When accused of cheating, lying or stealing, a person can do one of two things: double down on one’s innocence or simply go away. (No, this isn’t another DeflateGate reaction piece, I promise.)
Then again, maybe some of us can do both.
A few weeks back, online publication Runner’s World published an article by longtime columnist and self-proclaimed funny man Mark Remy called “Ask a Guy Who Thinks Runners Should Shut Up” under the subhead Remy’s World, his place on the internet for humorous posits about the fast-paced — or slow, perhaps, whatever yours pace may be — world of running.
Remy’s column, which we highlighted at the time here, stole the work of “The Evster” a columnist for Philadephia-centric blog The 700 Level, who had written a mock screed against running you can read here. It was clearly a work of satire, which made it even more curious when Remy took the work in a further attempt at satire and repackaged it on Remy’s World.
Pro tip: when you are trying to create a work of satire, copying and pasting previously written satirical work isn’t the best way to do that. It’s plagiarism. It’s theft.
Runner’s World came under fire after Remy’s original article was published, updating the original story to include a graph explaining where the original work came from to go with the one word unaccredited link they had in the original piece.
— Runner's World (@runnersworld) May 6, 2015
Remy’s defense in the comments section of that article and on his Facebook page was that he couldn’t be accused of stealing the work and passing it off on his own because he put that barely-noticeable link at the bottom of his version of the article, so who would be dumb enough to steal something and link back to it?
After being called out for plagiarism, Remy doubled-down on his assertion that he was right, suggesting on his Facebook page that those accusing him—myself included—were guilty of libel. In part, via Facebook:
Let me make this absolutely crystal clear: I have never stolen anything. Ever. And I never would. That very much includes other people’s work. I am confident that anyone who knows me, or ever has known me, even a little bit, knows this.
For a writer – even a “hack f***” – plagiarism is just about the nastiest smear you can have hurled your way. Not least because even casual accusations of plagiarism can hurt you professionally. (For those commenters who have tried defining it for me, here’s another word you might enjoy looking up: “Libel.”)
When I asked Remy to talk on my radio show about the claim of plagiarism and his ridiculous retort of libel, he declined, saying in part, “I don’t see much upside to that, Dan – and if you were me, I think you’d feel the same way.”
Ironic that a guy accused of taking someone’s words as his own was suddenly putting words in someone else’s mouth.
Through all the backlash — and knowing Philly sports Twitter, there was a lot of it —Remy never wavered on his assertion that he did nothing wrong. And if he didn’t actually plagiarize the piece from The 700 Level because he claims that passing off someone’s work as his own while cheaply including a text link at the bottom of an article without any proper accreditation is fair game on the internet, when he was called out by the author and the editor of the publication on which it originally ran, he and Runner’s World should have pulled the piece entirely.
Instead, Runner’s World benefited from the controversy and happily accepted the additional clicks, and Remy basked in the sudden infamy, hot-dogging his way through his next Remy’s World column in a way that seemed clear to those paying attention that he felt little remorse for what he had created.
A week later, remorse or not, Remy’s World is done.
“So Long, and Thanks for All the Laughs” it the title of Remy’s final, so it seems, column for RunnersWorld.com.
Remy quit his long-running online column this week to focus on an upcoming book and, as he mentioned in the article, he “won’t be going far” as a version of his online offerings will appear in the Runner’s World print magazine.
The company didn’t let one incident (that we know of, the guy could have been ripping off other people’s content for seven years and who would know) stop them from continuing their relationship with Remy, but it seems Remy did let this incident sever his relationship with the online community. From Runner’s World:
[T]he internet itself has changed. A huge number of people are now seeing my columns via social media or links on their phones – i.e., absent adequate context or cues to tell them that they’re now in Remy’s World, not Runner’s World. That can be pretty jarring.
Also, the ugly comments – which, I know, come with the territory when you work online, especially as a humorist – have gotten uglier.
No, they really have. Trust me.
Of all the -ists, doesn’t humorist sound the smuggest? (Or is it smuggist?)
Remy wrote that he first thought of quitting roughly two months ago—there is no way he’d give credit to the internet watchdogs (some might say trolls, which in this case could be seen as a moniker of pride) for calling it quits—which may honestly explain why he was mailing it in by grabbing the work of another satirist to repurpose for his column. Moreover, Remy seemed burned out by it all, something many of us have felt in the never-ending news cycle world we’re in today.
Remy the Runner's World guy quit. http://t.co/wSyUfbuIzp He will now be starting a blog called TV My Wife Watched.
— The Evster (@Evsterrr) May 19, 2015
Remy also reportedly deleted his seldom-updated Twitter feed, but he’s still active on Facebook if you care to follow a guy who wrote a niche humor column for a running website and never in a million years expected a hackjob of a column taken from a Philly blog to turn into all of this.
If there’s a lesson here — certainly not for Remy but for future Remys out in the online world — it’s that everything is traceable, and if you grab a post that you think nobody will notice you grabbing, you’re wrong. People see everything, and when you’re called out for taking something, you should apologize, own up to it and fix it. You should not double down on your innocence and accuse others until you’re forced to disappear, then blame “the ugly comments” for your departure.
I’d make a “you can run but you can’t hide” pun here, but it seemed too easy. (Or maybe not easy enough.)