Glenn Reynolds reports that Sean-Paul Kelley, a.k.a. The Agonist, has apparently plagiarized some of his war updates from Stratfor’s paid reports. He has since apologized and, according to him, worked out an arrangement with Stratfor that allows him to continue posting some of their proprietary content.
(I’ve butted heads with Kelley in the past, so I’m hardly an objective observer. Suffice it to say that certain aspects of his writing—amply catalogued by Colby Cosh, or in my referenced posts—rub me the wrong way. However, I was charitable in linking him at the beginning of the war, and honestly thought he was providing a valuable service.)
A larger issue is raised by Daniel Drezner in his reaction:
As a graduate student in international relations, Kelley knew (or should have known) he was in the wrong as he was lifting Stratfor’s content, and he was in the wrong again when he initially tried to deny the plagiarism.
The problem Kelley faces now, as he admits in his apology post, is his loss of credibility (which, at least in my judgment, is pretty severe). As a member of the academic community, few things will damage one’s reputation more than presenting someone else’s ideas as your own. The big question is: if Kelley has fabricated and fibbed in his weblog, can the academic community trust him to be an honest researcher? That’s a very tough question, and it’s one that Kelley will need to have a good answer for—not just for his readers, who rightfully will question whether his reporting on the war effort can still be trusted, but also for his professors and potential employers, whether he decides on an academic or professional career.
Kelley's plagiarism is a blow to the credibility of the blogosphere. And it should be big news in the blogosphere. The Agonist has been a high-profile, high-visibility blogger since the start of the war. The war has caused his popularity surge. His seemingly uncanny line to information (now revealed to have been lifted whole cloth from Stratfor) helped him achieve that high visibility. And he still has it. The blogosphere has barely mentioned this.
Even more coverage is out there via Feedster and ThreadTrack, including takes from Dean Esmay (whose site was later DOSed by an Agonist reader), Andrea Harris (who, like me, recalls the “bloodthirsty warbloggers” incident), Grasshoppa, Amish Tech Support, Acidman, Letter from Gotham, Nicholas Jon, N.Z. Bear, Andrew Hagen, Gregory Harris, The Blogs of War and the Washington Post’s Filter column.
More reaction: Bill Middleton has a lengthy essay on his personal experiences with both Stratfor and Kelley; it doesn’t reflect very well on either. Also, Greg Greene notes that Kelley ought to be happy he’s not at Virginia.
Even more: Donald Sensing reviews the situation. Also, Meryl is planning to watch Kelley’s ecosystem rankings over the next few days; the morbidly curious can also monitor his traffic stats, which appear to be down sharply today (although there remain several hours to go, so take that with a grain of salt; an hourly report from yesterday doesn’t appear to be available for comparison purposes).
Meryl subsequently, and correctly, points out that Tuesdays are often slower than Mondays for blogs; however, a look at his monthly traffic doesn't show as big of a Tuesday dropoff last week, and his week-on-week traffic has dropped substantially. However, there are plenty of other explanations: people could be bored with the war, for example, or they may have switched to getting their news from the better-sourced and more prolific Command Post, or the half-eyewitness, half-unsourced statements accompanied by wild speculation of the Beeb warblog, to name just two. Meryl also links to Mac Diva’s reaction, who raises an important point:
Technocrati [sic] currently lists The Agonist with 547 inbound blogs and 850 inbound links. His numbers dwarf those of all but the most popular blogs. They nudge the hard-working and honest Josh Marshall and DailyKos down in the ratings.
Dean Esmay has more to say; he makes some important points about copyright law (which, if people are going to learn from this mess, might be the one bit of good to come out of this), and he largely echos Mac Diva's reaction, in that a lot of other people’s honest work has been overshadowed by his meteoric rise to fame, much of it on the back of plagiarized material.
Via Agonist Watch: MSNBC’s weblog central picks up the story. Also, Mac Diva is incredibly unimpressed with A Clever Sheep’s defense of Kelley, and notes that USA Today’s web column has picked up the story.
“VodkaPundit” Stephen Green thinks Venomous Kate “has this one exactly wrong.” And Agonist Watch links to Jim Bassett’s take, which makes you wonder if Dean Esmay was so far off the mark. Because, remember kids, it’s OK to take advantage of someone else stealing—just as long as you don’t do it yourself.
Yet more, via Agonist Watch: CalPundit weighs in, and Matthew Yglesias has a second post on “Plagiarism in the Age of Google”; meanwhile, Tiny Little Lies has a vicious takedown of the state of liberal thought in the Blogosphere (*cough* Atrios)—which IMHO paints too broad a brush, but one can only read the latest Dem (or GOP, for that matter) talking points so many times without vomiting.
Meryl Yourish still thinks Kelley is ducking the issue. For your edification, compare Kelley’s stats with The Command Post’s; there’s a definite drop-off between the trends that can’t be attributed just to the war.
Atrios Hesiod is involved now. Happy happy, joy joy. (It’s not really about the plagiarism, you see—it’s really all about the stats.)
(Note Blogger archive breakage on some of the links; hack up the URLs accordingly. Also, I'm limiting my links to those that seem to have a particularly original take; however, Agonist Watch seems to be collecting everything.)