We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Plagiarist, thy doom awaits.

“Johann Hari, you are a plagiarist!” I shoot those words at him and let them hang in the air between us.

He shifts uneasily, but when he replies his voice is surprisingly unapologetic.”When dealing with an inarticulate interviewee, or one whose English was poor,” he confides, “I have sometimes substituted a passage they have written or said more clearly elsewhere on the same subject for what they said to me, so the reader understands their point as clearly as possible.”

“Yeah, right,” I say, my outrage rising, “but when you talk about what they said more clearly elsewhere what you really mean is what they said more clearly when interviewed by someone else, huh?”

He furrows his big, broad brow, pats my knee, and tells me about the night he knew he was going to die unless he got his copy in on time. “It depends, ” he says, looking away, “on whether you prefer the intellectual accuracy of describing their ideas in their most considered words, or the reportorial accuracy of describing their ideas in the words they used on that particular afternoon.”

“Intellectual accuracy,” I cry, grabbing his patting-hand in a jiu-jitsu lock and hurling him over my shoulder, “cannot exist independently of reportorial accuracy.”

Floored equally by my logic and a martial arts technique taught to me by a secret order of fighting monks living in the high passes of Chingford, he apologises to a lampshade for having once supported the Iraq war and hobbles away.

This interview was true in spirit.

It was also almost entirely an excuse to say something that I had been meaning to say for ages, but was too short to be a post on its own: never mind all this twitter and email and communication-y stuff, the underreported way the internet changes everything is the way that everything anyone writes is still there years later. I cannot even safely assume that you have forgotten that I said this before, on Tuesday March 1st 2005.

UPDATE: Today’s Guardian carries an interview (which I am fairly sure really happened) in which Stuart Jeffries talks to Viktor Mayer-Schönberger: Why we must remember to delete – and forget – in the digital age. Much there to disagree with, in particular the way Mayer-Schönberger chucks around the word “should” in “He argues that digital storage devices (cameras, mobiles, computers) should automatically delete information that has reached its expiration date”. Does “should” mean “it would be nice if manufactures put this in” or “let’s have a law to force them to”? When a professor of internet governance and regulation fails to make this distinction it strikes me as sinister. Nevertheless the interview is fascinating, particularly when Mayer-Schönberger talks about how “the Panopticon now extends across time and cyberspace”.

8 comments to Plagiarist, thy doom awaits.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Plagiarizing from yourself- shouldn’t that merit the death sentence, or something? Or perhaps you could fine yourself some money, and pay yourself in installments? Talk about owing it to yourself!

  • J.M. Heinrichs

    I think she knitted that quite nicely. Which reminds me.


  • A darned fine pun, J.M., but in fact I would have liked the link to go directly to the post called “Technology, the avenger”. Only Blogger has stitched me up and will only go to the monthly archive as a whole.

  • PaulH

    I don’t think this properly counts as plagiarism. Fortunately there’s a much simpler concept that does clearly apply, which is ‘lying’. Hari is a liar, and hence by definition not to be believed.

  • TDK

    Me: You’re looking rough
    Dorian Grey: Yeah I do, don’t I. Damn that Viktor and his picture expiry date.

  • Viktor Mayer-Schönberger “should” go and boil his own head.

  • Laird

    That interview with Viktor Mayer-Schönberger really rated its own thread. And I agree with Tim: the idea is monumentally stupid. Furthermore, the mere fact that there even exists such a position as “professor of internet governance and regulation” is telling. I wouldn’t seriously consider the opinions of anyone who would accept such a position.