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Now It's Plagiarism: Brooke Magnanti Accused of Ripping off Wikipedia

Now It's Plagiarism: Brooke Magnanti Accused of Ripping off Wikipedia

On Saturday, we reported that journalist and former sex worker Brooke Magnanti, who shot to fame under the pen name Belle de Jour, had been accused of sockpuppeting by London barrister Anya Palmer. Now allegations have surfaced that Magnanti plagiarised a Wikipedia page about Valentine’s Day in a column for the Telegraph.

Author Jeremy Duns has compiled a list of strikingly similar passages in an article published by Magnanti in February 2013 and a Wikipedia page on the same subject. A side-by-side comparison appears below. Large portions of Magnanti’s article appear to have been lifted near-verbatim from the free online encyclopaedia and another website.

Magnanti provides no citations or links for the material she is accused of “lifting,” and, when challenged by Duns in 2013, she reportedly asked him how he knew she hadn’t written the Wikipedia page as well. When Duns then asked if she indeed had, Magnanti blocked him, the Twitter equivalent of hanging up the phone. 

She also deleted her tweets on the subject shortly afterwards. A cursory examination of the Wikipedia page history for Valentine’s Day shows dozens of edits stretching back years by over 30 different editors, none of whom worked on all the passages Magnanti suggests she may have written. 

Duns’ revelations will pile further pressure on the writer, who is under fire for insulting and ridiculing a slew of fellow female journalists using a pseudonymous Twitter handle called @Bea_Attitude, which has since been renamed or deleted. She is no longer a columnist for the Telegraph after falling out with her editor. 

Among other insults, she called New Statesman deputy editor Helen Lewis a “c–t,” accused feminist critic Julie Bindel of “70s… pseudointellectual bullshit” and suggested that Times columnist Caitlin Moran was “emotionally stunted at age 14.”

After initially agreeing to provide comment via Twitter, Magnanti failed to respond to a series of questions about the similarities between her writing for the Telegraph and Wikipedia. 


1. Wikipedia
‘In Slovenia, Saint Valentine or Zdravko was one of the saints of spring, the saint of good health and the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims.’

‘In Slovenia, St Valentine is one of the saints of spring. He’s also known as Zdravko and is the patron saint of beekeepers and pilgrims.’

2. Wikipedia: 
‘It has been celebrated as the day when the first work in the vineyards and in the fields commences. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day.’

‘February 14th is reputed to be the first day of the year when work begins in the fields…. don’t tell any keen gardeners you know, though, as they already feel guilty about not starting on the allotment sooner.
Slovenians also still preserve the much older tradition that the birds of the fields propose to their loved ones on this day and marry.’

3. Wikipedia: 
‘Jack B. Oruch writes that the first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer wrote:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

[“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”]
This poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia.[42]’

‘This was once far more of a common belief throughout Europe, as attested in Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules, written in 1382 to honour the engagement of Richard II to Anne of Bohemia:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

(“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”)’

4. Audobon Magazine:
‘In one tradition, birds are even more important: It was believed that a girl’s first bird sighting on Valentine’s Day predicted her future husband.
Some traditional bird predictions: 
Sparrow: a poor man or a farmer
Owl: remain spinster
Bluebird: a happy man or a happy but poor man
Blackbird: a priest or clergyman
Crossbill: an argumentative man or an angry man
Yellowbird: a well-off man
Goldfinch: an extremely wealthy man
Robin: a crime fighter or a sailor
Dove: a kind and good man
Flock of doves: you will have a happy marriage
[But, if you see a woodpecker, you will never marry.]’

‘The significance of February 14th as a ‘bird marriage’ day may also be connected to a tradition in England that said the first bird a woman saw on Valentine’s Day would tell her what sort of a man she would marry. Blackbird meant a minister; a dove, a good-hearted man. Perhaps obviously, goldfinches signified riches; a sparrow, a happy man; a robin bagged you a sailor; a hawk, a soldier. The wise owl denoted your imminent betrothal to an old man. As for a woodpecker? That, unluckily, signified spinsterhood.’

5. Wikipedia:
‘While the European folk traditions connected with Saint Valentine and St. Valentine’s Day have become marginalized by the modern Anglo-American customs connecting the day with romantic love, there are some remaining associations connecting the saint with the advent of spring.

While the custom of sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts originated in the UK, Valentine’s Day still remains connected with various regional customs in England. In Norfolk, a character called ‘Jack’ Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children. Although he was leaving treats, many children were scared of this mystical person.’

Regional traditions throughout the British Isles were once more common than they are now. One of the few surviving is the Norfolk ritual of Jack Valentine, otherwise known as Old Father Valentine or Old Mother Valentine. Jack Valentine was responsible for the mysterious gifts that appear on doorsteps on Valentine’s Eve, and always vanished into thin air when the recipient answers a knock at the door.’

6. Wikipedia:
‘In Japan, Morozoff Ltd. introduced the holiday for the first time in 1936, when it ran an advertisement aimed at foreigners. Later in 1953 it began promoting the giving of heart-shaped chocolates; other Japanese confectionery companies followed suit thereafter […]

Many women feel obliged to give chocolates to all male co-workers, except when the day falls on a Sunday, a holiday. This is known asgiri-choko, from giri (“obligation”) and choko, (“chocolate”), with unpopular co-workers receiving only “ultra-obligatory”cho-giri choko cheap chocolate. This contrasts with honmei-choko, chocolate given to a loved one. Friends, especially girls, may exchange chocolate referred to as tomo-choko; from tomo meaning “friend”.

In the 1980s the Japanese National Confectionery Industry Association launched a successful campaign to make March 14 a “reply day”, where men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day, calling it White Day for the color of the chocolates being offered […] Men are expected to return gifts that are at least two or three times more valuable than the gifts received in Valentine’s Day.’
In Japan, Christianity is not established and so Valentine’s Day is a Western import. It was first brought over in the 1930s by a confectioner who ran advertisements aimed at foreigners. By the 1950s they were promoting heart-shaped chocolates for Japanese customers as well as visitors.

During February 14, tradition holds that only women give men the gift of chocolate rather than the other way around. The chocolate given depends on the nature of the relationship. Giri-choko, or ‘obligation chocolate’, is bought for bosses, colleagues, and male friends. Honmei-choko is presented to boyfriends, lovers or husbands.
While this may seem like equality to some who resent the responsibility of Valentine gift-giving falling more heavily on men than on women, the tradition has a sting in the tail. The so-called “White Day” on March 14 sees men expected to return gifts that are at least two or three times more valuable than the gifts they received from women on Valentine’s Day.’


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