Plagiarism’s Finest

These three articles about plagiarism have left me wondering if the articles themselves are plagiarized. Plagiarism is so easy a neanderthal can do it. Unfortunately for neanderthals, it is just as easy to check for appropriate citations, as well as the infamous copy and paste. This leaves some of the other neanderthals in awkward dispositions.

In Chris Anderson’s story of questionable ethics, both he and his editor made sure to maintain an ambiguous aloofness that miraculously left the two unscathed. I agree with John Bailey – the author of “The Chris Anderson Controversy” – as fishy as the situation involving Anderson and his editor may seem, there is no hard proof that there was intentional plagiarism, and, following suit, both of the accused have written the controversy off as a slew of mistakes. In fact there is no controversy from their perspective. What format should be used to cite online articles, what about those footnotes, and how did the editor miss all of this? It doesn’t seem to matter what questions are asked. Anderson’s book-in-question is still on the shelves and in the e-store. That is a problem.

Does money beat ethics? If I was an editor and my newly published book was being bombarded with accusations of theft, what would I do? I suppose Anderson’s publisher is a savvy business person. Who is going to stop the distribution of these books? All the clues from this article point at two possible conclusions: this is the worst editing and publishing of a book ever, or Anderson is a stone cold liar and stole his own book. Right now, only questions exist, but the flow of dollars endures. So, if I was an editor, I would keep selling the book, because nobody can decipher what I did or didn’t know when I decided to have it released. Ignorance is bliss, and money. Who is going to stop the distribution of these books? For now, nobody.

Of the three cases, Anderson may be the least objectionable and the most harmful instance of (potential) plagiarism. His book is being sold, and other than the vigilant work of other journalists hastily pumping bad press on Anderson, nothing has been done to bring Anderson to justice. Instead, we have a bureaucratic smokescreen or B.S for short.

Tied with Anderson for most harmful plagiarist is CNN and TIME journalist Fareed Zakaria. He’s bad news because he’s been plagiarizing for a while now through mass-media. It is good that he came clean, and it seems just that he is suspended from both news sources, but I feel for the journalist. The third article brought to fruition the idea that journalists are victims of the new modern age of information. Working for two major demanding news sources, it makes sense that Zakaria might submit to plagiarism. Every other day a journalist needs to report something new and original. America and West Europe need to know. It makes sense that a journalist would run dry of fresh content, but as a journalist that excuse is unacceptable. The scale of the wrongness is sky-high because both those news sources are well followed on a national and international level. As a result, Zakaria’s acts of plagiarism seem even more deplorable, and subsequently equal to Anderson’s case.

As for Lehrer, his crime is the most heinous of all. Just kidding. It’s just the most careless. For putting words into Bob Dylan’s – the voice of a generation Bob Dylan – mouth, Lehrer gets an F, and gets the boot from The New Yorker.  If you’re going to plagiarize, be more like Anderson and his gang. Claim that you don’t know anything about citations, a crucial subject in your occupation that requires an intricate understanding. Because, if you don’t do that, then you’re an extra blatant plagiarist – and that just makes you an asshole, if writing for the New Yorker didn’t do that already. At the very least, we can call Lehrer an asshole with integrity, as he did admit to his folly.

Speaking of New Yorker, I don’t believe self-plagerism is a real thing. Recycling old ideas in with the new gives a reader the perspective of the past and present views of any topic. Somewhere in between lies the potential for new thoughts and ideas, especially if the two contrast one another.  Can there really be a fresh spin on current events and articles every day, week, and month? Im sure that’s what The New Yorker aims to achieve, but perhaps there is such a thing as information overload. In this new age where information is in abundance, there might come a point where there isn’t a new angle for a news story because every angle has, to a journalist’s dismay, been written. For The New Yorker’s readers, this might seem like poor taste, or a lack of something-something-exuberant-nuances desired by the righteous folk who read the New Yorker. Good news everyone, not too many folk read The New Yorker. From his limited readership, Lehrer’s fouls haven’t ruined too many lives, and are merely minor in comparison to his counterparts’.


Modern uses for writing… and jokes


Both the authors Robert Lanham and Cameron Dodd discuss the changes of writing applicability in their satirical course and assignment overviews. Both authors mock the plights of modern college students by describing a college student’s use for college level writing.

In Dodd’s list of assignments, the student is tasked with using his/her college writing skills for nefarious purposes. The humor in the assignments is that they are all real life scenarios that a student may have already experienced. The list includes writing apology texts to a girl who the student slept with, writing excuse-emails (and lying) to professors whose classes have been ignored, and trying to worm a way out of paying a landlord rent on time. Dodd’s purpose for writing out these real life experiences as assignments may have been to say “hey, these are the situations most college students are faced with, why not have them practice writing for these exact scenarios”. At the same time it is important to look at what Dodd isn’t saying. These are the situations in which students use their writing skills. Nowhere, does Dodd write about students writing poetry for a girlfriend, or writing a thank you letter to an Uncle who gave nephew/niece birthday money. Instead, “today’s” college students are perceived in this list of assignments as excuse makers, liars, and people who generally mess things up. Dodd generalizes the character traits of a generation of people (students) then uses the traits as a means to build his list of assignments, all to build a joke that says “seriously, we (professors) should gear college writing towards the students in this manor, they only use their skills in these situations anyways”.

In Lanham’s satirical outline of a class, each week he finds a new ways to mock students’ communicative abilities on blogs and through text. Teaching students to bring their “shallow wit” to life as they tweet, as well as construct 800 character blogs by “copying and pasting”. In each week of the syllabus, Lanham finds a new character trait of today’s student to mock. At the end of the piece, Lanham jokes if certain aspects of books should even be taught. In section three, students learn about the dead industry of book publishing. By describing the state of book publishing as “no longer applicable”, Lanham is calling for change in the methods used to explain the publishing world and writing in general.