Paying a stranger to write a paper for you when you're a college student is called plagiarism.  The other day NPR's On the Media did a story on someone who ghost wrote what he called "model papers."  When pressed about what would justify his actions, he produced a blizzard of sophistry:

BOB GARFIELD: Let me just quote from you here. Quote, “Writing model term papers is above-board and perfectly legal. Thanks to the First Amendment it’s protected speech, right up there with neo-Nazi rallies, tobacco company press releases and those ‘9/11 was an inside job’ bumper stickers.”

So, I mean, I don't want to be putting words in your mouth, but I think what you’re saying is legal but repulsive, sleazy.


BOB GARFIELD: Unethical, morally disgraceful. Am I leaving anything out?

NICK MAMATAS: No, that pretty much sums it up, yeah.

BOB GARFIELD: So Nick, how do you rationalize your behavior? I mean, it sounds kind of whorish to me.

NICK MAMATAS: Mm, well again, I also think that prostitution should be legal, and I've written several term papers about that over the years.

As far as my own work in term papers, basically I felt my other writing was more important. You know, everyone makes these decisions. What about people who work in munitions factories, or who work for defense contractors?

So we all make these decisions. It’s just a cost benefit analysis. In the end, I felt I benefited from writing these papers ‘cause it allowed me to work at home and write novels and short stories and articles. And the people who were buying the papers, well, they – that was their decision. They could take that as a model paper, and many of them did. They could hand it in and roll the dice, ‘cause I was always happy, always thrilled, actually, to hand in a paper to a professor. If the client, you know, was trying to pull one over on me, or was even nasty to me sometimes, I'd just sort of like secretly fax it.

So Mr. Mamatas seems to think that ghost writing term papers is morally disgraceful, yet despite not being morally justified, it's morally justified.  What follows are his justifications and in parentheses what I think is their appropriate interpretation.

(1) He was able to do his other writing with the income from writing "model papers" (I only lied and cheated because it benefited me!something is morally justified if you benefit in some way from it).

(2) Everyone makes cost/benefit decisions (a general and irrelevant rule which doesn't apply to my circumstance in particular applies to it).

(3) Other people work for munitions factories and defense contractors (other people have jobs I have improperly characterized as morally questionable so that makes it ok for me to have a self-evidently morally unjustifiable job).

(4) Whether the paper which was produced for the sole purposes of cheating–otherwise there would be no income, as professors provide model papers all of the time–was used for its stated purpose depended on the person who turned it in, not on the person who profited from that person's attempted deceit (I produced papers for entertainment purposes only, should anyone actually use it for its intended purpose, the purpose for which I produced it and the reason I was paid for it, well, I can't be held responsible for that).

(5) There is no honor among thieves, if you're mean to Mr.Mamatas, he'll turn you in (I'm not only a dishonest person in regards to honest people, I'm a dishonest person in regards to dishonest people–so it's ok).

4 thoughts on “Plagiarism”

  1. My original post attempted to rationalize Mr. Mamatas’s rationalization. It failed.

    (1), at least, doesn’t seem to be a claim to justification, but just a reason why he did it, despite its “moral disgracefulness.”

    After that though, he gets a little crazy.

  2. PS: It seems when you paste text from the story that’s bold or italicized into the comment box, there’s no way to remove the formatting. (in Firefox, anyway)

  3. “Blizzard of sophistry” is right! Mamatas is a master of misdirection. It’s hard not to admire his cleverness, if not his scumbaggery.

    He is a little crazy, too, and at the same time despises crazy people.

  4. Nick Mamatas is a classic sociopath, who arrogantly twists rationalization to justify his criminal actions. Mamatas is a writer who practices plagiarism and admittedly sees nothing legally, or immorally wrong with it. Thatís like a cop selling crack on the side to help keep up with mortgage payments, then when caught, blames society. And Mamatas does just that. In his essay, he blames the educational system, the students and the economy vs. foreigners for his actions.

    He even finds a way to blame the government in his interview with Bob Garfield.

    In other words he blames society for his profiteering — yet he sought out to commit plagiarism when he recognized it could help stabilize his career and financial situation.

    This is just about the lowest of the low. Why heís still taken seriously in the writing field goes way beyond me. It may be because heís good at what he does, but this shouldnít be a justification for his actions. Itís like saying, Roman Polanski was a†good director, so who cares of he raped a thirteen year old girl. As long as he generates money.
    Thatís the art of twisting logic, and Nick Mamatas is†a sad and sick person.

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