Steven King’s been a very naughty boy (but plagiarism is not just what it seems)…

More from Brian Whelan… And hat tip to lost expectation, this appears to be when it was first spotted

After Comment: It’s worth reading Dec’s comment here. I can only think that some of suppositions in the comment zone are based on political animus, not entirely helped by my own choice of flippant original headline…

  • why was this guy ever given a column in the Examiner and why did his editor never check his work.

    http://criticalmassfilm.com/blog/?p=72

  • Editors never check anyone’s work any more. Look at the recent scandal at RTE over it’s appalling decision to broadcast the thoroughly defamatory Fr Kevin Reynolds story. Who is going to carry the can for that? Look at UTV’s appalling standards in publishing footage from a video game – a video game! – and claim it as IRA manoeuvers.

    The only checks nowadays are by the lawyers. And even then, if you’re beating up on an easy target, like a priest, or a terrorist organisation, even the lawyers don’t get that bothered, because the only penalty is likely to be a little bad press.

  • Turgon

    I confess to finding this very surprising and very sad.

    I was at Queens at the same time as Steven King and although I did not agree with him on a number of issues, I always thought him an honourable and honest individual.

    What is particulalry surprising is that Dr. King (and he unlike all too many earned his doctorate) is clearly more than intelligent, literate and cultured enough to write excellent stuff himself without any need whatsoever to plagarise anyone else’s work.

    Really rather sad and pathetic.

  • I’m surprised in the modern 24 hour internet age how he thought he’d “get away” with it.

  • Stewart

    This story has had me puzzled for days….I just dont get it.

    As Turgon says he is more then capable of coming up with his on content or at least his own take on someone else’s content.

    Bad journalism is one things and is extremely common, Plagiarism is another thing and it is terrible….but plagiarism with zero attempt at concealment makes no sense – like has been stated, this is an intelligent man – did he not realise that people read the internet?

    As far as I see it there are several steps of degradation required to get to this:

    The need to cut corners or an inability to cope with workload.
    The decision to copy someone elses work.
    The rush of not being able to or the delusion that you need not conceal this theft.
    Repetition of the ‘crime’.

  • I have to say that I am a bit shocked.
    A journalist can only do this kinda thing once. There is no way back.

  • Fortlands

    Wasn’t Stephen King an adviser to David Trimble ? And given the state of the UUP now, shouldn’t sue?

  • Fortlands

    whoa – that should be ‘shouldn’t he (Trimble) sue?’

  • BluesJazz

    Steven, with a v. Or the horror book author Stephen, with a ph, might be annoyed.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Surprised and saddened too. Met him briefly about ten years back and liked him a lot.

  • In my considerable experience of plagiarism I’ve found that most practitioners tend to be long term “serial offenders” as they say. It was particularly noticeable in academia for a while there at the start of the 00’s until a lot of new software detection tools were introduced. It would be interesting to see if King has a history – anyone ever done plagiarism detection on Trimble’s speeches or King’s Phd?

  • travis

    It would be interesting to see if King has a history – anyone ever done plagiarism detection on Trimble’s speeches or King’s Phd?

    It would indeed. You never know what they might find, if they were willing to look.

    It mostly certainly is a long term serial offence.

  • Stewart

    I think PHDs etc are now routinely checked using software for just such acts of plagiarism (that wouldnt have happened in King’s time) but it does illustrate the ridiculousness of plagiarism in a professional writer nowadays.

  • “If I were QUB i might check a few of those former assignments for plagiarism also…”

    Nah, QUB are more likely to ensure there’s no trace of those former assignments left hanging around anywhere – they’re normally disposed off after two years anyway. His doctorate would be another matter though, the library and his supervisor should have a copy of that, though I’d say you’d struggle now to get your hands on it.

  • “I think PHDs etc are now routinely checked using software for just such acts of plagiarism”.

    Some Schools now ask students to submit their work to the likes of turnitin.com but there is no requirement to do so.

  • Dec

    As far as I can tell, the first cited evidence of alleged plagiarism in the linked article occured 6 months after he (King) buried his life partner. Maybe something to bear in mind?

  • Alias

    I think it’s very close to why some of the middle-classes engage in shoplifting in that it’s the psychology of it that needs attention rather than a need for the items.

