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View Full Version : Lamest Excuse Ever For Plagiarism (Christmas essay on Beliefnet)



inkkognito
01-07-2009, 09:39 AM
‘Conversations With God’ Author Accused of Plagiarism:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/06/conversations-with-god-author-accused-of-plagiarism/

Dude claims he told the story so many times that he "internalized it as his own experience." Uh, you suddenly started falsely believing that you saw your son in a Christmas pageant, down to the description of getting coffee and sitting down on the cafeteria floor...and remembered it in the exact words of the real author? Methinks not.

IceCreamEmpress
01-07-2009, 09:52 AM
I have had the experience of both telling a story that I thought was fictional to someone who said "Dude, that's my story--I told you about this five years ago!" and having had someone tell me a story as though it happened to them when it was a story that had happened to me that I had written up either for publication or for my blog.

The mind is a very very strange thing.

But the thing to do when something like this happens is to say "My God, I'm so sorry! How can I make this up to you?"

Bluegate
01-07-2009, 12:36 PM
This is just sad. The mind is indeed a very strange thing and he would have done better to claim mental incapacity than to have tried this lame-ass lie. Sheesh.

Linda Adams
01-07-2009, 03:25 PM
I have had the experience of both telling a story that I thought was fictional to someone who said "Dude, that's my story--I told you about this five years ago!" and having had someone tell me a story as though it happened to them when it was a story that had happened to me that I had written up either for publication or for my blog.

The mind is a very very strange thing.

But the thing to do when something like this happens is to say "My God, I'm so sorry! How can I make this up to you?"

I know someone who did this. It was in high school, and she'd written a story involving the devil. When I read it, I recognized the story as being from an episode of Night Gallery, which had rerun in the area but not for several years. Her immediate reaction was horror that she'd done it and had no idea!

KTC
01-07-2009, 03:30 PM
When it is done 'virtually verbatim' it is theft...not an accident.

Exir
01-07-2009, 03:49 PM
I am mystified, though. Why would Walsh plaigarise something like that if he doesn't make any money from it? It's not like he's paid by beliefnet.

inkkognito
01-07-2009, 08:53 PM
I am mystified, though. Why would Walsh plaigarise something like that if he doesn't make any money from it? It's not like he's paid by beliefnet.
My guess is that he liked the story, figured it was one of those internet things with the author unknown, and therefore figured no one would notice/care if he claimed it as his own. It's sort of what happened with Loren Eiseley's "The Star Thrower." I've seen it attributed to everyone from Anonymous to George Bush Sr. I could buy the memory excuse if Walsh didn't use it word for word from the original version. "The Star Thrower" tends to show up in various different versions.

Rasun
01-07-2009, 11:42 PM
This is The very reason, why I've worked on altering, my own plagiarized stories like Oniyasha and Invasion into something different, and of my own creativity because as a fan who is influenced by some of my favorite anime/manga comic-books, cartoons, or novels and as an aspiring writer I must do whatever it takes to create something different from the works that had influenced me. I've created a story that plagiarized Inuyasha, Invader Zim, Dragon Ball Z, and even the Nightmare Before Christmas. And as a huge Tim Burton, Akira Toryama, Rimiko Takahashi, and Jhonen Vazquez fan I'm not the least bit proud of plagiarizing their greatness. In fact the sheer glaring evidence of this autrocity made me want to vomit... So I tore down what I had established, and sought to reincarnate it as something different to where the only thing noticed was the influence while it was placed in a entirely different story.

Cyia
01-07-2009, 11:55 PM
I could believe the story was something he heard and picked up after a few years except for the fact that it dealt with specific family members. If he's been telling this story so long, why did no one (wife, child, anyone) tell him it never happened to him? Surely if he thought it was his own child's Christmas pageant he was remembering, someone would have been able to tell him he was wrong.

Ken
01-08-2009, 12:21 AM
I know someone who did this. It was in high school, and she'd written a story involving the devil. When I read it, I recognized the story as being from an episode of Night Gallery, which had rerun in the area but not for several years. Her immediate reaction was horror that she'd done it and had no idea!

...similar experience here. A friend told me they'd written a book and were extremely concerned about submitting it or showing it to anyone for fear that their highly original story might be swiped. Oddly, when they told me what it was about I observed that the plot was highly similar to an episode in a popular television program, which they then acknowledged to be the source of inspiration for the novel.

Doesn't end there. Six months later they called me up and just about accussed me of letting the secret out about the plot of their novel because a book, by a best-selling author, had come out with a similar plot to theirs.

BlueLucario
01-08-2009, 03:56 AM
Accidental plagarize?

