Surprisingly, the story was important enough to appear in Newsweek.
Superstar Marxist (and Freudian) philosopher Slavoj Zizek was caught plagiarizing.
A discerning reader was surprised to discover, in a Zizek article, a couple of readable paragraphs. He understood that something was wrong.
In time he discovered that the offending passages had been lifted, nearly verbatim from another publication. Not just from any publication but from a white supremacist magazine called American Renaissance.
Of course, Zizek is not merely a Marxist philosopher. He is a leading proponent of psychoanalysis, especially that of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. I defined his role clearly in my book, The Last Psychoanalyst.
Writing about the kerfuffle in Slate Rebecca Schuman expressed some sympathy for the superstar. Don’t all great academic thinkers do the same thing? We do not expect such people to write every word that they publish, do we?
As for Zizek, he defended himself on the grounds that a friend had passed along the offending passages without telling him that they had been lifted from someone else’s work. Since the friend gave Zizek permission to transcribe his words verbatim, the superstar philosopher asks forgiveness because he did not know what he was doing.
He merely thought that he was plagiarizing a friend’s work. And besides, the plagiarized passages merely summarized an argument. They were, Zizek claimed, merely informative.
As Schuman hints, Zizek thereby showed that he does not understand plagiarism. You cannot plagiarize an idea; you can only plagiarize someone’s words. And on that count Zizek’s editor agrees that the philosopher stands guilty as charged.
And yet, said editor, from the journal Critical Inquiry now says that he would have dealt with the problem by asking Zizek to remove the plagiarized paragraphs. He would not, in other words, have held Zizek to account for his intellectual malfeasance and would have happily run the rest of the article.
Fortunately, Zizek does not much care about his reputation, but why would an apparently reputable journal of ideas adopt such an insouciant attitude toward a plagiarist?