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.

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