A friend of mine alerted me to this story about Jonah Lehrer’s self-plagiarism (which turned into a story of him plagiarizing others) and it made me sad. This kind of thing keeps coming up (whether it’s plagiarizing or making things up, a la Frey and Mortenson) and it’s disappointing, sure, but it’s also puzzling.
Rather than opting for knee-jerk demonizing, I find myself wondering if it’s possible that these talented people are just cracking under the pressure to produce content at a speed that is unsustainable in order to catch the miniscule attention span of readers used to having 17 websites open at once and getting their information in McNugget bites. Or, as in the case of those who “embellish,” if it’s the trying to make their stories bigger, shinier, funnier, more tragic, more more in order to grab your and my interest.
Is any of this excusable? Are we collectively putting too much pressure on our writers and thinkers and pushing them over the edge into the ethical abyss? What do you all think?