Tuesday, May 11

Yet Another Note On Plagiarism And The Internet


It's been pointed out by two nice people from red and white kop that the comments posted below about plagiarism were essentially sarcasm/jokes. That's good to hear.

I won't lie - I'm sort of humorless when it comes to the topic of plagiarism. The word itself gets my hackles up, and I wasn't even aware I had hackles. About three months ago I ran into someone online who'd begun posting great, big chunks of my work without attribution, and who was claiming to be me on another message board. I'd never experienced anything like that, and like Patton Oswalt (whose shoes I am not fit to shine) I found myself weirdly bothered by it in a way I hadn't expected. I suspect that experience colored my reaction today.

So, as stated in the comments, I'd like to offer you good folks at red and white some (virtual) milk and cookies. I clearly missed the humor and went straight to the sadface. Timbo and Rusty, my apologies. Let's get back to talking Lost, and cracking terrible jokes.

See you all here tomorrow, where I'll have your exclusive excerpts of the Back to the Island column for Across the Sea before the column posts on Chud. I'm moving this post down further on the page to make room for what actually matters here.

Original Post:

Hola, all.

I'm working on tomorrow's mammoth Back to the Island column, and I'm looking forward to your reactions. Having had a fantastic discussion about it last night with you all at Professor Thom's, I'm supercharged at the moment, and I hope that'll come through in the final product.

That said, I'd like to take another moment here to discuss plagiarism.

A kind soul with the moniker of "Red in Holland" over at a forum called "red and white kop" apparently linked to my Instareaction for Across the Sea, and in clicking over there I was very gratified to find that folks there are actively reading my work. That's a heck of a compliment.

What's less complimentary are the weird accusations of plagiarism. I'm speaking specifically of the following:

"It looks as if old Morsey baby - without acknowledgement has pinched from a few of my recent posts on his forum to pull tongues within his latest piece at the show's detractors by saying that whatever criticism you level at the show one thing you cannot dispute is that it will remain for a very long time the most ambitious series TV anyone within that medium has ever attempted."

"He did the same with my points about Sayid's arc this season being pointless and aggravating whilst the nature of the infection remains unaddressed. Not impressed with his plagiarising like!"

I'm not shy about posting those remarks here because I find them baseless, bewildering, and frankly insulting. I've made a point of vocally criticizing the act of plagiarism, and I try - much harder than you probably realize - to single out folks here and elsewhere who've inspired my thoughts on each column. I have no interest in taking credit for other people's ideas. I find it hard to believe, on some level, that either poster is entirely serious. I've "plagiarized" the idea that the show is ambitious? I've "plagiarized" someone's disappointment over Sayid and Infection? You may as well say that I've plagiarized by saying "this episode was good" (because someone else said that too!).

That's ridiculous.

I thoroughly enjoy reading everyone's comments here, and I'm thrilled that you've chosen to make Back to the Island a site that you choose to visit. I respect each one of you, and when one of my readers comes up with something I want to feature in the column I credit them for that. My track record backs that up.

I'm not sure how to 'prove' this conclusively without excluding myself entirely from the comments, or by taking away the comments completely. I don't want to do either of those things because interacting with you all is a big part of what makes this fun for me. So instead, I just want to air this out in the open. It's with sincere respect to both of the above posters/apparent readers that I say the following: If you think you're being stolen from (and you are not), then do not post here. You won't have to worry about me "plagiarizing" you, and I won't have to worry about you libeling me.

My sincere thanks to Red in Holland for reading, and to all the folks at red and white kop who do so as well. Go Liverpool!


  1. The audacity of some people really astounds me. So, apparently having the same thought as someone else is plagiarism...damn, I'm screwed. I know this is a bad thing to say, but I'm definitely someone who judges people who have poor grammar skills, and those posts were painful to read. I wouldn't get too worked up about it Morse, everyone who visits this site knows how much blood, sweat, and tears you pour into your work. So, all this to say: Bravo, sir! and down with moronic detractors!

  2. Hi Ho,

    Thanks very much for the kind words. Although it probably seems otherwise, I'm not really worked up about it. I just don't like the implication that I'm "stealing" from my readers. Without you guys I'd be shouting into the void. I'd never, ever disrespect you that way.

