Earlier this week, accusations surfaced that the incredible HBO series from Nic Pizzolatto was plagiarized from writer Thomas Ligotti. More specifically that some of the iconic lines from main character Rust Cohle in “True Detective” were nearly similar to Ligotti’s “The Conspiracy Agaisnt the Human Race.”
After the allegations became public this week, Pizzolatto released this statement via Deadline,
Nothing in the television show True Detective was plagiarized. The philosophical thoughts expressed by Rust Cohle do not represent any thought or idea unique to any one author; rather these are the philosophical tenets of a pessimistic, anti-natalist philosophy with an historic tradition including Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, E.M. Cioran, and various other philosophers, all of whom express these ideas. As an autodidact pessimist, Cohle speaks toward that philosophy with erudition and in his own words. The ideas within this philosophy are certainly not exclusive to any writer.
HBO stood behind Pizzolatto, stating,
True Detective is a work of exceptional originality and the story, plot, characters and dialogue are that of Nic Pizzolatto. Philosophical concepts are free for anyone to use, including writers of fiction, and there have been many such examples in the past. Exploring and engaging with ideas and themes that philosophers and novelists have wrestled with over time is one of the show’s many strengths — we stand by the show, its writing and Nic Pizzolatto entirely.
It is interesting that the accusations of plagiarism are just now becoming an issue as Pizzolatto was questioned about it way back in January by The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy section. The reporter asked him if he had read Ligotti’s work and Pizzolatto admitted that not only had he read the book but that he had purposefully referenced it in the first episode of “True Detective.”
I read The Conspiracy Against the Human Race and found it incredibly powerful writing. For me as a reader, it was less impactful as philosophy than as one writer’s ultimate confessional: an absolute horror story, where the self is the monster. In episode one [of True Detective] there are two lines in particular (and it would have been nothing to re-word them) that were specifically phrased in such a way as to signal Ligotti admirers. Which, of course, you got.
It could be that the plagiarism drama is being reignited now that the Emmys are right around the corner. Regardless, HBO and Pizzolatto are steadfastly denying all claims of plagiarism of any kind and honestly I would be very surprised if they don’t win an Emmy.