Conversations With God About Plagiarism

From the “You’ve Got to be Fucking Kidding Me” department comes this story via GalleyCat: spiritual author Neale Donald Walsch admitted to plagiarizing a story by another writer, Candy Chand.  In the NY Times article, Walsch is quoted as saying

In a telephone interview, Mr. Walsch, 65, who said he regularly gave 10 to 20 speeches a year, said he had been retelling the anecdote in public as his own for years. “I am chagrined and astonished that my mind could play such a trick on me,” he said.

Pardon my French, but Bull Almighty Fucking Shit. I’ve got the worst memory in the history of Milton Bradley and I can do better than that.

Ms. Chand isn’t buying it either:

 

Ms. Chand said in a telephone interview that she did not believe Mr. Walsch’s explanation. “If he knew this was wrong, he should have known it was wrong before he got caught,” she said. “Quite frankly, I’m not buying it.”

But wait, there’s more! On Walsch’s personal blog, after he confessed all and admitted he’d made a big honking mistake, over 100 readers and fans fell all over themselves to reassure him that he was still, in fact, the man. Among the highlights of what-the-fuckery:

I don’t see the big deal in what happened, and I mean no disrespect to Ms. Chand. Stuff like that happens to me, and all of us, all the time.

When I thought it through, I realized that this idea could have been seeded into many minds through the collective consciousness, and that it was in no way plagiarism on your part. Heck, I could have heard something like that somewhere and wrote away, its possible.

I sinscerely pray that Ms. Chand accepts your gracious apology in light of the circumstances that you have attempted to correct the misconception…. I can imagine a possibility that Ms. Chand might even be flattered by an author of your stature finding in her work such quality that it moved him to breed further life into it by putting it on this very public and popular forum. I can even conceive of the possibility that Ms. Chand, whom sadly I have never heard, might actually benefit from the attention given it.

This Candy Chand is also a spiritual writer. Neale was spiritual enough to recognize his mistake, let’s hope Candy Chand and Beliefnet are spiritual enough to forgive it.

While a few readers call Walsch to task for his deceit, most reassure him and beg him to continue writing, even though BeliefNet, where Walsch’s plagiarising of Chand’s story occurred on 28 December 2008, has withdrawn Walsch from their group of writers. In most of the comments online, plagiarism yet again is a theft that is made into a minor borrowing when a bigger celebrity does the word harvesting.

In a rather eerie coincidence noticed only by, well, me, this week marks the date of the first post one year ago about another plagiarism scandal. Only instead of “the authors ought to be flattered” comments, our story garnered, and we still receive, “You are evil and you’re going to hell and I’ll be the one to send you there” email.

Plagiarism: still making readers batshit crazy after all these years.

 

Categorized:

Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Ron Hogan says:

    Those “spiritual” Walsch fans deserve to have a plagiarist like him as a hero.

    Personally, if my reputation as an author rested on the idea that I’d been having conversations with God, the last thing I would tell readers is that my mental health is so sloppy that I could believe I’d had an experience I clearly never had.

  2. 2
    Barb Ferrer says:

    My favorite quote from the NY Times article?

    “As a professional writer, when someone appears to plagiarize, they damage the industry, they damage other writers’ credibility and they hurt the reader because they never know what to believe anymore.”

    Sing it, Ms. Chand.  Freakin’ sing it.

    Also?  What Ron said.

  3. 3
    EJ McKenna says:

    *mentally puts the brakes on*

    “It’s not like I’m trying to find an audience or trying to impress anybody with my writing,” he said.

    pffffft!

  4. 4
    CourtneyLee says:

    Can I just say that I adore the term “what-the-fuckery”?

  5. 5
    SonomaLass says:

    Pisses me off, totally.  Don’t steal—how hard is that?  One of the easiest commandments, right?  No ambiguous verbs like “covet” or “honor”—stealing is stealing.  Just don’t.

    I can only imagine how I would react if I caught a student plagiarizing and she or he responded with that “it was ‘seeded into many minds through the collective consciousness and … was in no way plagiarism’” bullshit. Trip to the dean’s office, anyone?

  6. 6

    Gotta admit, I’m a little skeptical that somebody could ‘accidentally’ relay a story that’s not their own without really realizing.  Which also makes me leery of accepting any apology offered by the plagiarist.

  7. 7
    Lori says:

    Pardon my French, but Bull Almighty Fucking Shit.

    I phrased it slightly differently, but this was basically my reaction too.  Does the man have Alzheimer’s, amnesia or a serious drinking problem?  If not there’s no way he that he can expect us to believe that he thought someone else’s holiday story happen to him. 

