Pounding plagiarism into a thin vile slime


Last night, I saw that hbomberguy had put out a new video, and I started to watch it. Couldn’t finish it. So I resumed this morning. Still haven’t finished it. It’s almost 4 hours long! This is like some epic fantasy movie!

But it’s really good, so I’ll link to it here, in case anyone has more stamina than I do. It’s all about plagiarism on the internet.

It’s incredibly thorough, giving multiple examples, going through the details, and explaining why they are plagiarized. I teach some writing classes here at UMM — one of them in the coming spring semester — and I hammer on plagiarism as one week’s topic. This video is so comprehensive that I wish I could assign it to the class, but I can hear the groans if I tried to do that (although I’m sure they’d find it entertaining). Maybe I should rip out 20 minutes of the video and present the words in my class as my own? Wait, no, that would be bad.

I’ll probably tell them that it’s an optional video they could watch if really interested, and use hbomberguy as a boogey man and let the students know that if they plagiarize, a guy with 1.3 million subscribers might feature them in a massive youtube video that gets over a million views and comprehensively drag them over the coals.

Comments

  1. cartomancer says

    For once, I’m not going to watch this. Usually one of hbomberguy’s videos is a must-see for me, but in this case I don’t think I could cope.

    The thing is, one of his main targets here is the gay Canadian youtube personality James Somerton, whose videos and livestreams have been the closest I’ve had in two years to anything resembling a sense of community, belonging and fellow-feeling with regard to my sexuality. Since my only two gay friends (both of whom I have been deeply in love with) stopped talking to me two years back, and I turned an age that makes me feel ancient and hideous and unlovely, and every attempt I’ve made to engage with other gay people has resulted in humiliating failure, I’ve not felt great. Most mornings I wake up to an hour of dreary existential misery concerning the tattered remains of my connection to the world of my fellow gays, not helped by the wider horrors of the world as they unfold. And amid this loneliness, these videos have (sort of) kept me afloat. I have sympathised with Somerton’s struggles and anxieties, and those of his collaborator Nick Hergott, and felt that maybe this ugly, acerbic, repulsive old shell that I pilot around the cosmos to the distaste of all and sundry isn’t so worthless after all.

    So I’m not sure I want to go there.

  2. says

    You probably don’t, since hbomberguy rips Somerton to shreds and demonstrates conclusively that he simply steals all of his words. Although…he does show all of the sources for Somerton’s ideas, and suggests that you’d be better off going directly to them.

  3. wzrd1 says

    I suspect that masturbating with a cheese grater is preferable.
    That said, is it plagiarism when one openly steals with attribution content?
    Which then would remove said cheese grater content…
    And well, pretty much all else in the world.
    But, I’m still admiring and trying to figure out an x-ray view of DNA, ma’am.

  4. drivenb4u says

    I knew Ellison had been involved in a plagiarism suit with James Cameron over Terminator, this other one about Brillo / Future Cop is new to me. I guess the guy was just especially plagiarable.

  5. cartomancer says

    Oh well, I suppose even para-social relationships are too good to last. To be honest this whole sexual identity business is something that has brought me nothing but pain ever since I first admitted to it. I’m probably better off with nothing.

    At least I’ve still got Pharyngula.

  6. wzrd1 says

    I don’t mid plagiarism, As long as its attributed.
    Entirely.
    I’m also big on capitalizing on wrong, Not wrong. more so.

    As for evidence, erm, retread of ignorance. Everything is documented along the way.

  7. Jazzlet says

    cartomancer @ 8
    Why don’t you try some of the sources of Somertons words? You could end up with several other places to hang out on line.

  8. cartomancer says

    Jazzlet, #11,

    Maybe, in the fullness of time perhaps. Right now I’m so burned out on everything LGBT+ that I’d rather not rub salt in the already painful psychic wounds. It is my natural response to any kind of turmoil to withdraw further and raise the barricades, and venturing beyond my comfort zone is off the agenda for the time being.

  9. bcw bcw says

    Also, for those who can’t handle a long post, treat it as an audio book or use 1.5X speed.

  10. expat says

    I watched the entire video and I am simultaneously impressed with the thorough analysis and disgusted at the blatant plagiarism for profit. I wonder at what point can Somerton’s patrons sue him for fraud? That man has been ripping off LGBTQ+ writers and creators for a long time and selling those ripped-off thoughts and ideas to his fans, all while trying to slither out of accountability when someone calls him out. Gross.

  11. Rob Grigjanis says

    The laziness of many YouTubers has become increasingly apparent. If it’s not plagiarism, it’s sloppiness which is undetectable by most viewers, or sexy titles with content which is misleading.

  12. Jemolk says

    cartomancer @4 — If it’s any comfort, it looks like Nick Herrgott, at least, was sincere. And when you do feel better, there are a whole bunch of better folks to follow that hbomb links to. Won’t tell you not to grieve the loss of that community, that’s not how any of this works ever, but don’t think you’re in any way alone in this, or that no one has your back, okay?

