprehension is building a blog that seems to be entirely a mass of unattributed, plagiarized content. He’s got sections in the sidebar for “Recent Posts” and “The Latest from Mark Mitchell”, and I thought for a moment that maybe the latter would be his original content, but no, those are plagiarized, too. It’s as if Chauncey Gardiner were to write a blog—a completely empty, uncreative mind is just shuffling scraps from the internet and calling it his work.

And there’s almost no quality control at all — he’s parroting me!


  1. says

    Apparently the blog has disappeared…

    Before my very eyes. Like two minutes ago. There, click again, now gone.

    Weird. Truly, truly weird.

    Sadly, I can find very little in Google cache, either. Musta been a newish blog, and not much crawled.

  2. Ginger Yellow says

    The funny thing is that judging from the comments at TNH and the Utah Chronicle article, there’s no evidence that Mitchell has ever written an original article in his life.

  3. gerald spezio says

    I was truly shocked when Chris Mooney was so venomous in his reaction to your on point criticism of framing. I am learning.

    Today Mooney exposes his yuppie plan even more flagrantly.
    I claim that Mooney and Nisbet are part of the well orchestrated plan to usher in the “newer and slicker phase of scientific uncertainty.”

  4. says

    Um, Google Scholar shows that The Selfish Gene alone has been cited 3,885 times. ISI, which is probably more restrictive, actually lists 104 publications by Dawkins, cited 2,174 times.

    Is WtHiRD’s post just a recycling of some UD screed?

  5. Tulse says

    I like the article’s comment on the theft of PZ’s material: “This particular borrowing was a serious misjudgement on Mitchell’s part. Salon will just sue you.”

    Did the Kraken take out this guy’s server?

  6. abeja says

    From the article’s comment section (a commenter named John R. was reposting a funny comment he had made on Mitchell’s blog):

    Awfully interesting thing: PZ Myers over at ScienceBlogs.com appears to have copied your article! Word for word! Punctuation by punctuation! Link by link!

    How horrible… and PZ even appears to have done it *the day before* you posted yours. Why, the fiend must have broken into your computer and stolen your draft version! And your writing sounds so much like PZ’s that nobody might ever have noticed PZ taking your article at all, if you hadn’t bravely continued to post your original.

    We’re all fortunate that you possess the strength and character it takes to deal so effectively with other people posting your articles in the days before you yourself do, taking the high road and not even commenting at all on their crime, simply letting your words stand for themselves.

    An yes, I did mean the plural “articles”. After all, look at what Glenn Greenwald did with this other piece of yours! And there’s more! In fact, trivially googling shows me that four of the last five of your posts have been stolen, word for word, by other bloggers who have then posted them hours or days before you posted them yourself! And the fifth? Well, all the others have been cruelly stolen from you, why not that one, too? You should check further!

    And you should probably take your computer to the shop, install a firewall, get it scanned by a professional, etc. Everyone’s posting all your work before you do, that MUST mean your computer is compromised!

  7. says

    I’ve seen this sort of thing at least twice before.

    In one case, some guy started a web comic that was a word-for-word, panel-for-panel recreation of J. Rowland’s “Overcompensating” (http://overcompensating.com). He’d been doing this for about a year before somebody noticed his site and brought it to the attention and scorn of others.

    In another case, a guy on a forum I read frequently was reprinting especially clever or informative posts on his personal blog and claiming them as his own work. He got away with this for a pretty long time before somebody stumbled over his backwater of the web and put two and two together. Much hilarity ensued and the plagiarist, after a few sputtering excuses, was never heard from again.

    I attribute the syndrome to a driving need to impress close friends and acquaintances online, the anonymous nature of the internet, and a congenital absence of personal pride.

  8. David Marjanović says

    He has no more scientific authority than a suburban school teacher.

    You overlooked one thing: “scientific authority” is a contradiction in itself. Arguments from authority are unscientific.

    If “a suburban school teacher” understand the scientific method, let them write books on that. More power to them.

  9. David Marjanović says

    He has no more scientific authority than a suburban school teacher.

    You overlooked one thing: “scientific authority” is a contradiction in itself. Arguments from authority are unscientific.

    If “a suburban school teacher” understand the scientific method, let them write books on that. More power to them.

  10. says

    In reading the article at the Daily Utah Chronicle (linked to in #5), I am just stunned at this Mitchell character’s ambivalence and belief that this level of plagiarism is “not that big of a deal.” Even worse, he claims this gig was just a “resume builder” without realizing that most people who look at his resume from here on out are going to see a criminal record as opposed to any sort of journalism experience.