  3. I believe that there are two things people love to do: complain and argue. I think this guy is either looking to do one, or both. But his comments are so ridiculous; obviously more than one person can have the same opinion. :P That doesn't make it plagerism.

    I wouldn't worry about it. :)

  4. What an absurd accusation.

    Please, Morse, keep the comments. The back-and-forth on this blog, which is 99.9% civil, is one of the best things about it. I've encountered many different perspectives on Lost, thanks to you and these other fine commenters. It'd be a pity to lose this forum.

  5. Also, please leave up the comments! I so enjoy reading everyone's opinions, as much as I enjoy posting my own.

  6. No worries, guys. The comments will remain exactly as they are.

  7. WOW! These people should have looked up "plagiarism" in the dictionary before making such an accusation. Absurd (and partly hilarious)!

    @Hi Ho - With my poor grammar skills, you must think of me as a bottom feeder! I apologize for my fat fingered quickness as I multi-task type while I am at work. Tee hee! ;-p

    @Morse - We know better! Glad you really are not considering removing the comments section. I would go insane if I couldn't discuss this with you all.

  8. What's funny is that these are two anonymous people on some football team supporting website. They wouldn't immediately spring in my mind as far as Lost discussion is concerned. It's kind of like when some really obscure band you've never heard of comes out of the woodwork and declares some popular band has ripped off one of their songs. Or when some guy living in squalor threatens to sue because it was actually him who came up with "The Matrix".

  9. Darth, you don't have to worry from me. Truthfully I usually only judge poor grammar when it's coming from a firmly established (and self-proclaimed) ass, like the said two accusers of Morse. This, you are not, ergo, safe from (most) derision from myself. :) That's part of what I love about the people commenting on this site, they tend to retain their sense of humor, which isn't very common on the internet. Also, a side note on postings from myself, I tend to write somewhat sarcastically and tongue-in-cheek. So if I've said something in the past that sounds abrasive, it just means that I'm not good at putting my humor in writing, not that I'm trying to insult anyone.

  10. Apropos of nothing; Morse, I know that you've enjoyed Rian Johnson's films, and I wanted to let you know that he is directing episode 10 of the third season of Breaking Bad. Unfortunately it's airing at the same time as the Lost finale, so I'm going to have to check it out later on in the week.

  11. Omg Colonel, I've thanked MMorse for the comments in an earlier post! Plagiarist!

    Seriously though Scarf Girl has it dead on. Some people just want to complain. Accusations of plagiarism, even those poorly written showing the poster's obvious lack of intelligence, are ridiculous and unfounded. For months now we have been following your blog and you are mire than quick to assign credit where credit is due. The intelligence you possess shows through in every piece you write. You should absolutely be insulted, as are we, your loyal readers. Hell, I wait for your column with as much almost as much anticipation as I have for the actual episode. Keep up the excellent work. (Crap, I think someone has said that here before, plagiarist!)

    Oh, and I DARE one of those accusers to show up here, please.

  12. Hi MMorse, I am a regular poster on that site and that is where I first began to become interested in your work. Whilst I'm not one of the people who posted those remarks, I thought nothing of them at the time. Simply because, whilst it might not seem like it, I'm almost certain they were only joking about it. Perhaps there's something a little lost in translation, as it is a site visited by British people mostly, and there are certain differences in British and American humour. I really don't think any offence was intended by those remarks whatsoever. Nobody could accuse you of plagarism considering the originality of most of your thoughts and the incredible amount of effort you seem to put into each article, and I'm pretty sure that they weren't doing so.

    Anyway, keep up the fantastic work as always. Look forward to reading your article over the weekend!

  13. Meant "more" not mire, and only meant one 'as much'. It's hard typing on the iPhone!

  14. Murphy,

    I genuinely appreciate that. Thanks for taking the time to pop in here and comment. I'm afraid that when the P-word gets thrown around I tend to lose my sense of humor. Everyone's got a Button, and that's mine. If I've misinterpreted, and those were essentially jokes, then I'll be happy to have both people back over here for milk and cookies anytime. My treat.

