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Machiavellian Plagiarizing: copy from the best, link to the mediocre

This Twitter account shared "alpha male" frame control techniques:

Turns out, they were taken verbatim from this website.

Of course, no mention was given.

It's not the only instance.

I have seen TPM terminology or "watered down TPM content" in many places now.

Example: Best Manipulation Books

An interesting case:

When this website first published the "best manipulation books" list, there were none on Google.

Now there are seven in the first 2 Google results alone.

If you go through them, you will see several lesser-known titles from this website's own list and reviews.

Including "No Logo":

Never say never, but what would you consider are the odds that those people have gone through this website's list before?

And what would you say are the odds that someone would have put "No Logo" in a manipulation's books list before this website?

I'd say really low.

Some of these websites link to each other.
And they link to other sources.

How many links or references to TPM?
I haven't seen any.

What's happening there?

Copy From the Best, Link to The Mediocre

Some of these authors are deploying an (unconscious) strategy.

The strategy is to take the content from the best sources, and linking to the mediocre ones.


  • Linking to the best source sends people away to those best sources: people abandon the copycat and they fear they'd never come back (and they might have a point)
  • Linking to the best gives power to those who are already better: some copycat want to take traffic away from the original author, maybe even hope to overtake him with better marketing and design. So they avoid giving him any credit (plus, for some personalities, there is the frenemy dynamics and the ego pain of knowing someone was better)
  • Not linking provides them with plausible deniability: they can always pretend that "oh, I hadn't seen that page actually"

The real Machiavellian though takes it one step further.
He links to some... And even give big credits.

Whom do they link to?

Lesser authors and thinkers.


  • Crediting lesser authors makes them seem magnanimous at no cost for them: they link and give credit, which seems magnanimous, but at little cost for them since the lesser authors and thinkers are no real competition
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What immediately comes to mind is the Shine Up & Praise Down strategy that Machiavellian managers use in the workplace.

A team usually consists of the manager, excellent workers and mediocre workers.

Sometimes the manager will steal credit from an excellent worker and give credit to a mediocre worker.
Especially if people are all working together and it's hard to discern where the credit will exactly go to.

By giving credit to the mediocre worker and not the excellent worker, he can achieve the following:

  • Keep the excellent worker from promoting out of his team or transferred around because senior management likes to have the best workers to work on whatever they deem a top priority
  • Appearing like a good leader in front of senior management and magnanimous in front of the average worker

They may even take a step further and give credit to the excellent worker for less important work to seem fair and balanced.

I think this is the equivalent of plagiarism in the corporate world.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Yes, good note, the same approach can be used for office politics indeed.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

The author of TheKnownStoic didn't buy his web domain.

There is no


So we can buy the above domains to block him :).
Or buy those domains and link to this website.

Yeah, not worth it to go after that.

As a matter of fact, there is also a positive effect from those who "repurpose" content.

For example, people who read that thread on frame control might be motivated to search/research the topic more. And at least a chunk of those are likely to end up on the place that explains it best.

Same for the manipulation resources.
Some of the people who get interested in the topic and want to learn more about it can easily end up on the place that best teaches that topic.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
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