And yet, and yet—these heroic journalists, lauded for their research, are also guilty. The kicker is, they commit plagiarism in their very act of exposing it. It seems that, in my opinion, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Here are three of the more egregious examples.
Yesterday morning, Buzzfeed’s “viral politics reporter” and resident ex-College Republican Chair Benny Johnson took the unusual step of calling out another outlet on Twitter for plagiarizing his work, a masterpiece on the socks that George H.W. Bush wears. “Repeat after me,” said Johnson, “copying and pasting someone’s work is called ‘plagiarism[.]’”
The uncredited source text: the word “Twitter.” “Twitter” is the word for the sound some birds make, and also the name of a microblogging platform, called “Twitter.” Nowhere do bort and blappo credit this word or website. They never say “Twitter was founded by …” or “Twitter means ….” We don’t get a trace back to its etymological roots, or an acknowledgement of who said it first. Rather, they let the word slip by without ever saying whose it is.
2. The opening of their first example in the first post:
This sentence leaves out one crucial fact: the post was on the website BuzzFeed. Are we to believe that they somehow “knew” that Benny posted a piece on North Korea? Nowhere in that line do they even mention where Benny put that text; they never even mention the name BuzzFeed. Yet it is quite clear that they would have had to look at BuzzFeed to find out that that is in fact where it was.
3. This image of text in the first example of their second post:
Nothing about this image reveals that it actually came from Wikipedia. Fortunately, I recognised the typeface. After some painstaking research, I sourced it to a page about a man named Saddam Hussein. A bit of a jerk, it seems. Maybe they should have rewritten that text-image with a nod to Wiki, but what would I know? Taking cues from the man they hope to call out (BuzzFeed “Benny” Johnson), they commit the same journalistic crime.
Well there you have it folks. Looks like plagiarism to me. In their desperation to uncover an alleged plagiarist, the authors at Our Bad Media have fallen into the same trap. Perhaps they need to do a bit more research into journalistic ethics before they cry foul. Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity, but it seems these folks were pretty self-confident when they wrote their piece.
Preface: my interest is not based on any belief in or love of the ideology. It is more akin to Bolaño’s, who wrote about (fictional) right-wing authors in Nazi Literature in the Americas. Or: it stems from my old fascination with Per Imerslund, the Norwegian author whom I still have not read (and can find little info about). Or: to draw from what I am about to discuss, my own version of the following. In the documentary, one of the interviewees describes Rice as being attracted to that which should be off-limits (fascism, Satanism, etc.). My interest is not so direct as that. Rather, it is mediated by the artists who have that interest. I can’t help but pay attention to how fascism becomes aestheticised: I want to know more about the artists who should be (in some circles) off-limits. I do not endorse their actions—or even necessarily like the artists. I would also not flirt with fascist aesthetics myself. Rather, I look at the process behind them. I do not listen to bands like Skrewdriver, nor am I particularly interested in them. Clear fascist/right-wing beliefs are dull. Ambiguity, the why, and the how are more interesting.
As a final prefatory note: my own critical background (not really present here) is Walter Benjamin, who warned against fascism and fascist art, and died fleeing the Nazis.
This is to say that I watched Iconoclast, the four-hour documentary on Boyd Rice, by Larry Wessel. I have only slightly more to say about it than my introductory remarks.
It will still do little to convince anyone that Rice is not a fascist. My main trouble with it is that the interviewees are not necessarily apologists, but tend to reject the charges against him since they are usually friends. Claims to objectivity when looking at these accusations are always difficult. To try to be “objective” when talking about them is to allow some benefit of the doubt. This is always the case when the charges are bad—surely the accusations are enough that they should be taken seriously. The film could have done with associates who flatly state that yes, Rice is a fascist. (I of course am open to charges of sympathy merely by my own interest in these things—my own position on Rice’s ideologies is, “I don’t know.” But I do think his flirtation with those aesthetics, whether genuine or affected, is a problem, and potentially dangerous.)
Maybe this is not the aim. Most of the people in the film are collaborators and friends; it does seem to be more focused on the “scene” around Rice. By nature, most of them would be pro-Boyd. There is the footage of the anti-fascist demonstration, which Rice talks to, but this comes off as slightly ridiculous.
