Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Stefan Molyneux’s Repeated Acts of Plagiarism

Stuart K. Hayashi


I was at a point where I thought that there was nothing more that white-supremacist demagogue and cult leader Stefan Molyneux could do that would shock me. I was wrong.

The vlogger called “Liberal Sanity Project” has a video showing multiple instances of Molyneux committing plagiarism. The video is actually about Alt-Right vloggers in general engaging in this practice, starting with the one known as “Black Pigeon Speaks.” The section on Molyneux’s plagiarism begins at the 07:20 timestamp. Below, in the embedding, I have cued it to the section on Molyneux. The whole video, though, is worth watching.






UPDATE from Friday, December 7, 2018: Screenshots

The instances of Stefan Molyneux committing plagiarism that Liberal Sanity Project caught were mostly from YouTube videos in Molyneux’s “Truth About...” series of videos, which take the form of slide-show presentations in the style of Microsoft Power Point or Prezi. The plagiarisms consist of Molyneux’s presentation slides lifting entire passages out of written works, verbatim, without attribution to the real author or even quotation marks to indicate to the viewer that the lifted passages are quotations of an author not associated with FreeDomain Radio. On the YouTube pages of these uploads from Molyneux, there are dead links that once went to Molyneux’s official website where Molyneux claimed to have provided his sources. On Google I have founded cached versions of two of these pages where Molyneux promised to reveal his sources. Those pages provide linked URLs of the sources that Molyneux plagiarized, amid a whole disorganized jumble of other linked URLs, and do not specify or clarify that the author to whom Molyneux linked was the real author of the passages that Molyneux copied verbatim without attribution.

Using Liberal Sanity Project’s video as a guide, I have taken screenshots of Molyneux’s plagiaristic presentation slides and the sources that used the phrasings long before Molyneux repeated them without attribution.

You can click on the screenshots to enlarge them.



Bomb in the Brain, Part 3

At the 14:39 timestamp of Molyneux’s December 2009 video “Bomb in the Brain, Part 3” (which Molyneux made a few years before starting his white-supremacist phase), the presentation slide plagiarizes clinical psychologist Arthur Becker-Weidman.

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Arthur Becker-Weidman wrote those words at least as early as 2005, as you can see on Google Books here.

Click on image to enlarge. I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint.



You can see that Athur Becker-Weidman had those words published on the World Wide Web at least as early as August 4, 2008 — over a year before Molyneux plagiarized him — over here (on the Wayback Machine archive from June 2009 over here).

Click on image to enlarge. I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint.



Truth About the Fall of Rome: Modern Parallels

In the August 2016 video “The Truth About The Fall of Rome: Modern Parallels,” starting at the 11:27 mark and ending at the 13:37 mark, two of the bullet points on Molyneux’s slide repeat entire passages from J. Rufus Fears’s Heritage Foundation presentation from December 19, 2005, “The Lessons of the Roman Empire for America Today.” With the lifted phrases, the slide and spoken part make no attribution to Rufus Fears, and the slide has no quotation marks to indicate that the lifted passages were quotations of Rufus Fears.

Click on image to enlarge. I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint.


You can see J. Rufus Fears’s presentation, which is a decade older than Molyneux’s, over here.

 Click on image to enlarge. I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint.

Molyneux’s YouTube upload does have a dead link going to Molyneux’s official FreeDomain Radio website where he promises to cite his sources. I found a cached version of it over here. There, Rufus Fears is not mentioned by name. The closest that Molyneux comes to making any attribution to him is listing the URL to the Heritage Foundation speech amid a sloppy list of other URLs, as you can see below. I added the red arrow in Microsoft Paint.

Click on image to enlarge.


Note that if you use an entire passage from an author verbatim, it is not adequate simply to provide a URL that links to that author; there should be quotation marks to indicate that someone is being quoted verbatim. That is a very basic point of which college freshmen are reminded ad nauseam by their instructors.



Truth About Slavery: Past, Present and Future

Now we come to the February 2014 upload, “The Truth About Slavery: Past, Present and Future.” Starting at the 09:28 mark and ending at the 10:46 timestamp, two consecutive bullet points purloin passages from another essay without any attribution or even a use of quotation marks to indicate that someone else is being quoted.

