I've tried and failed to record my thoughts on this into my phone about eight times now, so I'm afraid it's going to be a thread. Mute, block, unfollow or just don't read if not interested in the topic, which is about why to go public with fraudulent practice.
Some people think that if I discover a writer has plagiarised a passage or outright invented it, I should approach them directly first. I sometimes do that. With plagiarism, it's pretty pointless. What are they going to do? 'Oh, wow, I'm busted. I'll call the Guardian Book Desk.'
Doesn't happen. Instead, they just ignore, stall, pretend it isn't plagiarism, they mislaid their notes, you're bullying them, etc. You don't need a plagiarist to tell you they have done nothing wrong when you know they have. It's pointless, and lets them get their excuses ready.
If I see that there's a passage in a non-fiction book that seems to be invented, I do approach the writer privately, as I did recently with @AnnieJacobsen, who I'm copying in because she's just shameless. Note how far we've gone in this trend: fabrication!
That's crazy, and yet it's from a major publisher, @littlebrown. I tweeted Jacobsen on here for a source for something in her new book, because I suspected it was fabricated. She gave me the source. It proved it was fabricated. So I went public with that.
A few others have said I should tell publishers first. I've done that before - I did it with Pilgrim Spy, for example. The editor responded at once to my email: 'Damn, Jeremy, you're right, I was hoping nobody would notice the rampant plagiarism in this clearly invented memoir,
I am ringing The Guardian Book Desk at once, I resign, the book will be withdrawn!' No, that's not what happened. After a lot of stalling, he just dodged every question on plagiarism and claimed he believed the author. Books also several people to produce, so you can be thrown
around departments, 'Oh, your emails went to my spambox'ed for weeks, and so on, all while the book is already out and people are being fooled into buying it. If I am unsure of a problem, this might be a way to go. But if I have discovered the problem is undeniable, it's daft.
I don't care what the excuses will be, what the procedures are that led to the mistake, or any of that. That's for you guys to figure out, not me. I'm interested in trying to get the word out about a dodgy book, and this whole problem that is going haywire.
Someone tweeted me I'd have more credibility if I asked publishers to explain themselves, as otherwise I'm just a stranger on the internet. People can decide from the evidence I've given, not who I am, and they can look up what I say as well. I'm discussing books that are out.
Related problem: I find five passages of plagiarism in a spot-check of a book's chapter. That's enough. I don't need to read the rest of the book. You don't get prizes for having pages that aren't plagiarised, you know.
So say I point out those five passages on here. Someone will tweet 'That's it? Just those five? From one chapter? Have you read the rest of the book?' Say I then do read the rest and find 100 passages plagiarised. What then? 'Here they all are.' 'Oh. That's obsessive of you.'
Also nobody would read that much evidence, on here or anywhere else. This benefits the really dodgy writers - the more you do wrong, the harder it is to pin you down. It would take me weeks to go through Bastani's book. But I already know it contains plagiarism. That's enough...
because I am not his publisher, or a full-time fact-checking company for publishers (though perhaps I should set one up). I'm a writer, coming across this stuff on a near-weekly basis without looking for it, by just paying attention to what I see on my feed and in the papers.
So that's why I tweet about it. I want to tweet about other stuff, and I want to write. I don't want to waste months of my life fact-checking fraudulent books that have already come out, or listening to excuses or being given the run-around by charlatans and their publishers.
But all that said... it doesn't seem to have any impact at all. It's pretty futile, really. Nobody cares. There's a few tweets, a few articles, the writer and publisher ride it out, and there are now rarely any consequences for plagiarism or even *fabrication* in non-fiction.
So I could just bite my tongue and never point out any of this stuff. Indeed, sometimes I don't simply as I don't have the time to look into everything. But if I were to try to make an impact with this, and you have any sensible ideas on how, by all means let me know. /rantends
You can follow @JeremyDuns.
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