Plagiarise – let no-one else’s work evade your eyes!

IR won’t be IR without a Justin Rosenberg section! ®

The main highlight of this week was spotting one of the International Relations lecturers making a cameo appearance in another unit’s textbook. I’m sure that’s pure coincidence and not a case of academics boosting each other’s publicity!

However, it was also a privilege to read an essay referring to the economic historian Sir Hrothgar Habakkuk, not particularly because it was so superb an essay, but simply because the citation (Habakkuk 1975) seems as bizarre as citing (Ezekiel 550BCE) and (Isaiah 924BCE) in an academic work!

Plagiarise – remember why the good Lord made your eyes, so don’t shade your eyes

If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.
Wilson Mizner, 1953 Gabriel Webber, c2011

Sussex University unveiled the plagiarism-detecting TurnItIn software with a fanfare this week. Students can upload their essays to it, and receive an ‘originality report’ informing us of what percentage we pilfered from other, better writers before us.

The problem is, it’s rubbish.

It turned out that my essay on the EU was 13% plagiarised. For instance, my bibliography contained the line, Spanau, Calliope: Co-ordination of European Union Policy: the National Dimension. But the dastardly TurnItIn spotted straight away that I stole this phrase from a book called Co-ordination of European Union Policy: the National Dimension by Calliope Spanau. Foiled again!

It also saw through another ruse of mine, marking the phrase the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as plagiarised, because it had already been used in Britain’s treaty of accession to the EU, and presumably the writers of that treaty had shotgunned it and banned any subsequent use. Dear oh dear.

By the way, the titles of this blog post and of this section, featuring various highly amusing rhymes of the word ‘plagiarise’, were entirely created by me and are examples of my own sparkling wit. American songwriter and comedian Tom Lehrer had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

In other multimedias

The BBC was on a roll this week; she’s won two major awards, the first one for Understatement of the Year:


They also get the Innovative Use of Metaphor Prize for:


Last but not least, Southern Railway is the lucky winner of the Franz Kafka Prize for Customer Service, receiving extra credit for threatening me with a penalty fare for failing to satisfactorily navigate the following conundrum:

Ticket office: closed, please use machine. Machine: out of order, please use ticket office. How delightfully metaphysical.

Coming to a CiniMultiPlex® near you

gabriel tintin merged copy

Intrepid boy reporter Gabriel discovers a plagiarism gang at work in Sussex with tentacles stretching out across the South Coast, funded by a shady Milanese opera-singer known only as “Banker” Castafiore! Aided by retired military man Captain Padlock from University Security, as well as bumbling lecturers Thompson and Thomson, he embarks on a race across the world to reach the perfect source before the enemy. But who will get their First?

Sussexballs: £9000 per annum paid for contributions

“Perhaps you think the iPhone is too expensive, and many people in Africa can’t afford it.” [Yes – perhaps…]

“Suppose I say, ‘We’re all going to bake a cake. Let’s have a whip-round.'”

“Now how could we divide this cake between us in a fair way? We want to make sure everyone gets their just deserts.” [Or perhaps ‘desserts’?]

[elderly Security man ambles up 5 minutes after fire-alarm] “Sorry to keep you waiting folks!”

“I always think it’s fun, when I see one of those Canadians with their Canada backpack, to go up to them and say, ‘Hey, with your accent – are you American?’ just to p*ss them off!”

“This article was written by two people called Karsch and Karsch.” [And the surnames are pure coincidence?]

Dad: Do you want this [99p Oxfam second-hand] book? / Mum: Erm… I don’t know. Hold on, I’ll look up some reviews. [gets out Android] / Me: I’m just going to stand outside.

Waiter: I’m afraid we’ve run out of jam for your scones, but you could have them with honey instead? / Mum: You can’t have scones with honey! / Waiter: Well, you can

Old MacDonald had good luck, E-I-E-I-O

Scholium—if you ram your email address into the oblong on the right, you’ll get pinged whenever I add a new blog post. (Sadly you still need to do this even if you were subscribed to my Indian dispatches.)