Click on image to enlarge. I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint.


The words that Molyneux reproduces, omitting attribution, are at least a year older than his upload. They can be found on this 2012 blog post from some blog called The Muslim Issue (Wayback Machine archiving of the existence of that, including that passages, as early as 2012 is over here).

Click on image to enlarge. I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint.


Elsewhere in that same pre-2014 essay:

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The deleted page on Molyneux’s domain, which purported to provide Molyneux’s information sources, did list the URL to that Muslim Issue blog post  and link to it but, again, made no mention that entire passages were taken from it verbatim.

Click on image to enlarge. I added the red arrow in Microsoft Paint.


Molyneux hails himself as a great philosopher but apparently cannot be bothered with citation standards that are expected not only of philosophy professors, but their freshman students, philosophy major or otherwise.

At the 12:01 timestamp of that same video, Molyneux snatches another passage from another essay without letting the viewer know that another author is being quoted word for word.

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That essay is reproduced on many domains all over the Web.  As of this writing, the oldest version of the essay I could find dates back to 2004. The Wayback Machine has a copy of that page, complete with the plagiarized sentence, dating back to 2011.

Click on image to enlarge. I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint.


By even the most lenient and charitable standards of the ethics that are expected of authors, publishers, and vloggers, what Stefan Molyneux’s podcast has done amounts to plagiarism.



UPDATE from Tuesday, December 11, 2018: Screenshots

The trend that I described above continues in Stefan Molyneux’s December 10, 2018 upload “France: Burn Till You Learn!” This time there were some portions where, when the slide presentation quotes a ridiculously long chunk of text, such as one beginning, “With his popularity rating at record lows,...” from the website Zero Hedge (a paranoid right-wing Beware-the-Banksters propaganda blog that is thinly veiled as an investment advice website), the slide does apply quotation marks to the duplicated passage. Here at the 22:47 timestamp, Molyneux’s reproduction of a Helen Pluckrose essay in Areo Magazine is so extensive that it is embarrassing. At least there, the presentation slides use quotation marks to indicate that someone is being quoted, but the sections taken from Pluckrose are so large that one wonders why the presentation slide didn’t have its own phrasing. With this new and conspicuous usage of quotation marks for these long quoted sections of text, one wonders if whoever makes Molyneux’s presentation slides had seen this blog post prior to this December 11 update. But later, as you will see below, Molyneux uses Pluckrose’s piece in an even less creative fashion which, although being the least obvious instance of plagiarism here, still greatly casts into doubt Molyneux’s self-aggrandizement as an original thinker and meticulous scholar.

I caught two instances where, although the “description” section of the upload gives the URLs to the sources from which Molyneux takes passages, Molyneux still acts in a ethically dubious manner, not only taking the same quotations of other parties that his sources quoted, but using the same verbs that his sources used when describing how those other parties said what they said. When taking partial quotations that Roger Kimball quoted in a 1993 piece for The New Criterion magazine, Molyneux even lifted the words that Kimball had used before and after the quotations. There is also at least one instance of out-and-out plagiarism where, as of my first writing and posting this, the description section on the upload does not even list the source of the text reproduced.



Taking a Passage from The Epoch Times Without Attribution 

First, here is the most obvious plagiarism, which begins at the 03:05 mark and ends near the 05:19 mark. Molyneux purports to list what Yuri Bezmenov claims are the four phases that Soviet agents had planned on implementing in order to subvert the First World. Had Molyneux used the same phrases that Bezmenov did, Molyneux still would have been obliged to use quotation marks or other indicators that he was quoting Bezmenov. But the phrasing that appears in Molyneux’s slide is not the same as how Bezmenov phrased it. To show you how Bezmenov phrased it, I am linking to an interview of Bezmenov conducted by G. Edward Griffin, a New World Order conspiracy theorist endorsed by both Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern, and who cites a stained glass window[!] at the London School of Economics as proof that a cabal of bankers controls the world).

The Epoch Times is a far-right newspaper, right-wing in the same way that The Washington Times is. The Epoch Times is run by members of the controversial Falun Gong movement that is in conflict with China’s ruling party and government. The editorial board of the Epoch Times, not committing plagiarism, made its own phrasing for what Bezmenov said. As you can see here, the Wayback Machine documents that this phrasing was on the Epoch Times domain as early as June 14, 2018.