    None of the ‘ideas’ stolen were original and, while Brendan O’Neill is a highly articulate and stylish writer, there is nothing particularly valuable in the writing style either that would make King covet it.

    Dec, I’d guess, is closer to the mark.

  • Granni Trixie

    I seem to remember (but do correct me if necessary) that SK wrote a speach for Trimble about Ireland which got him (DT) into a lot of trouble (simply cannot remember the details). This surprised me as I know SK to be clever and not so prejudiced as this speach suggested. So I concluded that he is not as he appears.

    Could be that he had a deadline to meet and copied someone elses work. But I would trust that most journalists know that this is not on. Grief over a partner’s death however is certainly a mitigating factor in my book.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thank you Dec. Its rare to have such decent human compassion expressed in a public space. Very much what Granni said!

    Something to think about indeed!

  • Thanks Dec.

  • Id like to think Im a decent human being as well.
    And I certainly didnt know about Mr King being bereaved some six months previously.
    My condolonces.
    Sitting around here at 4am, cos Im scared to sleep and miss the Rugby, it strikes me that the comment I made at 1.04pm might need amended…….as indeed most people would want to think twice.
    Im shocked on three levels. It was blatant and stupid.
    But more so, let down by the fact that I have liked Mr Kings writing. And I think he has a certain courage.

    Yet it still feels uncomfortable that I want to find a mitigation for him.
    Mr Fealty correctly points out a certain hostility to Mr Kings politics motivating the response. But the other side of that is allowing respect for him to cloud a judgement.

    Basically I just wish it had never happened.
    Or that I hadnt found out.
    Whatever unfortunate or tragic circumstances this year, I cant employ a rule for a person that I quite like and another rule for someone I dont like.

  • Alias

    “Could be that he had a deadline to meet and copied someone elses work. But I would trust that most journalists know that this is not on. Grief over a partner’s death however is certainly a mitigating factor in my book.”

    I wouldn’t think that it is an issue related to time since the ‘plagarism’ occured from August 2010 to September 2011. Being a ‘bit pushed for time’ is a rational explanation for wrong behaviour only if the risk of detection is very small while the reward is very large (and, of course, the person is amoral).

    On the other hand, insofar as the practice of plagiarism can be compared to shoplifting, then there is plenty of medical evidence there to link that behaviour to psychological trauma such as loss, anxiety, and depression in cases where the person can offer no rational explanation for the behaviour.

    Shoplifting among those who have no need to steal is irrational behaviour by default when the risk of detection and punishment is great while the reward for the behaviour is commensurately very small. In King’s case, there was no need to ‘steal’ the articles since he could have easily written his own, so he would seem to meet that criteria. If he was just ‘a bit pushed for time’ even due to unfortunate circumstances then I wouldn’t see that as mitigation.

    Given what Dec has said regarding his recent loss, then (assuming its factual) there is good reason to think that there might be mitigation due based the known link between psychological distress and shoplifting (or, if you accept the comparison, plagiarism).

    At any rate, given that such allegations are potentially fatal to Mr King’s career, we have a duty not make any judgement until all the facts are known.

  • I don’t know anything about Mr. King, either the person or the writer. But I note that a common theme among the responses here is surprise that he did this, given that everyone agrees that he is talented and didn’t need to do it. An explanation has been offered. People should consider that; it is easy to condemn but understanding requires more effort.

  • Nunoftheabove

    joeCanuck

    Hate the sin but…….absolve the sinner of any personal responsibility. Sheesh, that Gandhi, honestly…..

    Not much time for King myself but for the moment he is to be assumed innocent.

  • Rory Carr

    Unfortunately not, Nunof the above. For the moment , failing an explanation from Mr. King, he is clearly guilty of passing off Brian O’Neill’s work as his own. We can argue the toss all night as to why he might have done, why he might have felt the need to do it, but there is no argument but that he did do it.

    A recent bereavement has been cited as a mitigating factor but, unless and until Mr King himself, or another appointed to act on his behalf, makes such an appeal then it is quite impertinent to assume that such is the case and a presumption of Mr King’s inability to make his own case.

