Following charges that Nic Pizzolatto committed plagiarism when he put the ideas and a few similar phrases of Thomas Ligotti in the mouth of True Detective’s Rustin Cohle, HBO and show creator Nic Pizzolatto have now responded, answering that we can’t truly lay claim to anything in this illusion of life—not even our own flesh, as it is rent and tattered in the whirlwind of the universe’s roaring indifference. And more specifically, that despite the accusations levied by Jon Padgett of Thomas Ligotti Online and Mike Davis of The Lovecraft eZine, the dour pronouncements expressed by Cohle are not the intellectual property of Ligotti, but rather the same shared by anyone who’s ever looked at this terrible world and wondered why they bother.
“Nothing in the television show True Detective was plagiarized,” Pizzolatto said in a statement. “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 Schopenauer [sic], Friedrich Nietzche [sic], 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.” And certainly not to Thomas Ligotti, whose name Pizzolatto doesn’t even mention—a dig that seems specifically aimed at riling Padgett and Davis further, possibly just for cruel sport. But then, I’m a bit of a pessimist myself.
HBO supported Pizzolatto with its own statement, saying, “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.”
Of course, these responses are unlikely to matter much to those on either side of the debate, who already chose their position as to whether Pizzolatto didn’t do enough within the show to acknowledge Ligotti’s influence, or whether works of TV fiction expressing philosophical ideas shouldn’t have to lampshade them with a bibliography. Or matter to anyone or anything, really, in this utterly meaningless existence.