    And the guy’s fans deserve him.  Things in the “collective consciousness” get into your head in such a way that you think they happened to you?  Seriously?  They have medication for that level of delusion and you should be on it.  Dang.

  8. 8
    ev says:

    I was listening to some idiot on the Today Show this morning telling everyone how to handle things with kids. She told the story about a friend whose dog brought home a neighbors rabbit and it was dead. So she cleaned it up and put it back in the cage. Turns out the rabbit died a week before and had been buried and now the kids were all confused. Uh, me thinks that has been making the rounds on line for years. Guess it got into her collective memory too. Idiot.

  9. 9
    Joanna says:

    @ SB Sarah
    You get hate mail for pointing out something that is there? It’s not like you generated the plagerism to defame her or something! Wow! Would you feel like sharing it? I have a secret obsession with hate mail, especially the badly spelled stuff. Or the ones that run into really long sentances and don’t use puncuation at all not even at the end of a paragraph or a comma so you can take a mental breath.
    Please?
    Also collective memory for the win! Marx would be so proud…

  10. 10
    Leah says:

    From what I read, the inspirational incident Walsche wrote about was something that Chand actually saw happen at her child’s Christmas program.  I can’t imagine he would really think it was some story he’d been telling for years.  And you know, even if it was…. All of us have seen the same little stories floating through our e-mail over and over and over again.  But even I, with my horrible memory, would never think that I experienced the Special Olympics story, or the kid-saved-from suicide-by-friendly-words story.  Why couldn’t he just have written: “I read this wonderful story by Candy Chand, and with her permission, I would like to share it with you.”  Would that have been so hard????

  11. 11
    Gutenberg says:

    I must be getting old. 

    A year ago, this would have made me angry.  Like batshit-crazy-bust-a-blood-vessel angry.  Now?  This just makes me sad.  And disappointed. 

    What is so hard to see that theft is theft—even if what’s stolen are “only” words? 

    Between the plagiarism scandals and the “I was raised by wolves—but not really” pseudo-memoirs, I can’t help but wonder if the publishing industry deserves to go to hell in a handbasket.

  12. 12
    Teresa says:

    One important point for authors to keep in mind is that copyright infringement doesn’t have an intent requirement.

    In other words, whether we believe the excuse or not matters for plagiarism, but not for copyright.

  13. 13
    rebyj says:

    Well,  the source of his usual material hasn’t published anything new in over 2000 years!

  14. 14
    JoanneL says:

    In a rather eerie coincidence noticed only by, well, me, this week marks the date of the first post one year ago about another plagiarism scandal.

    Did I read that somewhere before or is it an original thought of my own?

    Oh, yeah, Sarah said it above. I’m chagrined and astonished that my mind could play such a trick on me……….

  15. 15
    KimberlyD says:

    As if Ms. Chand should be flattered that someone stole her story and passed it off as his own for years! Now, if dirtbag had said, “I’d like to share a story I heard from Candy Chand…” then MAYBE she should be flattered that a bigger-name author was acknowledging her publicly and getting her name out. But stealing and not giving credit is so not flattering. Not at all.

  16. 16
    Nora Roberts says:

    This is such buggering bullshit, with its usual lead of gee, it was unconscious, and the chorus of hey, hey, the victim should be flattered and forgiving.

    My sympathies and support to Ms. Chand.

  17. 17
    MamaNice says:

    Do they have a service desk in the “You’ve Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me Department?”  Cuz I’d sure find something like that handy one or two or twenty times a day.

    KimD that’s what triggered my pissed off reflex too – look if, say,  La Nora (like you’d ever in a million years) “borrowed” a story of mine without any credit, flattery would be swiftly followed by…“Hey! You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”

    And then I’d need that service desk again.

    Who came up with the saying “imitation is the finest compliment you can receive” (or some such craptasticness)?

    It’s not that hard to credit people you borrow stuff from. I read something recently (Love Walked In…I think?) and the author takes the time to give credit to all sorts of sources for her material: including a few of the specific stories that occur, a joke or two, and even a pick up line one of her characters uses. I thought, how cool and classy of her to do that!

  18. 18

    Oh, this is one of those times with an sad face and an “I’m deeply sorry for this egregious error” would have been more than enough. He’s just digging himself in deeper trying to play it off as a trick of his mind. Good grief!

  19. 19
    Brandy says:

    it moved him to breed further life into it

    Breathe further life into it.  Breathe.

    Is it sad that out of that whole post this is what bothered me the most?

  20. 20

    Creepy typo of my morning:

    “breed further life into it”

    Brandy, I’m with ya. When your fans are illiterate… that doesn’t say a whole lot about your writing.

    Plus, now I’m stuck with the image of the author laying eggs into someone’s body of work.