  15. I hate myself for missing the party last night! I forgot.


    Anyway, the guy who accused you is obviously bizarre. The accusations he makes are for thoughts that my mom had about Sayid. Not that my mom should be trifled with, but she also likes the The Bachelorette. As for the comment on Lost and its ambitions, hell even I have said as much to my students and on the blog. It's not an entirely difficult thing for someone who recognizes the literary elements Lost has used from the beginning.



    Morse, hope you talk a bit about that, especially as it refers to JanneyMom. I had this to say on Chud.

    not that I liked the episode as much as I wanted, which of course shows a bias on my part to defend it, but I thought the logic of the episode, more than the writing, was very interesting. Take for instance: "Every question you ask will just lead to another question."

    We can view that as a bullshit answer to questions that have become, because they have bullshit answers, bullshit. Or...

    -What came before the Big Bang?
    -I don't know. -Well, might someone have set that hot, dense matter to exploding for a reason? -Maybe.
    -How do we find out?
    -You can't, but look at this wonderful, odd, and perplexing stuff it produced.

    I see the piss-colored light in the cave (mythology of the cave vs mythology of the sun. Light and Dark) as something similar to the Big Bang, an object through which something extraordinary is made possible. Also from last night's episode: "Everything dies!" If that's true, does it support the notion that the creator might also have died? Doesn't that make more sense than concrete answers. I personally LOVE ambiguity. Ambiguity, if done properly and I suppose that's has a lot to do with the debate brewing above, reflects more accurately the world we live in, which creates characters who must learn to exist in a world where most answers will simply remain questions.

  16. Guys, chill out. As a poster on RAWK who was also alerted to this blog via the aforementioned thread, I can assure you that the claims of plagiarism were purely tongue in cheek.

    If anything it was a form of reverence to you - "look! That really clever guy who writes about Lost has said the same thing as me!" Treat it as a form of flattery and don't worry about it! :)

  17. Lon,

    Great thoughts. All of you, great thoughts. This comment thread is impressive, on a few levels.

    I'm absolutely planning on discussing something similar to what you're talking about here, Lon. I like the comparison to the Big Bang. That's a good metaphor. I'm going to be talking a lot about ambiguity in this week's column, and about our need to assign meaning. I've written at length about these things before, but this week's episode has me convinced that what I'd previously suggested as possible has now become definite.

  18. Gary,

    I'm extremely chill about this. See above. This was never about yelling at any of you, or about getting anyone's blood up. It was about reassuring my readers that I have respect for them. If it was a joke, I'm happy to say "sorry about that" and treat it as the flattery you say it is.

    As should have been clear in the initial post, I have nothing against either person who posted and I'm very happy that you guys read my stuff (really - it's ridiculously cool). I just don't want my readers thinking that I've stolen from them. You can understand that, I'm sure.

  19. MMorse,

    No worries, personally you're blog has enhanced my whole Lost experience. Roll on tomorrow! ;)

  20. @Hi Ho - Thanks, I feel better now. I am not a literary person by far, but I consider myself fairly intelligent, as I understand it more so than I can put into words. I am sarcastic as well, and I have to stay humorous to live up to my screen name. :)

    That said, I am glad the plagiarism issue ended up being tongue and cheek.

    @Lon - I couldn't agree more with your Big Bang metaphor. I was in the same ball park in the episode discussion comments. Don't worry, I won't even pull a humorous joke about the "P" word LOL.

  21. @Silly

    Yeah, after I wrote it, I went to the discussion thread and noticed that someone named David said what I was thinking better than I had written it. It's inevitable

    I suppose, the Big Bang stuff was pretty obvious, but the notion that it represents the beginning of ALL of our stories (Morse's Rushdie stuff is now even more apt) but also (unless the Hadron Collider thing works)represents the unknowable past. More importantly, it represents one of those loops Morse keeps talking about. If, say, there was a Lost II (Lost in Space!) we might imagine the story ending at the Big Bang/Kurt Vonnegut's Great Retraction (Timequake). If that were true, I'd imagine that story would (if they were humanish) be driven by the same wonderful questions that make Lost so interesting.

    Why am I here?
    What am I here for?
    Who assigned me this fate?
    Who assigned him/her their fate?

    A mirror reflected in another mirror.