Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Street Psychology of a Plagiarist, Part One of Four

A Plagiarist's Brain
(with apologies to Homer Simpson)

What drives an individual to steal the work of someone else and claim it as their own?  Particularly someone in a position of trust, like David Boyer who writers for years thought was a legitimate publisher until his sordid underside was exposed.  He solicited manuscripts from writers, all the while concealing from the fact that he steals writer's manuscripts and claims them as his own.  Worse, he is now going after young writers.  What in the world goes through his mind?  Is he evil or mentally ill?

The answers to these questions are important to us as a writing community, because to a considerable extent it should govern how we deal with such a problem.

But before we get to that, there is something cognitively uncomfortable about a fifty year old plagiarist and scam artist soliciting young writers (for manuscripts, that is).  This seems to be a common tendency of swindlers, scam artists, thieves and con men.  When in trouble, look for "marks" that are more gullible.

This is to some degree a practical necessity for David Boyer because his reputation as a plagiarist and someone who does not pay royalties is spreading around the genre community (not limited to just horror anymore).  And since several large writing organizations have broadcast that he has stolen other writers works, and that complaints have been filed to the Attorney General of Indiana, where else can he get more people to con than eager young writers who perhaps have not had the money or confidence to join the SFWA or the HWA.

Boyer and other con men (plagiarists, deliberate copyright violators and other intellectual crooks) frequently operate under multiple identities.  There is a practical element in this behavior as well, as it somewhat makes it easier for them to operate incognito, but it also places a logistics burden on the plagiarist who is thereby required maintain those identities.  This makes them prone to mistakes.  Many people misinterpret this as a desire to get caught, but in too many cases it is a reflection of the con's lack of organizational skill.  It is true that their deficient organizational skills are sometimes rooted in a con's weak sense of credible identity.  Long distance it's difficult to ascertain which of these applies most accurately to Boyer.  Perhaps both.

In part II, we'll discuss which of Boyer's behavioral mechanism can shed light on his psychology or moral vacuity.

I'm open to new ideas on this topic and would really appreciate your opinion as we continue. 

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  1. I think he's simply a cowardly jerk who doesn't even have enough intelligence to pull a con. I doubt there is a mental illness or template for his special brand of bastardia.

  2. There is definitely a head-set that has nothing to do with mental illness. It's too easy to whip out the pop psych and try to explain every deviation in human behavior to mental illness. The truth is that people develop patterns of achieving what they feel they are owed. It often requires a pattern of demonization of other in whatever form that might be. Then you stir in some rationalization (There's a sucker born every minute, so why shouldn't I take advantage of that?) Yes, it is a disconnect, but it is not mental illness.

  3. Bastardia could be the template that fits him best, 13bones31. I think you've hit it on the head.

  4. Dear cussedness- one thing that I wonder about is who the role model was for his behavior. I wonder to about all those years of obscurity, what he was doing, etc. Not that I care, but I wonder if because of those he transformed into a full blown plagiarist, or if a single event got him going? In other words, what's the rest of his background like?

  5. 13bones31 nailed it. I think he's not bright enough to pull off a con within certain genres, such as horror, whose writers tend to be a cynical lot. Thus, moving along to "Christian Writing" makes perfectly good sense. The Christian writer who pulled down his interview is sort of the poster child for why. Not that I wish to malign her intelligence, but a WWJD mentality is the sort of thing that keeps Boyer's hopes alive for continued scamming of other writers. It's not necessarily a matter of being gullible; it's more a matter of never wanting to say anything that could offend anyone. That plays right into his game.

  6. Role model?
    Maybe Wittgenstein, who stoled from C. S. Pierce and acted as if it was his thoughts. In art and science this has always been going on. But, thanks to Internet this is becoming transparent this days.
    Only really good work are stolen!

  7. Hello, Rusty. I hadn't thought of that- the angle of not wanting to offend anyone. Wonder how well Boyer would fair in the mystery genre where all the writers would be after him like their fictional sleuths.

  8. Wittgenstein reminds me of Boyer. I'm not sure if Boyer can differentiate between what's in his head and the real world! Thanks for stopping by, Anna!

  9. Well said, Rick. I know more mystery writers than horror writers, and have no doubt he'd have a harder go in that genre. Mystery writers also tend to have friendly contacts within local law enforcement or other related endeavors. I myself include a nationally known forensic anthropolgist and a former FBI agent in my circle of acquaintances. Very handy for research, or other reasons.