Lianne Spiderbaby Didn’t Plagiarise Me, But I’m Angry Anyway

20 Jul
Lianne Spiderbaby, Plagiarist

Lianne Spiderbaby, Plagiarist

There is a very, very special place in Hell for people who plagiarise other writers’ work and pass it off as their own.

Recently, Lianne Spiderbaby (real name Lianne MacDougall), a well-known figure in the horror industry, who wrote for many horror publications, including FEARnet, Fangoria, Video Watchdog and was one of the hosts of the Fright Bytes YouTube channel was revealed to be a prolific plagiariser by Mike White of Impossible Funky.

Following an anonymous tip, White compiled a detailed and damning report into MacDougall’s body of work, which revealed that most of her articles, including her popular Spiderbaby’s Terror Tapes column on FEARnet, were not her own work, and had been largely ripped off from a number of other writers. Following the publication of this blog post, and the media attention surrounding this story, (MacDougall is, according to reports, dating Quentin Tarantino, himself no stranger to plagiarism controversies), more examples of MacDougall’s habit of passing off other people’s work as her own was discovered.

I’m not going to waste time and energy trying to work out what MacDougall’s motivation was for plagiarising other, and often unpaid writers, because, I don’t care about why she did it. I don’t particularly care about MacDougall, or her alter-ego, or who she may or may not be in a relationship with. I care about the writers she plagiarised, I care about the horror community, and I care about journalism.

When a someone is caught plagiarising, it’s not usually a first time offence. They could have been getting away with it for weeks, months, perhaps even longer. And when their plagiarism is uncovered, they are only sorry that they have been caught. Plagiarism destroys a writer’s reputation, it damages the reputation of the publication that writer worked for and it brings the journalism industry into disrepute. When someone decides to plagiarise someone else’s work, everyone loses.

In MacDougall’s case, each of the publications she has written for has been damaged in their own way, especially those that tried to defend her when the news of her plagiarism went viral. It’s embarrassed the horror community, a community where women aren’t as well represented as men. It will have affected the people who read her work, and her editors, but it’ll have hurt the unpaid or underpaid writers that she stole from, it’ll have hurt the bloggers that write because of their love of writing and film, and those that write in the hope of furthering their careers.

Plagiarists don’t deserve to be defended by publications, or have publications running scared about reporting the news of their lack of journalistic merit or talent, they deserve our condemnation. Plagiarists can’t plead ignorance; it’s well-known that plagiarism is deemed by many industries to be highly unethical. It’s not allowed in schools, colleges, or universities, in fact, it can get you expelled from all three of them. It is, essentially, the theft of another person’s intellectual property; it’s lazy, it’s selfish and it’s a very, very stupid thing to do.

I will never forget the day that I experienced plagiarism for the first time. I was a few months into my role of theatre editor at The Journal when I got a call from my editor, asking about a review written by one of my writers, a girl I will call Emma, for that was her name. Emma was studying a Journalism Masters, she was attentive, always asking for more reviewing work, and often asking for feedback on her pieces. I was pretty new at this editing lark, so I spent a lot of time giving her detailed notes and editing her reviews, which were often over the word count.

One publication weekend, a sub editor discovered similarities between Emma’s review of a dance piece, and a review of the same performance which had been published by another publication a few days earlier. The sub editor then checked her other reviews, and found that they had all been plagiarised in varying degrees from a number of sources, including one national publication and a local paper. In some cases, entire paragraphs had been copied and pasted into her copy. In others, some sentences bore striking similarities to other reviews of the same show. However, luckily, in more than one case, I’d unwittingly removed large parts of the plagiarised copy while editing her ‘work’.

Emma was confronted and denied everything, despite the evidence to the contrary. Emma was fired. However, Emma continued her course, graduated and the last thing I heard was that she was working for the BBC. But Karma catches up with everyone, eventually.

While MacDougall has so far said very little on the subject bar releasing one meagre tweet apologising for the “plagiarism in my work” (here’s a hint, if you plagiarise other people’s writing, it’s not your “work”, it’s theirs) it’s not enough. MacDougall has treated these writers, publications and the horror industry at large with utter contempt, displaying an unbelievable amount of cowardice along the way.

