Plagiarism is bad. Plagiarism is Plagiarism. Plagiarism is mostly vibes.
A bunch of people you don’t need to know and may not have cared about before this conversation started all failed this vibe check.
Plagiarism is bad because it erases the work of a lot of people, who aren’t rich and successful and don’t have huge audiences.
You know about this now thanks to a guy who is successful and has a huge audience.
That’s it. That’s all you actually need to know from H Bomberguy’s four hour long video Plagiarism And You (Tube). If you’ve heard people talking about Illuminaughti, Internet Historian or James Somerton, this is why, and if you heard them talk about Lukey Poo, no you didn’t. The video is about two hours of specific examples digging into the work of James Somerton, and the rest is unpacking the story of these other youtubers. Illuminaughti is a content mill producer who is, apparently, an asshole, and Internet Historian is like if a page from KnowYourMeme decided to talk, complete with being a thief and a surprisingly large number of Nazis in the comments. If you didn’t know them, you don’t know them and you won’t know them.
It is a Topic, it is a Discourse, it is something people care about and talk about and are interested about. It basically vaporised James Somerton, who within the runtime of the video went from ‘oh, this is just a hit job’ to ‘goodbye forever’ where he deleted his discord and channels and locked down everything and vanished off the internet, which made sense because everything he had that didn’t have comments locked was full of fans of Hbomberguy saying ‘hey, you’re a plagiarist.’ This is strange because Hbomberguy said that anyone harrassing anyone for their misdeeds would not see heaven. It’s like he told you in the video a thing to do and then a lot of people didn’t do that.
The thing is, it’s four hours long.
It’s four hours long. It’s four hours long and it’s one video about five topics and one of those topics is plagiarism and it doesn’t give a good or meaningful discussion of what plagiarism is, or how to identify it. But don’t worry, after three hours and forty-five minutes, Hbomb gives as a coda to his video, a talk about how all this media being made through uncredited copying of the work of others has caused real material harm, by making it hard to find and connect to that work. Like putting it at the end of three and a half hours of video.
When the video was new, I had a friend approach me and ask what was in it. So I told them. They didn’t know who Illuminaughti is, so telling them ‘hey, here’s a youtube lady who sucks’ doesn’t mean anything. Same with Internet Historian, same with James Somerton, and then at the end the question lingered: Okay, so why watch it?
Which is hard to answer, y’know?
Hypothetically the HBomberguy video is about a bad practice, with examples to try and address it. It opens by spending twenty minutes on someone who already did the bad thing and was caught doing the bad thing and was punished doing the bad thing, and this is important to present an example.
It doesn’t define plagiarism, by the way.
This four hour video presents an explanation for what plagiarism is, twice; once, when criticising Illuminaughti in a conversation with her, around the one hour mark, he says it’s ‘passing off work that’s not yours as yours,’ which counts as a definition of plagiarism but it also fits her definition of not adequately sourcing the work – ie, where she got the words she’s using from. But don’t worry, he also explains that plagiarism is ‘vibes.’
And I can understand only providing this kind of insight into what plagiarism is, and what it does, because there’s so little time in the video to dedicate to clear definitions or explanations of things, what with the tight runtime and focus on clear communication of its ideas.
Before I go on I guess I should clarify that I don’t think that Hbomberguy should bother reading this. There’s nothing in here that I consider useful criticism for him. He’s clearly made a successful career doing the thing he’s doing, and anything I have to say about what he did or should do isn’t helpful. I especially don’t think you, in my audience, should think ‘I can and should do things like that,’ because I think it’s not harder to do a better version of what he’s doing. For example, you could make your point in less than four hours.You could platform and present the people who were hurt on the other end of a four hour video about a liar, rather than on the far side, at the end, after four hours. I’m not mad that Harris Barras Garrus made a four hour long drama video about an interesting topic and presented it interestingly. It’s what he does, it’s literally his job to emerge from the wilds once or twice a year and drop a multi-hour examination of whatever his personal brain worms have been brewing on for and he only has
Nineteen Thousand Paid Backers A Month At A Minimum Rate Of $3.50 A Month?