    Perhaps the best we can wish for Mr King in the circumstances is that he be treated in the forgiving manner that co-founder and former editor of The Independent, Andreas Whittam-Smith chose to deal with his plagiarisng star columnist, Johann Hari, whom, all lovers of truth and good journalism will be pleased to learn has, for his sins, been told that he “will attend a journalism training course before being allowed to rejoin thenewspaper” (Independent 15 September).

    One can hardly wait.

    Mr Hari’s excuse apparently was that he had only done “two wrong and stupid things” and all along was really only a victim of “the powerful people I had taken on over the years”. Presumably those won’t include those powerful interests who were so gung-ho for the Bush/Blair Iraq adventure to which Johann selflessly devoted the service of (non-plagiarised) column after column in support.

  • Rory Carr

    P.S. After re-reading Hari’s mea minima culpa (copyright Private Eye 13 Oct 2011) I can’t help but think of his reinstatement that the Independent’s gain (if gain indeed it be) might be thought to be Davis Norris’s loss. For what better talent might the Senator not have at his elbow for PR advice and the drafting of all those necessary appeals to public tolerance and forgiveness, even though there is nothing to forgive, than that fresh-faced innocent?

  • Rapunsell

    Are we not all forgetting the rather obvious motive for his plagiarism? Greed. He did it for the money as it was easy and he thought he wouldn’t get caught.

  • Alias

    “…but there is no argument but that he did do it.” – Rory

    You noticed that, eh? Well done for spotting the bleedin’ obvious and feeling the need to point it out to the rest of us…

    But isn’t this ‘did the crime, now do the time’ severity a little out of sync with your customary mercy to those guily of infinitly more serious offences?

    If he was a Shinner and accused of sectarian murder you’d be the first in here to plead spurious mitigation based on the injustices of Orange rule.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Rapunsell

    Possibly. Might just be the laziness. Or the complacency. Do we know what else he does for a living these days ? Did I dream it or does he also have his fingers in commercial pies too ?

  • Granni Trixie

    Now that this story has more and more legs , I am keen to pin down details of a DT speach written by SK which got DT into so much trouble on comments about Ireland. So off the wall was its content that I remember hearing that even DT thought it went too far and altered it. Even with that it caused a furore.

    I was surprised at time at what it revealed about the
    speachwriter

    Can anyone help?

  • Nunoftheabove

    Granni

    Off the wall ? General thrust ? Contextually inappropriate or just bonkers in all weathers ?

    Are Trimblers and Kingo still chums or long since estranged incidentally ?

  • Im grateful to Mr Carr for bringing up the case of Johann Hari. I was hoping that someone would.
    As “Alias” has shown the defence of Mr King seems to built around the words “what about”. The pillory if thats what it is) of Mr King is hardly based on his politics.
    But there does seem a German word for enjoying the misfortune of political foes……

    As Mr King has not publicly said anything, I dont think it behoves us to defend him.
    As Ive said I quite like him in terms of his writing and in terms of his personal courage…….but Im not prepared to engage in mitigation for him and call it decency.

    Had a journalist o a different political past, engaged in plagiarism, then the roles of prosecutor and defender would be reversed.
    The fact is that when you get a reputation for getting up early….you can lie in bed all day.
    Thus those journalists favoured or out of favour will get the supportive or hostile reaction of their “peers”.

  • PeterBrown

    GT (and anyone else who is interested and the majority who appear not to be!)

    Was King not credited with Trimble’s Nobel peace prize acceptance speech?

  • Nunoftheabove

    PeterBrown

    Credited in…which sense ?

    Fitzjim

    Indeed; there was a time when reputations were based on actions and not vice versa. Long time ago, it sometimes seems.

  • Mark McGregor

    While it is lovely to see this outbreak of compassion on Slugger or ‘Across the barricades’ with Dec playing Kevin and King as Sade 😉 King has not admitted an impulsive mental illness to anyone and certainly not the employer he has been exposed defrauding. Emposing one on him, identifying the causes and then back-tracking from that fictional starting point seems like decency above and beyond the call of duty.

    Given the reaction here, he will now no doubt submit this defence regardless of its veracity.