    *shudder*

  21. 21
    Nora Roberts says:

    Rebecca, the unintentional-unconscious-accidental mind trick excuse is in Chapter One of The Plagiarist’s Handbook.

    Honestly, I can’t think of one time I haven’t heard this—or the feckless research assistant—as the rationale for copying someone else’s work.

    Just as I have never heard of an incident not being followed by the further victimization of the victim of plagiarism by the plagiarist’s apologists and fans.

  22. 22
    Midknyt says:

    My guess would be the fans are defensive because if he just got caught, and badly, with having a touching god story he said happened to him that didn’t really happen to him at all, it doesn’t really bode well for the rest of his work that they may have invested some of their faith in.

    Oops.

    My personal hate mail favorite on the other plagarism case was the one comment that said we were responsible for her having a stroke.  Take that for smiting.  Better watch out Mr. Walsch.

  23. 23
    Barb Ferrer says:

    Is it sad that out of that whole post this is what bothered me the most?

    Not the only one.  My first thought had to do with black-footed ferrets.  Hand to God.

  24. 24
    Suze says:

    Plus, now I’m stuck with the image of the author laying eggs into someone’s body of work.

    Yeah, thanks for that.  Bleargh.

    Is it cynical of me to always assume that people who are out pushing their oneness with god upon the public are always trying to compensate for their evilness?  Seriously, the more religious a person tries to appear, the bigger the crimes I assume.

  25. 25
    Leah G says:

    Is it cynical of me to always assume that people who are out pushing their oneness with god upon the public are always trying to compensate for their evilness?  Seriously, the more religious a person tries to appear, the bigger the crimes I assume

    Nah.  It’s that “devil appearing as an angel of light” thing.  It works quite well, apparently, so we see it all the time.  Oh, that and “let him who thinks he is without sin take heed lest he fall.”  That’s a loose paraphrase, but I think it applies here.

  26. 26
    Lisa Hendrix says:

    Does the man have Alzheimer’s, amnesia or a serious drinking problem?

    He’s an ex-homeless guy who hears voices.

    Duh.

    We used to put them in mental wards. Now we put them on Oprah and the ‘net.

  27. 27
    joykenn says:

    Ok, my memory IS bad but I can’t find the great example on the web or in a blog that Nora? and/or someone else gave of plagerism with a short paragraph of a romance then converted to a different ethnic group and plagerized and then reworked so it wasn’t plagerism.  It was during the whole Cassie Edwards thing.  Part of a speech at the RWA?  Darn my memory!  Can someone help my failing memory out?  I believe the plagerism example was a hispanic retelling of the original?  It was such a great example!

  28. 28
    sandra says:

    My reaction to the original incident ( A child holds the M upsidedown so it looks like a W) would be to think, not “It’s a miracle”, but “What a stupid kid!”  Back in 1987, Colleen McCullough published a book called The Ladies of Missalonghi, which was a TOTAL ripoff of one called The Blue Castle by Lucy Maude Montgomery.  ExampleL the heroine of TLOM is a small, thin, dark. shy spinster who lives in a small town in Australia with her aunt and mother.  In the first scene, she gets up, puts on a brown dress, and eats porridge for breakfast.  The heroine of TBC is a small, thin, dark, shy spinster who lives in a small town in Canada with her aunt and mother. In the first scene, she gets up, puts on a brown dress and eats porridge for breakfast.  And so it goes.  When this was pointed out to McCullough, her people called it “a coincidence”! Spamword is makes82 as in “That makes 82 plagarists who have used that dumb excuse.”

  29. 29
    Octavia says:

    Yup, bullshit. I’d be willing to accept his excuse if he said that he found it on his harddrive and couldn’t remember whether he wrote it or not. I know that happened to me, though only with little pieces of writing and only when they were fiction. In which case, well, Google is your friend and I’d err on the side of caution and not publish it. But internalizing? No way. At the minimum I think he still would’ve known it was fictionalized and not a memory.

    Moreover, this blogger pointed out that he neatly left out the original first paragraph where Ms. Chand wrote about “baking” and “decorating”, because those activities could possibly out the first person as being, well, a woman. So if he indeed ‘found it on his harddrive’ and forgot he didn’t write it, he tried to steal it years ago.

    Nor does his apology sound much like an apology. He keeps going on about his ‘error’ (not a ‘mistake, more like a typo) and when he says, “I hope that she will accept my personal deep regret that such a thing occurred. I never would have believed it could happen.” he still manages to paint himself as a victim – of his own mind.

  30. 30
    Melissa McCauley says:

    Bullshit!
    How can you mis-remember your child’s school play – that you never attended?
    Unless he’s on drugs, which explains everything

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