That threw the whole meter of that paragraph off, but I was genuinely shocked when I checked that. I thought the guy was pulling down like, 60k a year not 60k a month.
See, I know there’s an element of jealousy and frustration in all this. This is a guy who is getting car money a month to make points on the internet, and he released in 2023 two videos according to his Patreon. That means for about $789,000, those patrons supplied the world with two videos, one of which was only for them, and it was about Myst. Which may be great! It may be great. I have something like six hundred subscribers and teach classes of about twenty people at a time, and I do not get that kind of money, and I have to like, make sure that I’m clear in what I’m communicating and describing and it’s not important to be funny as much as it is important to be correct.
Undeniably part of me is just overwhelmed by how a guy (and a team, obviously, because four hours is a lot of work, right) can make a Pretty Good four hour video which I think does a mid job of communicating its ideas and command a significant fraction of a million dollars, while I am considering how I am going to transfer money between sales platforms to help pay for rent this fortnight. But HBG has a million subscribers. HBG is a big name and a big deal in the space he’s at. HBG is at a level of success that hearing him refer to ‘small creators’ as people with a hundred thousand subscribers leaves me-
Again, a nobody with six hundred subscribers –
agog at the things that seem obvious to me. Things like ‘respect your audience’s time.’ And maybe ‘make your points clearly and well.’
One point that HBomberguy’s four hour video on plagiarism returned to was how much money people were making with their videos pumping out a lot of content easily and cheaply and how this deprived smaller channels of attention and money that hypothetically they’d be getting, right? Right? Because they would, right? That’s how the Youtube space works. If James Somerton wasn’t producing his work and getting his audience, the people he stole from would have gotten it instead… right? We have to hope that’s how it works… right?
(Ah, but he platformed a bunch of people who were plagiarised! Great! Cool! Do that more? Do that more often than just once? Especially in a video you say you’re not going to do again?)
I do think that when you’re talking about a video on a topic you think is important, about a serious problem that makes it harder for people with smaller and less prominent voices to get attention, to connect to an audience, it stings a little for the most important thing in the whole four hour video to be a task that you describe as ‘vibes,’ or ‘passing work off as your own.’ That sucks! I’m going to be teaching in a few weeks, and in that, I’m going to have to talk to them about plagiarism. Odds are good I’m going to have at least one fairly online student who’s going to bring this up!
And sure! I should expect the students in a class to reach a higher standard than I expect a youtuber presenting on a subject they care about. But he’s getting paid an absolute shitload more than I am and he’s going to get repeated by more people than I am and he’s going to be seen as giving good advice by more people. I saw after this video dropped other youtubers talking about how they were concerned about their ‘doing plagiarism’ because they quoted wikipedia in a video. I saw other youtubers talking about how ‘plagiarism is illegal,’ and that’s why it was bad, and… it’s not. I’m sure I’m going to have to have a student in my class where and I’m going to have to explain to them how a large language model isn’t ‘complicated stealing,’ and that being funny and witty isn’t the same thing as being clear, or correct.
It’s a good video! It’s very enjoyable. It was funny and had good jokes in it. It’s also made people mostly interested in talking about how much James Somerton sucks and address his actual harms like victimising and bullying people, because sure, the guy was a misogynist and a bully and a liar and a fraud but now thanks to a youtube channel with a million subscribers making a point about how bad he sucks in another way, then finally, there’s some redress and the other people don’t care and won’t change. Oh and we now have a body of new creators who have an incorrect idea of what plagiarism is and how to make a good point cleanly. It could have been ten minutes long and come out half a year earlier and not let James Somerton cash six more cheques from his three thousand Patreon subscribers. This could have been five videos, split apart for easy approach and access, but it won’t, be, because it’s not about being right or communicating well, or distributing good information easily.
It’s about making a four hour drama video for an audience that love to hear the things he does in the way he does them. The immune system of Youtube is poisoned by being Youtube.
There’s got to be a better way to do this.