It was brought to our attention earlier this week that an article by one of our writers, Allen Quatermain, plagiarized a 1966 newspaper ad by the John Birch society in his article, “#Gamergate is a Critical Battle in the War to Save Western Society.” This was first pointed out by David Futrelle on his site, We Hunted the Mammoth. Futrelle takes the unusual position that this was some kind of elaborate troll job. However, given the obscure nature of the pamphlet and organization in question (The Birchers haven’t been a significant force in American politics since the early 1960s, and the pamphlet itself is an attempt to recruit more members), his explanation seems rather unlikely, and we are instead treating it as a more simple act of plagiarism.
While not a direct copy, large portions of Mr. Quatermain’s article do seem to have been taken from the ad with only moderate rewording. For example, here is a quote from the article:
What cultural Marxists fear is exposure. For this reason we do all that we can to bring to our fellow people more knowledge and a better understanding of the methods, the progress. and the menace of the SJW machine. In this undertaking we have become a new form of opposition to the SJW’s which they have never faced before in any of the vast areas they have already taken over.
And here’s a quote from the pamphlet:
The only danger to their gigantic conspiracy with the Communists fear is exposure. For this reason, we do all that we can to bring to our fellow citizens more knowledge and a better understanding of the methods, the progress, and the menace of the Communist machine. In this undertaking we have become a new form of opposition to the Communists which they have never faced in any of the vast areas they have already taken over.
It is, of course, possible for a writer to unconsciously copy portions, even large portions, of work he has read. Given the amount of copying, however, and the specificity of it, we believe that this is a case of deliberate plagiarism.
As a site that was founded on a commitment to ethics in gaming journalism, plagiarism is something we take very seriously. The same night Futrelle’s allegations were published, an update was added to the top of the article in question, and an effort was made to contact Mr. Quatermain. Unfortunately, he has not responded, and has made no attempts to defend himself against these allegations. For this reason, we are no longer accepting articles from Mr. Quatermain, and his posting privileges have been revoked.
I’ve also spent some time reviewing his other articles for plagiarism as well, and while fortunately I’ve found no signs of it, if anyone finds other examples of plagiarism in his or any other of our writer’s works, please contact me via the address on the ethics page.
As many are already using this as an excuse to attack #Gamergate, I believe it’s worth pointing out how our site is handling this issue in contrast to the way other gaming sites have handled their own ethical controversies.
Mr. Quatermain has broken our policies, and he is being removed from the staff for doing so. He is not being reassigned, or docked in pay, or issued a stern warning. He is being fired, and he is no longer welcome at this site or any other sites in our network. We have a zero tolerance policy for this.
Contrast this with Kotaku. On July 29th of last year, Kotaku author Nathan Grayson plagiarized an article by French author Corentin Lamy in his post, “Your Favorite Elder Scrolls Character Probably Died A Horrible Death.” No action was ever taken against Grayson for this serious breach of journalistic ethics. Not even so much as a stern warning. He’s still writing there today.
This post has described in full detail what happened and what steps we’re taking to deal with this issue. Mr. Quatermain’s original article has had its title updated and a note placed at the very top of the text so that readers are sure to see it.
Contrast this with: Polygon and Kotaku, who updated their ethics policies in the early days of Gamergate after serious lapses were pointed out. This is a good thing, of course, but when they described the changes, there was no admission as to what had caused the changes to be made or why they were making them. The information was simply delivered from on high and quickly forgotten.
This was brought to our attention on the 8th, and as of the 10th, the writer has been fired and the article updated to reflect our findings. Even this small delay was to allow Mr. Quatermain a chance to rebut the allegations against him, which again, he unfortunately chose not to avail himself of.
Contrast this with: IGN. In response to the numerous ethical lapses that #Gamergate has pointed out, IGN has finally updated their ethics policy. In January. Several months after Gamergate began, and years after it should have been done. And just like Polygon and Kotaku these changes were made with no acknowledgment of the reasons behind them.
This was a sad incident for us, and I would like to apologize to all our readers for allowing this to happen. We take our commitment to ethics in gaming journalism very seriously, and hope that you will continue to move forward with us into the future.