Her failure to answer for her actions, or attempt to redress the wrongs that she has committed is as infuriating as it is disappointing. It’s only right that she should face the consequences for her actions, although some are questioning whether this will happen at all, thanks to MacDougall’s position and her attempts at damage control, which included shutting down her blog and Twitter account, blaming her intern and pleading with editors to remove articles discussing her plagiarism.

Journalism is a very difficult industry to get into, especially given the current economic climate. The industry is constantly being questioned and analysed, it has suffered from recent scandals, from the rise of print journalism, from the loss of revenue. But the industry has suffered most from the loss of trust that has resulted from unethical practises, such as plagiarism, phone hacking and other sleazy methods that hurt people and damage journalism.

Lianne Spiderbaby has been damned by her own web of lies and deceit, and so, it’s up to the rest of us to salvage what we can and start building up trust with readers once more.

UPDATE:

After I wrote this post, I read BJ Colangelo’s posts on her fantastic Day Of The Woman blog, naming some of the best female horror journalists working in the industry right now.

These lists are super awesome, and it would be criminal not to celebrate the amazing work that these women are doing in the field.

And no, none of these amazing women are plagiarists!

Part One:

http://dayofwoman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/female-horror-journalists-you-should-be.html

Part Two:

http://dayofwoman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/female-horror-journalists-you-should-be_18.html

 

 

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7 Responses to “Lianne Spiderbaby Didn’t Plagiarise Me, But I’m Angry Anyway”

  1. Michael July 21, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    Its a pretty serious issue,that is for sure. The fact that its more of a serial stealing then a one time event is troubling. I can understand being angry…and I think Lianne has a LONG way to go in trying to regain any trust.

    • trashtaylor July 21, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

      Hi Michael,

      Absolutely, the fact that this is appears to be a case of serial plagiarism and not a one off, is deeply, deeply troubling to me. This could be a behaviour she learned in university, school, I’m not sure.

      As for regaining trust, I very much doubt that she will be welcome as a writer, in either the horror industry or the journalism industry. Whether she realises this now or later is up to her.

  2. stigmatophilia July 30, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    Great article, and I totally agree. The whole episode saddened me greatly, knowing how hard people work to produce work and then to have some half-assed ‘apology’ from this thief who hasn’t even got the balls to stand up and admit her mistakes. I remember a girl was caught copying work at Uni and was promptly kicked out, never to be heard of again, and rightly so! I am sure Liane Spiderbaby will make some minor celebrity career out of this though, once the dust has settled. On a side note I have been reviewing the actual Spider Baby as part of an article and because of this woman’s association with the name now it just makes me seeth when I hear it!

    • trashtaylor July 30, 2013 at 7:45 am #

      Thank you!

      The Spiderbaby scandal (and yes, I’m a bit annoyed that she took that name too) has been really quite upsetting, not only because she got away with it for so long, but also because so many people tried to defend her plagiarism!

      I was taught that plagiarism would end a journalist’s career, and rightly so, because all a journalist has is their integrity. Thanks to people like Spiderbaby (urgh, sorry) genre journalism has lost respect and I think you’re right, she will try to spin this into some sort of career, but let’s hope she fails miserably.

  3. elizabethbennett September 17, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Apparently stolen material has been located in her college papers as well. This isn’t someone who made a mistake. It’s a person who doesn’t have the ideas, brains, or talent to produce their own writing, but whose sociopathic sense of entitlement told them they deserved to be published and become a “somebody” in Hollywood no matter what it took, and who has experienced some narcissistic panic at being caught, but hasn’t experienced, and will not experience, one second of actual guilt, shame, or remorse.

    • trashtaylor September 17, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

      I’d heard rumours that evidence of plagiarism had been found in her college papers too, and I don’t doubt those rumours.

      This is not about making mistakes, you’re quite right; it’s about a learned lazy behaviour that this person picked up at some point in there life and it’s now only just being discovered. Panic isn’t what drives these people; it’s entitlement and greed.

      I sincerely hope she doesn’t try and write again, but with people like her, you never know.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. We Need to Talk About Plagiarism | The Taylor Trash - September 27, 2013

    […] right, because it does feel like that, and from recent examples like Lianne ‘The Queen of Cut and Paste’ Spiderbaby, to Shaun Munro and T.J. Barnard from WhatCulture! it feels like the journalism industry has been […]

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