  13. beyondhope says

    PZ – would you consider composing an online teaching module (remunerated of course) on academic writing? I’m pretty sure you’d be well- subscribed.

  14. Louis says

    {New HBomb video drops}

    YAY!

    {It’s ~4 hours long}

    Fuck’s sake, Harris!

    I’ll have to watch it in chunks.

    Louis

  15. Louis says

    By the way, my previous post, #21, expresses original ideas not expressed in any way by anyone else here or elsewhere. I claim full authorial rights and protections, and I’ll sue anyone who says differently.

    Louis

  16. wzrd1 says

    Halls and Oates are suing each other.
    Feels like my deceased wife is divorcing me.
    You’re a rich girl and you’ve gone to far…

  17. John Morales says

    [
    wzrd1, I know.
    I imagine you’d rather she miss you, instead.
    But then, only the living suffer.

    Sympathy.
    ]

  18. chrislawson says

    This is the main concern I have with AI: not the existential threat, but that it will be an entire economy based on plagiarism where all of the profits from artists’ work get sucked up by the big tech firms. The big tech AI players have already based their business practices on IP theft even without AI, from YouTube to Amazon’s Kindle store to Disney scanning the faces of extras for unspecified future use.

  19. belvederespudge says

    That was…a lot. And yes, Somerton is basically the main course, but for good reason.
    As PZ mentioned, if you can’t face it all then you can skip to the second last chapter where he provides a great collection of community sources. He also committed to distributing the ad revenue from the video to those creators which is neat.

  20. John Morales says

    chrislawson:

    This is the main concern I have with AI: not the existential threat, but that it will be an entire economy based on plagiarism [etc]

    Why? Where’s the plagiarism there?

    I don’t see any. Not compared to any work that in any way acknowledges or builds on previous work. Not when the output is not to be found in the input.

    Derivative, interpretative, sure. But original nonetheless.

    (A synthesis is not a copy)

  21. John Morales says

    re:

    IP theft

    “These exclusive rights are subject to a time and generally expire 70 years after the author’s death or 95 years after publication.”

    (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_law_of_the_United_States)

    So, for not less than 70 years after the author’s death, people who are not the author (nothing to do with their dependents, rather with the copyright owner) benefit from the author’s work. Piggyback on it, basically.

    (Though it’s nice to see an author would retain their rights to IP were they to live more than 95 years after publication. Presumably, they would not publish all that much before the age of 5 years)

  22. says

    I had an experience similar to H. Bomberguy–at some point I watched some Somerton, and had a WTF moment as he discussed something I happened to know about and I realized he had no idea what he was talking about. I also thought the video was very poorly organized and boring. So I avoided ever watching more of him. But even though I didn’t like him as a youtuber, I had no inkling that the guy was engaging in plagiarism all the time. That’s… devastating. I feel for his fans.

  23. Silentbob says

    @ 28 Morales

    If a machine “synthesizes” pre existing works with no original contribution at all – it escapes you how that could be called plagiarism?

    *facepalm*

  24. joshreyes says

    @cartomancer @4 – I’m sorry to hear about your struggles with finding a community. You can always come join Hbomberguy’s community! (James Somberton lost 26k subscribers the day the video went up, presumably all from Hbomberguy viewers, so there’s overlap between the communities!) Harris is bi himself and there’s many queer folks there and everyone is super nice and supportive. Also at the end of the video in the chapter The Cost, he recommends a bunch of other queer YouTubers making original and quality content. My point is, there’s lots of other queer communities out there!

    And also, James Somberton’s community hasn’t gone anywhere. Even if the discord gets taken down or something, all those viewers are still around in other communities.

    As Harris pointed out in the video, James Somberton was erasing queer creators by stealing their work and not crediting them. I know it’s hard to find out someone you respected was doing something bad, but there’s so many other queer creators that need your support!

  25. antaresrichard says

    Watched it all in one go. Now that it’s four in the morning, I can move on to your next post before retiring the night.

    ;-)

  26. belvederespudge says

    Seems Todd in the Shadows had one in the van on the same guy that he held on to so HBomb could get his out first. 1 hour 46 and amazingly, minimal overlap. Not as tight and meticulous as Harry’s work, but the sheer weight of allegations is pretty staggering.

    https://youtu.be/A6_LW1PkmnY?si=i2mZoMOT0DXDkNXo

    Apparently Somertons $170k pa Patreon has disappeared as well- according to Xitter folks anyway. Can’t find it, but I suppose it might be hidden?

  27. cartomancer says

    belvederespudge, #36

    The Patreon has certainly changed since yesterday. Now when I log in it just shows a picture of James Somerton and a “Joined 2018” message. There are no posts or videos, though he does appear in the sidebar. Whether this means it’s gone for good or just in some kind of dormancy I don’t know. He’s the only Patreon account I’ve ever signed up for.