Bezmenov said that subversion comes in four stages: The first step is to foster the cultural decadence and demoralization of the enemy country; the second is to create social chaos; and the third to instigate a crisis that would lead to either civil war, revolution, or invasion from another country, culminating in the fourth and final stage of bringing the country under the control of the Communist Party. This is called normalization.

Again, as of this typing and posting, Molyneux’s YouTube upload did not even link to this Epoch Times piece.

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 Now let’s compare Molyneux’s presentation slide with what appeared in the Epoch Times over five months earlier.

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Click on image to enlarge.



Molyneux follows up with that by repeating the alt-right lie that Leon Trotsky coined the term racism as a form of manipulation, and that for you to identify any sentiment or action as racist entails that you are doing the bidding of Communists and Cultural Marxists. That is an outright falsehood. It is legitimate to identify instances of racism regardless of what any communist said or believed, and Trotsky clearly did not coin racism. You can see the alt-right canard refuted here.



Molyneux Apparently Too Lazy to Rephrase Helen Pluckrose’s Introductions to the Quotations She Uses 

The upload’s description box links to an essay by Helen Pluckrose in Areo Magazine, and, in the video, Molyneux mentions Areo Magazine by name when speaking. However, Molyneux does do something ethically dubious with passages from the piece. In the piece, Helen Pluckrose quotes the following parties: (1) author David Detmer, concerning a reply that former philosophy professor Laurie L. Calhoun gave him; (2) student protesters who rudely tried to shout down Charles Murray when he tried to give a speech on the Middlebury College campus; and (3) the official Twitter account of the March for Science. Not only does Molyneux use the quotations in the exact same order that Pluckrose did, but at the 25:11 timestamp Molyneux repeats them in a terribly sloppy fashion.

Check out Molyneux’s presentation slide.

 I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint; click on image to enlarge.


First, I want to give an example of something that is not plagiarism, but evinces how sloppily put-together Molyneux’s presentation is.

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The top of Molyneux’s slide says it is quoting an “Interview” with Laurie Calhoun. This time, Pluckrose does not use the word interview, nor does her source, the book Challenging Postmodernism: Philosophy and the Politics of Truth by Purdue University philosophy professor David Detmer. The quotation is of Detmer paraphrasing Laurie Calhoun’s reply “When I had occasion to ask her” about the pertinent topic. If you take just a minute to look this up on Amazon.Com, you find that this is in Chapter 7 of Detmer’s book and that it goes to Endnote 33 for that chapter. When you look in the endnotes section on page 301, it just says, “33. Calhoun, personal communication with the author”; it does not specify the context in which the exchange took place. For all we know, Detmer might have crossed paths with Calhoun at some conference, asked her a quick question, and got a quick answer. “Personal communication” does not necessarily imply an interview, at least not a formal one.

Now let us consider where Molyneux goes into what is in more plagiaristic territory.

I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint; click on the image to enlarge.


Just a few paragraphs down from the part about Laurie Calhoun’s reply to David Detmer, Pluckrose mentions that protesters directing their ire toward “Charles Murray at Middlebury,” and quotes what they “chanted” at him. Chant is an interesting word to use here, and I can understand why Pluckrose used it, but it was not necessary for Molyneux to use the same verb, especially since it was not a literal chant.

Dictionary.Com defines the verb chant as “to sing” or “to repeat (a phrase, slogan, etc.) rhythmically...” A literal chant has a musical quality to it; if students were protesting their dean, they would be chanting if they recited in a singsong fashion, “Hey-hey ho-ho/the current dean has got to go!” When you read what Charles Murray’s hecklers “chanted,” it already looks like a big mouthful, not something you could easily recite as a poem or song. And you can hear it for yourself here; I cued it to where they say it. When the protesters recite the lines in unison, it was awkward and not at all musical, even if they intended for it to be musical like “Hey-hey ho-ho/[Something-Something] has got to go!”. I am not faulting Pluckrose for using the verb chant; I am saying that someone who bothered to spare five minutes to look this up on YouTube could have used a verb different from Pluckrose’s and it would not have changed the meaning of what she described. But Molyneux and/or whoever makes his presentation slides could not be bothered.