I talked to an author and she told me that she doesn't read in the Genre she writes, because it puts her at risk for plagarism.

childeroland
01-08-2009, 04:30 AM
He believed he wrote the essay/story. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/09/books/07book.html?_r=1&ref=books)

This may have happened to Nabokov also. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolita_%28novel%29#Possible_real-life_prototype)

William Haskins
01-08-2009, 04:40 AM
walsch is a dumbass, in addition to being a plagiarist (even plagiarizing his excuses (http://gawker.com/5124858/conversations-with-god-author-lamest-plagiarist-ever)), but the knock on nabakov is without merit, in my view.

as your wiki link plainly states, he had written about the same issues a decade before and thematically engaged it, not to mention the fact that writing something partly inspired by a news story is hardly plagiarism.

Plot Device
01-08-2009, 04:56 AM
Holy crap! What a fiasco!

Either his creativity is slipping, and in a fit of writers-block deperation he stole someone else's work. Or his entire mind is slipping, and he really did think that it was his essay.

Either way, I think he needs to take a long vacation and do some serious reflecting.



Meanwhile, I appreciate the candor and overall outrage of the besmirched writer, Candy Chand:


Ms. Chand said in a telephone interview that she did not believe Mr. Walsch’s explanation. “If he knew this was wrong, he should have known it was wrong before he got caught,” she said. “Quite frankly, I’m not buying it.”

Ms. Chand said that she had seen others take credit for writing the story twice in church newsletters, but that this was the first time she had seen a professional appropriate her words.

“I have strong issue with anyone who would appear to plagiarize my work and pretend it is his own,” she said. “That takes away from the truth of the material, it takes away from the miracle that occurred, because people begin to question what they can believe anymore.

“As a professional writer, when someone appears to plagiarize, they damage the industry, they damage other writers’ credibility and they hurt the reader because they never know what to believe anymore.”

In a statement, Beliefnet said Mr. Walsch had withdrawn from the site’s blogging roster. “As a faith-based Web portal, Beliefnet will continue to hold ourselves and our writers to the highest standards of trust,” the statement read.

Ms. Chand said she was concerned that people would now think she had copied Mr. Walsch’s story. “How many people have heard him telling people that it’s his own?” she said. “There goes my credibility again.”

Speaking of Mr. Walsch, she asked: “Has the man who writes best-selling books about his ‘Conversations With God’ also heard God’s commandments? ‘Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not lie, and thou shalt not covet another author’s property’?”

Cassiopeia
01-08-2009, 05:01 AM
Very disappointing. I had seen this in another thread on AW and wrote a post on my blog. One thing that really bothers me is that when someone like Walsh does something stupid it reflects on the writing community as a whole. He's widely read and a lot of people considered him a guru of sorts.

IceCreamEmpress
01-08-2009, 05:24 AM
I talked to an author and she told me that she doesn't read in the Genre she writes, because it puts her at risk for plagarism.

Wow, as a fellow author that seems extreme to me, but if it works for her, so be it.

In my teaching days, I had a number of students who plagiarized. One honestly seemed to have done it inadvertently: she brought in a big box of index cards (this was in the pre-computer days) and showed me that she wrote both her thoughts and useful quotations/citations on the same kind of index card and had apparently neglected to write the citation information on one (which she showed me) and then when she reviewed her cards, she thought that was an original thought of hers, not an undocumented citation.

I had her write a new paper on a different topic entirely, because either a) she was telling the truth about an oversight, or b) she had devoted hours and hours to creating an elaborate explanation, including props. And since it was a five-page paper, I figured b) was unlikely.

I can tell you that it taught me to be very very careful about documenting citations for each passage I copied out of a book forevermore.



By the way, I agree wholeheartedly with KTC and the others who said "How could you reproduce this word for word by accident?" but even if we were giving Walsh the benefit of the doubt, his reaction is not appropriate. The only appropriate reactions in cases of inadvertent plagiarism are transparency, apology, and restitution.

dgiharris
01-08-2009, 06:02 AM
When it is done 'virtually verbatim' it is theft...not an accident.

Comlpetely agree.


Accidental plagarize?

I talked to an author and she told me that she doesn't read in the Genre she writes, because it puts her at risk for plagarism.

This is interesting and a bit strange. I guess it may work for some, but I think the risk is that you start writing in a manner that does not ring 'true' to the readers of the genre.

But this relates to me a bit. I do not read woman's romance at all, but I have a couple of shorts that are great woman's romance short stories and all my readers have told me that the story has a unique POV that they like. Go figure. I've tried to read a couple of the Harlequin novels and dear god, there's a lot of trash out there. At first, I thought a couple of the books were like Atlanta Nights (the PA scam uncle Jim pulled :) but the books were serious!!! anyways, I digress


I do agree with the adage that there is nothing new under the sun. This is why I personally stress 'execution' vs the Idea. I'm of a firm belief that the idea isn't as important as the execution and that many stories are just variations of each other. I mean, how many romantic comedies follow this adage.

Boy meets unobtainable girl
Boy tries to woo girl by pretending he is something he is not
Boy initially gets girl
Girl gets to know the real him
Girl discovers pretense, they break up
Girl discovers that she loves 'the real him'
Love conquers all, they get together the end.

