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Star Philosopher Explains Plagiarism Of White Supremacist

An eight-year-old article from Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek is under scrutiny for borrowing heavily from a white supremacist journal.
Posted at 11:41 PM, Jul 14, 2014

Plagiarism is a serious offense, especially for famous academics. And especially when that plagiarism comes from white supremacist literature. (Via Getty Images, Gawker)

The academic in question is Slavoj Žižek — one of those few modern-day superstar philosophers. 

"If you give me power, I know how to use it. That's why I'm almost afraid of myself. I don't want power." (Via Vice)

He's a professor, a Slovenian Marxist and recently the focus of some unflattering headlines ...

... first for calling his famously loyal students "boring idiots" earlier this year ... (Via Twitter / @Max_Fisher)

... and now for plagiarism — for which Žižek says there's a somewhat-reasonable explanation. (Via Newsweek)

It started when conservative blogger Steve Sailer gave new scrutiny to a book review Žižek wrote in 2006 — your guess as to why Sailer was reading this 8-year-old piece is as good as ours. Sailer said one passage from Žižek stood out as surprisingly "lurid" for the Slovenian philosopher. (Via Lacan.comThe Unz Review)

This was an Internet tag-team investigation. A blogger known only as "Deogolwulf" then posted this side-by-side showing pretty much word-for-word similarity between the Žižek piece and a 1999 article from The American Renaissance —

— which happens to have been labeled a white supremacist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Now, as we mentioned, ​Žižek does have an explanation, though it still doesn't paint him in a particularly good light. (Via Getty Images)

He told the Critical Theory blog that one of his research assistants sent along the passages in question, "assuring me that I can use it freely. ... Consequently, I did just that – and I sincerely apologize for not knowing that my friend’s resume was largely borrowed."

So, the work still wasn't Žižek's. But at least he didn't knowingly copy off a white supremacist. 

A writer for Slate says this is still plagiarism, but at least Žižek's mistake is understandable. "Famous academics have their minions do their dirty work all the time. And most of these minions are legitimate scholars. ... So when one of them says, 'Sure, you can use this verbatim,' Žižek has no reason not to do just that."

Nevertheless, it's an embarrassing incident for ​Žižek — and probably cause for major schaudenfreude among any philosophy students who've faced plagiarism charges from their professors.