You may find it atmospheric to play this soothing farm-like music while reading the foregoing…

Old Macdonald had good luck, Covent Garden Soups. He won that farm from ‘Country Veg’, Covent Garden Soups. With a slurp-slurp here, and a slurp-slurp there: Here a slurp, there a slurp, everywhere a slurp-slurp. Old MacDonald had good luck, Covent Garden Soups.

Yes, this is probably one of the most stupid competitions I’ve ever come across. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” might not be entirely true, but I had thought we all agreed  that, “There’s no such thing as a free farm worth £500,000.” Oh well.

eu diagram blog copy
Click to enlarge

As well as striving to become the next Bernard Matthews, I’ve also been doing my first essay-writing in almost two years, so far discoursing on how Britain has tried to be generally disruptive in the European Union (the diagram Fig. A to the right, despite looking suspiciously like the DNA fingerprint of the Yorkshire Ripper Fig. B, apparently depicts the EU: you could have fooled me!) as well as 1,500 words on, “Why should we obey the law?” – a very short subject with little academic material to condense into a ridiculously short piece of writing, obviously.

The ‘Foundations of Politics’ course spent some time this week examining the concept of equality in general, and luck egalitarianism in particular. The splendidly-named Ronald Dworkin belives that society should compensate people for ‘brute bad luck’ – inborn disadvantages such as disabilities, lack of talent and lack of intelligence.

Straight after discussing this, our seminar tutor moved onto explaining how our end-of-term essays will be graded. Which raises a lot of questions… Shouldn’t we all get exactly the same mark? Isn’t it unfair that some people have the inborn advantage of being good at essay-writing? Is it someone’s choice to be lazy and do no research, or is it a permanent part of their personality? And is it undeserved good luck that one person wins a farm worth £500,000 when the rest of us can only aspire to that?

These are not good questions.

I don’t REMember doing this at school…

Professor Tim Bale MA PhD (Cantab) commented, “I’m only playing this to test the sound,” just before showing the video REM Furry Happy Monstersat the start of a lecture. Interested readers can find the academic work in question here: 

There was also another incident of music-videos-being-shown-on-YouTube later the same day, although this time for an intellectual purpose (apparently) – and it was conveniently recorded as part of the lecture:

occupy-brightonMeanwhile, the Occupy Brighton camp, protesting against the malevolent capitalism of the ghost-train on the pier, the fire-eating supplies shop and the £12-a-ticket Brighton’s Magnificent Sewers tour, has been getting very in tents.

In other news

This week’s Straight from the Horse’s Mouth Award for the least tentative statement by a newspaper goes to The Guardian which managed to produce the following headline…


The Guardian also bags the week’s Biggest Understatement Prize, sponsored by Rupert “humblest day of my life” Murdoch, for the exceedingly modest comment, “Coming out of the new Tintin film, I found myself, for a few seconds, too stunned and sickened to speak. In fact, the sense of violation was so strong that it felt as though I had witnessed a rape.”

And the Keeping Cool Under Pressure prize naturally goes to Dave Hartnett, Britain’s most senior tax officer, who – when asked by a Parliamentary committee why he’d had dinner with a company he was supposed to be investigating – gave the well-thought-through reply, “Er… supper. It was hardly dinner.” Later, when the committee taxed him with (hahaha, taxed him…) the accusation, “You have had 107 corporate hospitality lunches in two years, which is at least one a week,” he quite reasonably responded, “They are not all lunches, with respect.”

It’s as well to be accurate in these matters.

MUM: There’s lots of things going on in the International Relations sphere at the moment, aren’t there. / DAD: Do you mean ‘the world’?

MUM: [sees me drinking a cup of tea during a 9:15am Skype call] Is that your morning cup of tea?

MUM: There seems to be this character in your Twitter feed called ‘Mum’ who says silly things!