    I suppose I can find somewhere else to put my monthly £20 contributions. Or just keep them to spend on SSRIs and Onlyfans.

  28. John Morales says

    Silentbob:

    If a machine “synthesizes” pre existing works with no original contribution at all – it escapes you how that could be called plagiarism?

    *facepalm*

    Your face must be permanently bruised given how often you do that.

    Perhaps go and get an idea of how AI works (LLMs in particular), though that may cause you a few more bruises.

  29. Ann Burlingham says

    Cartomancer, you’ve obviously been hit hard by this. Please take care of yourself first, especially with counseling. No matter who is in your life, you have to be there for yourself first of all; you’re the one person you can rely on. Be good to yourself.

    At some point you may find some lessons here, and I hope you’ll be more able to spot and avoid charming liars, confidence artists, cut leaders, and the like. It sounds like Somerton is a good example, and people like that don’t get as far as they do without being appealing and convincing.

    I’ll second joshreyes: once you get through this grief or change, there is a vista open to you of new people to watch and connect with; hbomberguy even made that a distinct link (and he says he’s dividing the money made by this video among the people Somerton stole from): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRGz5EMig3r2ZDgeGzwUlSz-PzF-L1Xu1

    Making connection is one way to find your community, and finding people who encourage and foster such connections is important. Stay connected, keep involved. And take care of yourself.

  30. Pierce R. Butler says

    cartomancer – Hang in there, bro!

    Had I a little more sadism, a lot more technical chops, and an unlimited budget, I’d set an AI to comparing different things on the Internet and flagging unattributed duplicates, with dates where possible.

    But, given how the better/more popular stuff gets echoed, that would probably require a multiple of the capacity of the Web.

  31. Ada Christine says

    I’ve had to dump a lot of YouTubers from my rotation this year for various reasons. oh well. at least I have rm brown

  32. says

    …at some point I watched some Somerton, and had a WTF moment as he discussed something I happened to know about and I realized he had no idea what he was talking about.

    This reminds me of a common effect in journalism: Whenever you read reporting on a subject you’re familiar with, it turns out to be bullshit. They only appear to be smart when they’re talking about something where you’re not qualified to audit them properly.
    I wonder how deep that rabbit hole goes.

  33. Jazzlet says

    Cartomancer
    Believe me I know it’s not easy when blog sites of video blogs either shut up shop or do something awful. I’m looking for a few more places myself, several of my previous regulars having fallen away for one reason or another, and having difficulty finding what I want. In my case I’ll know it when I find it, but can’t say exactly what I’m looking for, but meanwhile I’m trying so so many and not finding those elusive people that fit what I want.

  34. cartomancer says

    Well, I finally watched the video a week later. The distance and time to ponder how everything fits together have made it a significantly less harrowing experience than I expected when it first came out. I think I’ve pretty much made my peace with not having this source of comfort and this ersatz sense of community anymore.

    There seems to be a lesson for me here. I need to stop trying to find this mythical sense of connection and community with other gay people. If it does exist (and I have seen no evidence of that at all) then it clearly isn’t meant for me. It’s a fantasy no more real or achievable than any I’ve enjoyed about elves and wizards over the years, and expecting it to become a reality takes away even the enjoyment I might derive from it qua the fantasy it is.

    I suppose the attraction of the James Somerton content was the sense that one could intellectualise, albeit on a surface level, the concept of a gay community. That through speculating on a constructed history, psychological and cultural generalisations and the like, a sense of belonging could emerge. If I couldn’t feel I belonged by actually having gay friends anymore, I could feel that at least I understood the gay condition on a somewhat deeper level. Enough, perhaps, that an intellectual connection might substitute for a social one. Also, there were the live streams, which felt something like a social connection themselves. I would stay up long into the night to catch those, because it felt a bit like still having gay friends.

    But all that is gone now, and as the dreams fade all we are left with is the uncomfortable glare of reality. I could try to find another focus for the fantasies of community and belonging I tried to weave, but that would just be replacing one comforting delusion with another. This must be what coming away from religion feels like – realising that the promises of belonging and happiness within a community of believers are based on, at best, a beautiful lie. The truth is that there is no gay community of any significance, and what simulacrum of community there is in the world I don’t belong to and doesn’t want me. All there is are individual gay people who at best have no interest in me and at worst try to take advantage of me by feeding me the line that there is this magical community beyond the clouds, and I too can experience it for the low, low price of a few dozen pounds a month as a Patreon subscription.

    No, the delusion that I can get anything but pain and heartache from engaging with my sexuality is something I need to abandon in its entirety. Twenty years of rejection, loneliness and anxiety should have been proof enough. And why are they always called James? The boy who stole my heart at nineteen, the friend who cut me off entirely when I tried to get closer, and now this Somerton creep. And, I suppose, since it’s my middle name too, I can count myself among this number.

    What was I talking about again? It’s gone 2.am. I should probably get to sleep.

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