Plagiarism, the scandal du jour

After pointing out the excessive length of that otherwise praiseworthy hbomberguy video, I see that it is prompting some useful followups. For instance, here’s an academic explaining the academic perspective on plagiarism, in a mere 27 minutes.

That’s useful! I say a lot of similar things in my writing class, and I’ll probably assign this video for them to watch as homework. Plagiarism is an important problem that we try to hammer against with frequent reinforcing messages.

By the way, hbomberguy has put out a 20 minute video focused on just the Illuminaughtii plagiarism scandal. It’s amazing how this topic has caught fire on YouTube this week — some of those people who have been profiting mightily from ripping off other people’s writing had better watch out.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    I am suffering from outrage fatigue right now.
    After being reminded of the slaughter Kissinger caused during my childhood, I just now heard USA has made a record year in terms of mass shootings. 36 or 37.

    Anyway I have some ideas about dealing with unethical researchers (and corrupt judges) while simultaneously reducing the wait for donated organs.

    I got the idea from Judge Dredd – the comic, not the film.

  2. submoron says

    Just last week a friend was telling me about a story from a book by David Foster Wallace and I recognised it as an unacknowledged ‘pinch’ from Gerard Hoffnung’s Oxford Union speech! It’s sad when people do that.

  3. dbinmn says

    Back around ’06, a student was researching a psychology related topic and found information about the Rorschach Test on what I remember to be or something similar. As I read the student’s notecard, I pointed out that the source was completely lambasting the topic. Sure enough the site had fully copied and pasted from Robert Todd Carrol’s The Skeptic’s Dictionary.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    submoron @2: If you mean the bricklayer story, that didn’t originate with Hoffnung. It had been around for decades.

  5. salvelinus says

    I feel it’s easy to blame the problems on useful idiots like illuminaughtii or whatever. But the real problem is YouTube™️ making money and promoting this kind of clicks bate garbages.

    I will not be kind here: you guys are helping youtube by promoting it, posting on it and credibilizing it.

  6. says

    I remember when “Avicenna” here at FTB got busted plagiarizing. It was pretty pervasive; I back-checked a few of his postings. I was exchanging emails with him at the time, and naturally I asked him “what the hell were you thinking?” Like Hbomberguy says, there seems to be a stock pool of excuses plagiarists use, “I was in a hurry…” and “the pressure to publish” etc. It was pretty lame and he’s gone now; I hope he’s OK – he could actually write (apparently) when he tried.

    Then there was Chris Hedges, who lifted a bunch of Hemingway into one of his pieces on war. That was interesting, because his defense was that he must have subconsciously retrieved it, because it was so good. Well, it was true that he stole a good chunk from one of the best. But it wasn’t an otherwise well-known and widely quoted piece of Hemingway, or Shakespeare, or something like that. I’d expect that if I were to start subconsciously lifting beautiful text, I’d start sounding like the St Crispians’ day speech from Henry V or something like that.

    I’ve never experienced writers’ block, but I acknowledge that it is a real thing, and must be grievous if your job is “…writer.” But rather than lifting other peoples’ words, which I expect would make writers’ block much worse, it’s a sign that the career arc has run its course for a writer. Or write a whole lot less.

  7. robro says

    Plagiarism has hit hot button topic status in the last year thanks to generative AI, LLMs, digital media, etc. As I understand it, there are new lawsuits already underway over it. Old lawsuits concerning digitized content have not been in the writing community’s favor. The idea of “re-synthesized” content is fraught with at least the whiff of plagiarism. And then there’s some questions about compensating creators of material used as a source for the LLMs.

  8. submoron says

    Rob Grijanis @ 4. I accept your correction. I heard the Hoffnung before 1970 and had the Decca EP, Moreover. plenty of citations on Youtube refer it to 1958. What’s the earliest extant example for the original please? Could it be someone like the Grossmith brothers? It feels right for them. Always willing to learn

  9. submoron says

    Rob Grigjanis @11. Thanks, it should have occurred to me to try Snopes. Maybe I’ll chase other ideas such as ‘London Brothels = Blue light. Some myths are untraceable, especially for Cricket.

  10. microraptor says

    birgerjohansson @1: The statistics are even worse than that- that’s only 36/37 mass shootings with at least four fatalities (not including the shooter) this year. If you expand it look at the number of mass shootings with at least four victims killed or injured, there has been more than 600.

  11. bravus says

    More or less entirely off topic, but this post started with mentioning the excessive length of the hbomberguy video

    Saw a quiz show where someone mentioned going on a tedious length, and David Mitchell quipped “That was my porn name”

  12. sjerseygrle says

    I never plagiarized but I have to say I have gotten a high percentage on Turn It In when the professor asked us, in my opinion, horrible questions like “1000 words on why are these regulations great”. The regulations were passed about 15 years ago so good luck trying to find citations in the last 5 years. Mostly the citations were published articles about why the regulations were so great written by grad students. Since most of the classes had to do the same thing we basically all wrote the same paper, no way around it. Let’s not even mention what a waste of time these papers were.

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