Plagiarism Is Like Rainbow Parties: All The Kids Are Doing ItAnna North2/12/10 4:20pmFiled to: War of wordsPlagiarismHelene hegemannAxolotl roadkillBooksLanguageGermanyWritingmillennials101EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkThe book world's latest teen plagiarist is German author/playwright/screenwriter Helene Hegemann, whose lifting of work by other authors is apparently just what kids are doing these days.AdvertisementAccording to Nicholas Kulish of the New York Times, 17-year-old Hegemann's hallucinatorily-named Axolotl Roadkill, "about a 16-year-old exploring Berlin's drug and club scene," includes an entire page taken from another, lesser-known novel, with few changes. The novel apparently "borrows" from other sources as well, and while it appears to include some winking acknowledgment of this practice (a character says "I help myself everywhere I find inspiration"), this acknowledgment doesn't extend to actual citation. A blogger who discovered some of the plagiarism says, "To take an entire page from an author, as Helene Hegemann admitted to doing, with only slight changes and without asking the author, I consider that illegitimate." Hegemann's supporters, though, claim the MySpace Generation has no use for these silly old-timey morals.Book critic Volker Weidermann says, "Obviously, it isn't completely clean but, for me, it doesn't change my appraisal of the text. I believe it's part of the concept of the book." And Kulish writes,AdvertisementAlthough Ms. Hegemann has apologized for not being more open about her sources, she has also defended herself as the representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. "There's no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity," said Ms. Hegemann in a statement released by her publisher after the scandal broke.Hegemann's statement isn't so much morally wrong as it is vague and content-free and dumb. I don't know German, but I do know that appealing to some nebulous higher "authenticity" is the go-to defense of the intellectually lazy faker. A truly creative word-thief could at least come up with entertaining excuse, but to redefine truth as "whatever I choose it to mean" (Lewis Carroll — see how easy citing is?) just turns language into a gross mixed-up soup of lies. Also, the "different generation" excuse for anything teenagers do isn't as repugnant as Emmanuelle Seigner's "crazy time" excuse for Roman Polanski, but it's just as stupid. I know plenty of "millennials," and they don't all have iPods for fingers and MySpace for brains.