Many movies follow that script or some variation there of, but its all in the execution.

*sigh*

But i've noticed that the standard line of BS from those who plaguerize verbatim is that crap about "I've internalized the piece, that's why I spit it out verbatim."

That is akin to telling a police officer, "We'll, I only had two beers."

Yeah, good luck with that one

Mel....

shawkins
01-08-2009, 06:48 AM
Actually, his version of the story rings true to me. I had something similar happen to me once.

When I was in school I borrowed a book called Death of The Fifth Sun (historical fiction, Cortez v. Moctezuma) from my roommate, read it, and gave it back. I liked it but it didn't rock my world or anything.

About ten years later I wrote a novel that had nothing to do with Cortez or Moctezuma. I named the three main characters X, Y and Z 1 and complimented myself on such original names. Fast forward about three years. With my unpublished novel languishing in a trunk, I stumbled on Death of the Fifth Sun in a used bookstore. I re-read it and was flat-out amazed to learn that I had, with absolutely no conscious recognition of the fact that I was doing it, named the three main characters of my book after the three main characters of Death of the Fifth Sun. One of them had a slightly different spelling, but they were basically the same.

My book remains (rightly) unpublished. As far as I know no one but me ever noticed that this happened. However, if it had been published, you could make a very strong case that I was guilty of plagiarism. Honestly, I'm not sure myself whether I was guilty or not. The similarities in character names were too close for coincidence to be possible, but isn't conscious intent a factor in determining guilt?

1 ETA: Amusingly, I have once again forgotten the actual names. One of them was T'Laloc--The Aztec God Of Something Or Other--but I couldn't tell you what the other two were even if there was money involved.

Plot Device
01-08-2009, 07:24 AM
if it had been published, you could make a very strong case that I was guilty of plagiarism. Honestly, I'm not sure myself whether I was guilty or not. The similarities in character names were too close for coincidence to be possible, but isn't conscious intent a factor in determining guilt?


Is it? I don't know. Good question. Any entertainment lawyers here?



Personally, I don't THINK it's an error I would every commit myself as far as writing works of fiction or essays or scripts. I pretty much KNOW when a work of poetry, prose, or a script is mine or not.

But I believe I would probably be very guilty of such an error in writing music. I can pick up a musical phrase here or there, and then not even recall that I recalled it. And then I will come up with that same musical phrase again months or years later, and assume it's mine. My sense of music isn't the same as my sense of writing. (Good thing I have no aspirations to be a musician.)




BTW---sucks that you wrote a whole frickin' novel from scratch, only to have it turn out not to be yours.

Cyia
01-08-2009, 07:31 AM
Like I said in the other thread, the only thing that sounds fishy to me about this being an accident is that it involved a school program. Wouldn't the man's wife or child at some point have told him it never happened if he'd been telling this story for years?

JennaGlatzer
01-08-2009, 07:35 AM
Scott, I can easily see accidentally using the names of three characters. What I can't see happening accidentally is:


Except for a different first paragraph in which Mr. Walsch wrote that he could “vividly remember” the incident, his Dec. 28 Beliefnet post followed, virtually verbatim, Ms. Chand’s previously published writing, even down to prosaic details like “The morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down.”

Memorizing an entire essay verbatim, down to the sentence syntax, and regurgitating it 10 years later? Doesn't ring true to me at all.

The only way I could see this happening to me (and I *COULD* see it happening this way) is if I copied and pasted something into my documents during the course of research and forgot to attribute it. Then, years later, I stumble on this piece of writing in my documents and think, "Hmm. I remember this. Why didn't I ever sell this? I should submit this somewhere." But not just a claim that he remembered the exact syntax of an entire essay.

JennaGlatzer
01-08-2009, 07:35 AM
I'm going to combine the two threads in a sec. Hang on!

JennaGlatzer
01-08-2009, 07:38 AM
Okay, we've landed! Please check under your seats to make sure you didn't leave any belongings before exiting the plane.

fullbookjacket
01-08-2009, 07:38 AM
Ideas and concepts are a dime a dozen. I'll bet every agent that's been in business for more than a year has seen the same plots a dozen times. That's not plagiarism. It's coincidence and law of averages.

However, when someone writes an article that's almost verbatim from another piece, that's simply and undeniably intentional plagiarism.

The guy was ripping off another author.

blueobsidian
01-08-2009, 07:57 AM
I talked to an author and she told me that she doesn't read in the Genre she writes, because it puts her at risk for plagarism.

My problem with that kind of thinking is, where do you draw the line? It's not like genres are completely independant from each other. Characters and plot lines can certainly translate between genres with a little revision.

trickywoo
01-08-2009, 02:19 PM
I guess I could see that if you got this story on an e-mail forward over and over you wouldn't think to attribute it to a certain author. It would become a sort of generic illustration to pull out in a sermon or devotional reflection.

But again, I don't get the internalized it as part of my own experience bit. Maybe he meant something else by that, because it doesn't make any sense.