The Milk Weekly Plagiarism Case

On May 16, 2007, the Hong Kong blogger "Bad Taste But Smell Good" wrote a short review about issue #2 of the comic series "Biutung Wa Jap" entitled "The Destruction of Kowloon." (see original link in Chinese).

On May 24, the "Bad Taste But Smell Good" blogger found out that on Page 30, Book B, issue number 305 of Milk Weekly magazine published on this date contained a review of the same comic book with 90% of the words identical to the blogger's review (there were some transpositions of the sentences as well as a few new sentences).  More significantly, the blogger made three grammatical mistakes (he wrote 隊道 instead of 隧道; 橫畫instead of 橫劃; 真蹄 instead of 真諦) which were exactly replicated in Milk magazine (see original link in Chinese).  The likelihood of this happening by coincidence is like ... oh, to use a famous example in probability theory ... a monkey compelled to press the keys on a typewriter could end up with Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace or the Complete Works of William Shakespeare word for word exactly.  There can be no doubt that this was plagiarism.  This is not even the point here.  It is the rest of the story that is amusing.

Here is the blogger's summary of the interaction with the Milk magazine Book B editor named Gary (see original link in Chinese).  This is interesting because of the display of chutzpah.  This Yiddish term may be unfamiliar to many Hong Kong persons, but it will be worth their effort to get acquainted with it.  Anyway, here are the blogger's points:

(1) Editor G believed that the two essays have certain similarities but this was coincidental as opposed to plagiarism.  When I expressed my doubts that such a coincidence was possible (more than 90% of the essays are identical), Editor G accused me of being emotional and attempted to cut off the conversation.

(2) How did Editor G arrive at the conclusion that "this did not count as plagiarism"?  Editor G pointed out that he knows the personality and character of the writer and he does not believe that she would plagiarize.  I wanted to say that before cop killer Hsu Poko committed those murders, he was a good father and husband in the eyes of his family.  To say that "he does not believe" is absurd and totally inadequate as a reason.

(3) Editor G added that on that evening, "he watched her write the essay."  He pointed out that the writer never visited my blog and had no means of reading the original essay.  Therefore, it was impossible for her to plagiarize.  I asked Editor G whether he could "watch her" twenty-four hours a day?  Including her Internet browsing?  Besides, there are so many writers for Milk magazine.  Is it possible for an editor to "watch all of them write all their whole essays"?

(4) Editor G believed that the affair was just a coincidence, whereas he asserted that I held the one-side opinion that this was plagiarism.  My continued usage of "plagiarism" in my email and blog was therefore extremely unfair to the writer.

(5) Editor G believes that there is no way to prove and convince me that Milk Weekly did not plagiarize me.  Similarly, I have no way of proving that they plagiarized me.

(6) Editor G accused me of "sending emails all over the place," even sending email to the writer herself.  First, let me clarify that I have never sent any email to the writer.  Maybe someone else wanted to use affair to settle a score with the writer, but I have nothing to do with their personal grudges.  Secondly, even if I "sent email all over the place," why should Milk Weekly worry if they have not committed plagiarism?

(7) Editor G asked me how this case might be resolved.  I said that this was obviously a case of plagiarism -- the writer did some copy-and-paste and signed off.  Such a writer should not be allowed to "write."  Editor G said that the writer will not be punished in any way and he will continue to allow the writer to "write" at Milk Weekly.

(8) Editor G wanted to arrange for me to confront the writer in person.  But I thought that since Editor G had already decided that this case was not plagiarism, it would be futile to talk anymore.  I have wasted a lot of time already, and there is no need to waste even more time.

(9) During the conversation, Editor G had interrupted me to say that his telephone was running low on battery.  So I asked him to call me back on another telephone.  He said that there was no telephone available and he asked for the matter to be over with.  He wanted to hang up.  But I kept raising up other points (actually, it is the same thing over and over again) in order to continue the conversation.  About seven minutes later, Editor G was still insisting that there was "no plagiarism."  It was actually impossible to talk any further.  So I asked Editor G, "Didn't you say that your telephone has run out of battery?"  He said that he had just gotten back to the office and the battery was being recharged.  Milk Weekly is the place for coincidences.

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