(I understand that Wessel and the interviewees Giddle Partridge and Douglas P. have all split with Rice since the movie.)
It is not a perfect documentary, but it kept me interested long enough nonetheless (which is saying a lot, given my attention span). I am not pro-Boyd, but I will admit to liking a few of his ambient songs (like “Solitude”) here and there.
The other complaint I have is some of the editing and animation. The fonts in the movie are pretty awful, but maybe they’re supposed to be in that light-hearted style (perhaps ironically, perhaps to match Rice’s Tiki obsession). During most of the talking heads, the film cuts to “demonstrative” graphics. Someone will be talking about dogs, so we get a montage of dog photos. Someone talks about Charles Manson, so we get a photo of Manson with his eyes animated to make him look around. It’s pointless at best, and pretty ugly and frustrating at worst. I’d have preferred to just see the interviewees during their segments. I know what a dog looks like.
This is an imperfect post, and as much a way to talk about why I watched Iconoclast (hence the preface) as it is a comment on it. It’s a brief reflection on my own troublesome investigation. This post feels like a defence. In some ways it is.
So I go to the doctor, and I sit in the waiting room for a while. It’s boring as always, the magazines are shit, the internet on my phone is boring, the radio sucks. Not even anyone interesting to observe. But I get called in, and so I go through to the room. I see this figure in there; sort of like a man but not quite. He’s horrible. He’s ugly and brutish, and has only a rudimentary grasp of English. His skin’s discoloured, his hair is long and matted and doesn’t quite suit his body type. All his movements are jerky and uncomfortable, like he’s not quite used to making them. I’m pretty freaked out of course. I don’t want this weirdo looking at me—he doesn’t even seem like a functioning person, let alone a doctor. And why the hell was I sent to see him anyway? Don’t they have standards? Why was he hired? Why or how did he finish medical school? Or regular school? The more I think about the more pissed off I get. I deserve a little better than this. I may be a shitty dude but I think I deserve adequate medical coverage. Or I dunno, maybe I deserve this. I often say that if any misfortune befalls me. Like when I got mugged. But this guy is the limit. I don’t trust him to do this without strangling me or something. Yet I’m still here, and nothing has happened. So I brush past this weirdo, who’s made a move to get me up on the examining seat. I get past him and into the waiting room, where I say to the receptionist, “I don’t want to be treated by this guy.” And the receptionist goes, “Oh, your doctor isn’t in your room yet. He’ll just be another minute.” I say, “What? There’s a weird grunty man in my room. He’s freaky, I don’t trust him, I fear for my life. I’ll be thinking about this fucko for weeks. He’s hardly human; he’s a monster. He can barely speak or move properly. But I thought he was the doctor.” At that moment, another man comes in from a back room. The receptionist notices him, and gestures at him, and corrects me, condescendingly: “Actually, Frankenstein is the doctor.”
[Simple and Clean]: stuff i'm emotionally invested in: piss and shit [a casual fop]: hoopy honk [Simple and Clean]: hoopty honk [a casual fop]: i didnt know ulilylyl whatever was into poetry [a casual fop]: one of my mega goals in life is to know a lot about poetry [a casual fop]: sorry god, mom, extended family [Simple and Clean]: he has a high irony level
I don’t often think about this. My first friends on Facebook were ones that I’d made online. I got an account at Amark’s behest (one of my closest online pals then) when the site was still pretty new. He recruited me to help him in I guess what was an argument, although it was more just a lot of antagonising. There was a discussion board attached to some obscure app, and people were talking about abortion in it. I don’t think we even had the app and I’m not sure how Amark came across it. We went in and riled up the pro-lifers, sometimes engaging in debate but otherwise being pests. I remember one of them got angry enough to say that they wished I’d been aborted… pretty good. My name in those days was Pivot Voltron, rather than my own, after a song by Pivot. I didn’t think I’d be still using the site, so I registered just as a throwaway account. Eventually I started becoming friends with people I knew from school. The first one was probably Todd. At some point I changed my name to my real one. I’m still friends with some of those online guys, in some cases just on Facebook, but there are a few I talk to often. RIP Amark.