Then Molyneux reproduces the exact phrase “the organizers of the March for Science tweeted...” That is not as egregious as the other examples above — and tweet, unlike chant, is the indisputably correct literal verb to use — but someone who has as many books published under his byline as Molyneux easily could have rephrased that. One rephrasing off the top of my head: “As the party behind the March for Science asserted in a tweet...”

Though Molyneux’s usage of Pluckrose’s essay comes across as amateurish at best, this must seem quite minor in comparison to the instances of plagiarism listed above. But I found one more instance, involving Roger Kimball in The New Criterion magazine, that is more clearly plagiarism, though not as glaring as what Molyneux did with the Epoch Times.



Stefan Molyneux Plagiarizing Roger Kimball in The New Criterion

The description box of Molyneux’s upload does link to that New Criterion piece by Roger Kimball, but that does not excuse the fact that Molyneux’s presentation slide takes passages from Kimball near-verbatim, not bothering to rephrase them.

Near the top, Molyneux takes a sentence that Kimball wrote about the French postmodernist philosopher Michael Foucault, “He several times attempted — and more often threatened — suicide,” removing only the more that preceded the often threatened.

Below that, Molyneux appropriates, “Those planning suicide, he mused, could look ‘for partners without names, for occasions to die liberated from every identity.’ ”

Then Molyneux takes this whole passage:

ideas as responsibility, sensitivity, justice, and law were merely “tokens of ideology” that completely lacked legitimacy. “The proletariat doesn’t wage war against the ruling class because it considers such a war to be just,” he argued. “The proletariat makes war with the ruling class because . . . it wants to take power” [Stuart enlarged the ellipse in the final sentence and put it in boldface].

I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint; click on the image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.
Click on image to enlarge.
I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint; click on image to enlarge.


It is pretty funny that Molyneux’s slide even duplicated the ellipse that Roger Kimball inserted in that last sentence. It takes a mere second to find the complete sentence on Google Books: “The proletariat makes war with the ruling class because, for the first time in history, it wants to take power” (boldface added to the section Kimball removed).

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Really, if you go to Google Books and run a search on “foucault The proletariat makes war with the ruling class because”, what I showed above is the first result that comes up. Plus, the two results below it have the exact same quotation.

 I added the red marks in Microsoft Paint; click on image to enlarge.


Conclusion

Here is the most charitable way to interpret what is going on with Stefan Molyneux with respect to him taking these passages from other authors verbatim: I do not know whether Stefan Molyneux himself makes these presentation slides, or if they are made by someone who works for him, such as Mike DeMarco.

But I do know this: as Molyneux presents these videos and presentations as his own work, he is ultimately culpable for the plagiarism within them. Molyneux uploads onto YouTube on a near-daily basis, and, for that reason, one can see how whomever makes Molyneux’s presentation slides might feel pressured to do a rush job. But such a pressure does not excuse what is going on. At best, whoever is in charge of making Molyneux’s presentation slides has very consistently been horribly L-A-Z-Y about it, apparently going to various online essays and just copy-pasting passages from them directly into the slides. Students in college and even in middle school are instructed not to do what is done in Molyneux’s presentation slides. By the standards of what is expected even of middle-school students, what you find in Molyneux’s slide presentations is, at best, the opposite of conscientious and, at worst, something terribly underhanded.

In an interview (a known formal interview) with Michael W. Dean on the Freedom Feens podcast, Colleen — a former member of Molyneux’s cult from a decade ago, before Molyneux was regularly advocating white supremacism — recollected that Molyneux told her that everything he says is so original and brilliant, that every stray utterance of his ought to be recorded for posterity. (That discussion begins at the 9 minute, 28 second mark.) Molyneux told Colleen that this would be just as insightful, and of the same historical significance, as it would be if archaeologists and historians uncovered a transcription of the conversations that Socrates had with his barber.

But considering Molyneux’s frequent acts of plagiarism, which continue into December 2018, Molyneux’s followers should stop pretending that Molyneux is any sort of philosophic innovator or rigorous scholar.