  11. Bob O'H says

    WhHIRD – if you can’t use Web of Science, it’s not Dawkin’s fault. I found 22 articles from an R. Dawkins from Oxford that look like his work (try the author search). And if you look for cited works by R. Dawkins, you find a pile of them: over 800 for Blind Watchmaker, over 100 for Climbing Mount Improbable, over 1000 for Extended Phenotype, about 3000 for Selfish Gene (that’s listed 138 times, because of misprints, references to different editions, pages etc.).

    And that’s before you look at his papers: some of those have citations in the 100s too.


  12. says

    I attribute the syndrome to a driving need to impress close friends and acquaintances online…

    I was seriously wondering if what was going on was maybe something like that… Someone in his personal life he wants to impress, who maybe isn’t likely to read a lot of other online stuff, or who he hopes doesn’t. So I guess I’m pleased to hear it’s not just my own wild theory… Don’t really see what else he could possibly achieve with such a stunt.

    But then again, if it is the newspaper guy, I’m not sure how much sense that makes, unless you also assume incredible stupidity/naivete. As in: how could he possibly expect to publish the least bit widely, steal others’ work that blatantly and not get caught? It’s one thing if it’s a blog buried in millions of others that only your intended impressee is likely to read, and your intended impressee doesn’t read much else… You might get away with that for a while (you note people who did for a year, and I buy that, if their readership is small enough). But print even a few thousand copies, distribute it on even a small campus, you’d think you’d have to know you’d be asking for trouble.

    I note an odd comment following the story of his getting caught at that paper: someone, presumably a former colleague, saying how he doesn’t seem to have grasped the impact of what he’d done. Strange, strange blindness, that, if so. Mebbe even something seriously wrong, there, mentally/psychologically. I’m trying to imagine even the densest people I know not grasping that you couldn’t possibly get far doing that, and it’s really hard to imagine.

  13. says

    Ok, nobody else has yet, so:

    Who made me the genius I am today,
    The mathematician that others all quote?
    Who’s the professor that made me that way,
    The greatest that ever got chalk on his coat?

    One man deserves the credit,
    One man deserves the blame,
    and Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name. Oy!
    Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache…

    I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
    In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: 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”.

    Tom Lehrer, Lobachevsky

  14. tourettist says

    Plagiarism is more common on the net than a lot of folks realize. At one forum I inhabit, a former member would troll the net for outdated jokes and obscure webpages to post without attribution. I used to call him/her on it by searching for representative phrases and linking back to originals. S/he was quite fond of swiping silly tests and quizzes and seemed to feel ’twas an original achievement just finding them. Not the sort of thing that’ll get one into a copyright suit, and maybe even more slimy for that. IMO, the kind of people who email spam jokelists and urban legends tend to treat all content as up for grabs.

  15. mjfgates says

    On the one hand, this particular guy gets the BIG nose-thumbing from me, but on the other, he does illustrate a real issue.

    It’s going to take a generation or two before people have a firm idea of when to link, when to quote, and when to steal content on the Web. All three have their place (yes, even “stealing”… I am NOT going to give attribution for “minty fresh” or similar!). Hopefully a reasonable system will be worked out for dealing with this stuff that doesn’t give everything to Disney.

    As for digging up old stuff– if the old stuff is truly buried, in places where it actually isn’t seen by anyone, is there less worth in finding it and bringing it back to peoples’ attention than there was to creating it in the first place?

  16. Azkyroth says

    I’m just hoping that at some point people will remember that the term “stealing” has a definition other than “inconvenient to my personal self-aggrandizing and/or financial ambitions.”

  17. Azkyroth says

    Perhaps I should clarify: the term “stealing” is unfortunately overused and inappropriately used, to the point where the only thing you can conclude from its usage is that the behavior it refers to is disapproved of by the speaker, though it nearly always means that the behavior in question is perceived as in SOME way adversely affecting something the speaker believes he or she has a claim to. Plagiarism–deliberate, unattributed use of another’s work–is a legitimate usage; the self-righteous rhetoric used to attack filesharing and hotlinking, for example, is not.

  18. says

    While it looks as if this was a human kook, you should be alert for splogs – spam blogs. A robot scrapes bits off your site, makes it look plausibly like a comment on one of your pieces, posts it to a fake blog that also contains links to spam-type sites, and pushes a trackback to your site. If you accept the trackback (which looks plausible), Google will find the linkage and boost the value of the splog. Ingenious.

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