Brandon-Darby

After MSNBC host Rachel Maddow revealed that he had plagiarized speeches from WikiPedia and BuzzFeed reported that three pages of his book had been lifted from a “think tank” report, Senator Rand Paul moved his column from the Washington Times to Breitbart.com. At the time, we said it was a perfect fit for the Breitbart News narrative, but we might have added that plagiarism is actually the Breitbart business model. Remember, Andrew Breitbart’s page-loading genius was in creating a regular churn of barely-edited newsfeed content — “reblogging,” as it is known in the website business — through a right wing prism. As the Texas Observer‘s Christopher Hooks noted last week,

For the most part, Breitbart Texas’ output has been a mishmash of rote news aggregation, announcements that seem like transliterations of press releases in support of favored candidates, and an eclectic assortment of dispatches from the Breitbart contributor network, who receive $100 per post, according to the Daily Caller.

One such contributor, who goes by the twitter handle @OutOfTheBoxMom, wrote an article that consists of a list of participants and contributors to the South by Southwest Education conference. Another wrote an 88-word piece headlined “HOUSTON: SON SETS MOM’S APARTMENT ON FIRE FOR REFUSING TO BUY MARIJUANA.” It has more than a hundred comments. The source of the article—presumably a Houston Chronicle article from the same day—is not mentioned or linked to.

We also know that before his death, Andrew Breitbart encouraged Mandy Nagy to borrow heavily from Seth Allen’s hysterical ravings about Brett Kimberlin, but without attribution. It is therefore no surprise to learn that plagiarism is now an everyday practice at Breitbart News, and that the phenomenon is all the more visible at their new Texas and London verticals.

Our first example comes from the UK blog Zelo Street, which caught Breitbart London’s Nick Hallett apparently plagiarizing the Mail Online‘s Gerri Peev.

Here’s Ms Peev’s second paragraph: “A leaked briefing note for host David Dimbleby revealed he was urged to ask many more questions of former Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Heseltine, than the Labour work and pensions spokesman Rachel Reeves”.

Now the first paragraph of the Breitbart version, credited to Nick Hallett: “A leaked briefing note for BBC Question Time presenter David Dimbleby reveals that he was told to ask many more questions of Conservative panellist Lord Heseltine than Labour guest Rachel Reeves”. Rather adjacent, as John Arlott might have put it.

Our second example comes from Lee Stranahan, who was almost simultaneously hired and fired from his job at Breitbart Texas. Last week, Stranahan tweeted six examples of apparent plagiarism by Breitbart.com writer John David Kahn which our friend Bill Schmalfeldt has helpfully posted at his blog (with attribution, of course)

This sort of thing is not unheard of. At content-generation sites like Examiner.com, writers do this all the time — with a huge exception. Unless a writer was actually on the scene, read the actual police report or had some other way of determining facts of the story, even third-rate content-generator sites demand that the writer attribute items submitted as fact.  For instance, Kahn would be forgiven for writing, “According to the KTVU website (with appropriate linkage to the original story), officers received a call about an ‘unwanted guest’ at the nearby Somersville Towne Center.”

Without attribution, what is Kahn’s basis for knowing any of this? How can he write, “according to the police report” if he has not actually read the police report? And the examples continue.

In the video below, Stranahan also accuses Brandon Darby of plagiarizing the New York Times before he was promoted to editor of the new Breitbart Texas vertical. Darby’s elevation over other Breitbart.com writers speaks volumes about what the ethics and values of its management: he is a right wing new media “star” with no talent or education or experience, but all the right opinions. When Darby quashed Stranahan’s stories about Dan Backer and then fired him, the clear message to all Breitbart writers was that loyalty trumps journalistic integrity. We do not think Stranahan can really boast much of either quality, but there you are: the one with best ethics and the strongest writing, such as they are, has been fired. The plagiarists remain employed.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/Sx0fZVzhJEo[/youtube]

  • I am certainly no “Strana-fan”, but I do believe he was misused in this case. He was writing a story, backing it with factual research and evidence. It was actual, honest-to-God solid reporting.

    If only he weren’t such a cheesedick. (Said with love, of course…)

    The “Christian persecution” thing is great for donations because them conservative Christofascists, unlike real Christians, enjoy being fleeced by someone who tells them they are victims. Shit, people still give money to Jimmy Swaggart.

    I have respect for honest conservatives, and I think Lee has the potential to be a good, notable conservative writer if he would just land at a real news organization and write real stories, like the one Darby squashed.

    • Writing about Dan Backer, and the money machine that turned grassroots energy into insider spending, was the most professional and courageous thing we have ever seen Stranahan do. He was easily the most talented person left at Breitbart, which does not say very much for their “news” but does indicate he has the ability to succeed at a real job.

    • Jan

      Agree with you Bill.
      I, However, do still (and always will) find myself giving Stranahan the side eye. All them scams he is linked to (you reported on) piss me off because he played victim and blamed the people for bringing the scandal to light. (you wrote about it here, the one from 2004 or something, a booklet that never was delivered and a few other ones)
      Anyhow, I sometimes say to myself, maybe Stranahan was just someone who was using drugs and perhaps is trying to do good now? Then I bring myself back to Stuebenville via Stranahan. I just don’t know what to think of Stranahan anymore. I do think he tries to do good but f’s it up. Stanahan’s constant panhandling on twitter is questionable also. I understand that he is a free lance writer and doesn’t have the financial backing; it’s just so hard to trust him. He should just say; “Donations support my research” and do not promise anything like he did in the past that he didn’t deliver on.

    • Jan

      Bill did Stanahan really go outlet of the country for his Christian donations he is raising funds for? I didn’t watch his videos.

      • Jan

        I am commenting from my phone, I am sorry for the typos.
        I meant to say;
        Bill,
        Did Stranahan really go out of the country for his Christian film? I never watched his videos. Are you saying that fundraiser is legit?

  • Jan

    The WBC is a sick cult. The lowest of their lows was picketing Sandy Hook funerals.
    As a parent, my heart broke for them.