Plagiarism is back in season it seems (if indeed there ever is an off-season). Lianne MacDougall also known “professionally” as Lianne Spiderbaby has been caught with her false career. She “wrote” for print magazines in the horror genre (Fangoria, Video Watchdog and Famous Monsters among them) as well as online publications such as FEARnet and it seems that most of her non-interview writing is not hers, but the work of many others. I am not here to write about her theft in particular depth though… Mike White already did that far better then I could have and with a more deft touch to boot… no, I am here to talk about the general culture of plagiarism which it seems has infested popular culture to it’s very core.
Plagiarism in this particular case is not taking ideas or thoughts from someone, but the literal taking of words and works from someone else and claiming them as ones own. MacDougall was too lazy, too unimaginative or simply lacked the talent she claimed to have for writing her own articles or reviews of movies so she did what all untalented people do… she stole the work of others and claimed it as her own, even when the style of writing she cribbed from greatly conflicted with the style of writing she was attempting to portray. She did this in such a sloppy manner too that she did not close off ” more than once and failed to bridge the stolen material with hers making for some jarringly obvious theft. After getting caught MacDougall did what most plagiarists do once the veil is lifted and that is cry, say they are sorry and attempt to bury the evidence. What is that old saying? The cover up is usually worse then the crime? In this case MacDougall is using her Hollywood connections (connections she gained through the very crime in question which is a nice fuck you to the hard working writers she stole from) in an attempt to offer “favors” to make this go away; and sadly many professional editors are defending her… either out of a tactile defense of themselves (if they indeed published plagiarized work) or due to the connection to the Hollywood mainstream she grants access to. Some of her defenders are going in the direction that she it only being targeted due to the fact her boyfriend is Quentin Tarantino who has had his own issues with plagiarism. That, to me at least, is a cowardly defense which uses deflection along with smoke and mirrors in an attempt you move the story from MacDougall to Tarantino. It is immaterial to this who her boyfriend is unless he somehow encouraged her plagiarism which I have seen no evidence of. I can’t respect an editor who allows plagiarism based on who the plagiarist is. In this case she is still getting PAID for work PROVEN to be stolen, which is something I simply can not understand on any level, countenanced with the fact that the works she “lifted” from were unpaid and written out of passion for the subject matter and not out of professional greed. That is the part that rings the most hollow about her “apology”, that she surely kept the money and has not asked to have the bylines altered… no, just that it happened, she is sorry and lets move on. Bullshit. The greatest sting about this though… she actively campaigned to win a Rondo Award for “best writer”. Think about that… she KNEW she stole the writings and still wanted an award for “writing” them.
Plagiarism is indeed an ugly word and the CORRECT WORD WHEN YOU PLAGIARIZE. That is an excuse used in this particular case, to not be throwing around the word plagiarism as it is a damaging word… which it should be. The word is damning and damaging because the act that causes the word is damning and damaging but not damning enough it seems. Far to many word thieves come out unscathed or only winged after their ruse is exposed. Look at The Dark Side magazine which published an untold number of outright stolen movie reviews over the course of years. They had some trouble, went underground for a while and are now back like nothing happened. Why do you let this happen? Yeah, you, you reading this! Why do you allow this? If you took a stance and stopped “forgiving” these people or making excuses for what they did after they whimper and beg to be let back inside… plagiarism would have the impact it should have on careers. I have plagiarized from exactly one person my entire career… me. There are times where I find something I have written previous is perfect for what I wish to say currently so I will take that previous passage and plunk it into the new work if it serves the same purpose.
Far too many people give a pass to intellectual property theft but that is how the game is played… and intellectual property theft is NOT the same thing as plagiarism. Intellectual property theft is what is commonly called Rip-Offs and I agree, that IS how the game is played, like it or not. Alien comes out (which itself was based an amalgamation of movies) and it is copied endlessly. Same with Star Wars, The Road Warrior, Jaws, Friday The 13th and countless others… they loosely “inspire” other movies. The imitators are just that, imitators but not copies. Warriors Of The Wasteland, for example, owes a great deal to The Road Warrior but it does not COPY The Road Warrior. Great White though outright copies Jaws to the point of actually being plagiarism. That is the difference of what we are talking about here… not degrees so much as actual content. If you get an idea from someone or something else and you make your own thing out of it… that I don’t really consider plagiarism… unless you take SPECIFIC elements, on the other hand outright taking the words and replicating them which you then claim as your own… that is theft plain and simple. To me MacDougall’s apology is worthless as she will continue to trade on the name built out of lies and couched in larceny, she is still using the connections provided to her by those lies and she is continuing maintenance of her persona which perpetrated those self same falsehoods. That to me does not say “I am sorry, please forgive me” that tells me “fuck all of you, I am a name now and nothing, not even theft of works will stop me”.
What can we do about this though as a culture? Well for one, you can stop allowing it and pardoning those who commit it. Make them stand up and not simply move along as if their word robbery was nothing more than a footnote. Make them pay for what they did. If a writer had any real talent to begin with they would not steal but they also would not make excuses for that stolen property. They would not go the route of being overworked so they had to take shortcuts… they would not channel the ideal that they didn’t think it was wrong nor would they be allowed to work in the field after exposure. If they wish to work in the field of writing after they get caught though everything they touch SHOULD very much be colored by their past crimes which many like to pass off as (I am not kidding) “youthful indiscretions”. Yeah, blame it on being young.
The real problem though is that this plagiarism is indeed industrialized and even encouraged. We teach kids at a young age in school about coping from the net. We enable plagiarists with tacit acceptance and we decrease the culpability of the offenders. Colleges allow direct plagiarism, even if it’s unofficial (on paper they do not allow this practice… yet when it is discovered it is rarely enforced). We are breeding a culture that believes this is customary and just how things work… you copy and you take credit for the work of others… it’s the American way. I on the other hand will not sit by while thieves claim works of others as their own. I will not sit back and quietly accept this in the business as usual manner, I will speak out about this, I will expose what I can and I will help others expose this thieves guild that is operating in plain sight.
The real thing I fail to understand is this attack the whistleblower defense. Mike White and all of the other people who EXPOSED the lies and deceit are getting attacked ruthlessly for being “haters” and for “not letting it go”. Fuck you and fuck anyone that thinks this way. The person who exposes a lie is the not guilty party so why are they attacked? Deflection again, if you are on the defensive you can’t be one the offensive. Stop defending her, stop defending plagiarists and most of all stop endorsing them. A plagiarist is only sorry for their actions once they get caught and that is not acceptable. Grow up.
Tell me to shut the fuck up at email@example.com and make sure to leave a comment even if it’s a nasty one (especially if it’s a nasty one).