    Based on what we know, as opposed to what big hearts are surmising, King remains accused of fraud and plagarism and has declined to submit a defence to his employer despite being afforded the opportunity.

  • Nunoftheabove

    I thought I hadn’t imagined it; Dr King works for APCO Worldwide, among the largest PR companies sur la planet. Leastways he did until this although in fairness they don’t appear to be necessarily that fussy about who works for/with them.

  • Henry94

    King is not obliged to offer a defence either in public or to his employers at this point. He should seek legal advice on his options and follow that advice. He is in danger of facing legal action and must be aware that anything he says can get him into trouble.

    We may have to wait a long time for an explanation.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Henry94

    Quite so; he’d be nuts to say anything just now. Must say I’m rather looking forward to whatever the finest minds of the communications and legal professions can cook up though, on the assumption that he may be at a loss to, as it were, say anything for himself per se.

  • Well the classic defence offered in cases where a child kills his parents…….is the mitigation that he is an orphan.

  • Mark McGregor

    Henry94,

    Indeed.

    The one thing we shouldn’t expect from Mr King in the near future is honesty.

    You may suggest that is due to legal constraints.

    Form would suggest that’s just how he is.

  • Rory Carr

    Alias,

    Your response to my previous post was not only over-the-top it was also based upon either a complete failure to read properly what was written or a failure to understand what was written.

    In any case, what it all has to do with “Shinners”, “sectarian murder” and “Orange rule”, except perhaps somewhere in your own fevered imagination, totally escapes me.

    Dare I say that, not only was Dr King “a very naughty boy,” but that you are also behaving like one yourself.

  • Alias

    “While it is lovely to see this outbreak of compassion on Slugger or ‘Across the barricades’ with Dec playing Kevin and King as Sade King has not admitted an impulsive mental illness to anyone and certainly not the employer he has been exposed defrauding. Emposing one on him, identifying the causes and then back-tracking from that fictional starting point seems like decency above and beyond the call of duty.

    Given the reaction here, he will now no doubt submit this defence regardless of its veracity.

    Based on what we know, as opposed to what big hearts are surmising, King remains accused of fraud and plagarism and has declined to submit a defence to his employer despite being afforded the opportunity.” – Mark

    Well, as it is an original defence, I’d expect due credit as the author…

    Plagairism, remember, isn’t a crime. Copyright infringement is. Whether or not he is guilty of copyright infringement is something only a court can decide.

    But, if you notice, King carefully reworded the passages that he allegedly borrowed so a court may well decide that no actual infringement took place – in the unlikely event that Brendan O’Brien seeks compensation (if he suffered any loss as a result of King’s action).

    Defamation, of course, is not a crime under UK law either but King could summon those implying that he committed a crime to the High Court for the purpose of relieving them of their hoardes of gold, so folks need to be mindful of what accusations they’re actually making.

    Also, it doesn’t have to be “an impulsive mental illness” and neither does King have to be aware of whatever mitigating condition might be there. In most cases, people are not aware of the condition until it is diagnosed as a result of some related uderlying behaviour:

    “Middle-class shoplifting, regardless of age, has been found to be linked to psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorders, substance abuse, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and, among adolescents, externalizing behavior disorders such as ADHD, oppositional-defiant disorder, and conduct disorder.” – (Schwartz & Wood, 1991; Coolidge & Thede, 2000)

    It simply means that there might be mitigation there that would cause behaviour that a person would not ordinarily engage in.

    “Dare I say that, not only was Dr King “a very naughty boy,” but that you are also behaving like one yourself.” – Rory

    Well, you can say it but I don’t accept it.

  • Nunoftheabove

    He’s just resigned, quoted as saying: “I could make all sorts of excuses: the pressure of work; a once fantastically happy marriage almost shattered by mental illness; the death of a partner which is extremely difficult to accept. But the buck stops with me”. Could make those kind of excuses….but won’t. Which is nice.

    He goes on to provide the deliciously conditional (my caps) “I must apologise wholeheartedly IF any material was unoriginal, any research was insufficiently thorough and IF any attributions to other authors were insufficient,”

    So, not an actual apology then per se but an acceptance that one would be appropriate in the event that anything wrong had in fact been done. Which, again, is nice.