Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Plagiarism, People, Really...Not Politics. Leslie K. Sends in a Link from the WaPo.

Anyone who knows me knows my political affiliation, and this note is really not about that.

But the Melania Trump / Michelle Obama plagiarism thing last night really got me thinking about how we value words, language, and really the sentiments we express at important times.

When Trump supporters were confronted with the evidence, it was clear they didn't give a shit about it. It was offensive to them that anyone would point it out.

And I thought...that's like my students! My students years ago would be embarrassed. I've had students cry! (Lots of them, but just about plagiarism in this case.) And now my students couldn't give a shit either. They feel they've been wronged when I point out something they ripped off of Wikipedia. I don't even want to bring it up sometimes because their inappropriate response makes me want to strangle them.

So when real life plagiarism arises, I like to watch how adults handle it...

The flava:
It’s not clear whether there will be any long-term political fallout from Melania Trump’s speech Monday night, in which she introduced herself to the nation with passages that closely mirrored a speech Michelle Obama first delivered eight years ago. But high school teachers and college professors say it is almost certain that if Melania Trump were a student turning in a paper — rather than a prospective First Lady giving a convention speech — the consequences would be serious, ranging from an F on the assignment to expulsion from school.
And the rest of the misery...

17 comments:

  1. Yep, it's plagiarism, pure and simple (and yes, the "it's coincidence/it's a common way to say that" excuses sound all too familiar). The original was much better written (written, in fact, by people who show every evidence of caring about language), while the borrowing is set in (and results in) much less graceful prose. That, too, is typical of what happens when a less-experienced writer tries to borrow a more-experienced writer's prose (and is often how we comp teachers detect plagiarism without the help of google, turnitin, et al., though I don't the result here is uneven enough to have set off my radar if I'd come up on it cold).

    I'm not sure whether Melania Trump went to college (she has other talents, and I mean that entirely non-snarkily; as we frequently say here, not everybody needs or wants to go to college). If not (and maybe even if so), she may genuinely not realize that this sort of borrowing is unacceptable. Or her husband may be bad at hiring speechwriters. I'm not inclined to pile on her (among other things, it doesn't seem like she sought out her present role, and it seems likely she had less input into her husband's decision to run than Michelle Obama), but somebody in the campaign should be taking responsibility, not claiming that nothing happened (or that the other campaign is "attacking" Mrs. Trump -- that, too, sounds all too familiar: "she just doesn't like me; that's why she's mean to me!").

    One bright side: when the president said a few days ago that we're less divided than we think, he may just have been right. While the sentiments expressed don't fall far from mom and apple pie -- well, to answer Cal's question from a week or so ago, agreeing about mom and apple pie might be a place to start (though I suspect we'll falter all too soon on the shoals of who should be recognized as a mom and/or what kind of apples, crust, etc. make the best pie).

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  2. It would be funny if it weren't so sad. This person might be in the White House in six months.

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  3. Politicians, students -- and the media -- all do it . . . . My work was plagiarized in an op-ed of a major American newspaper and, after months of wrangling with the editor, all I got was "Well, the writer said he has never read your work, so we have to believe him." Sheesh.

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  4. Of course it's plagiarism. And any penalty will be overturned by the Dean.

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  5. Oh yeah, I'd give an F to an assignment with that much plagiarism.

    I think those whose jobs do not involve creating original written works (academia, journalism, writers, etc) may see plagiarism as being very important. Legal contracts are all the same. Press releases can be identical. Cover bands copy songs. People repeat other comedians' jokes. None of these cases constitute plagiarism for various technical reasons but they do involve reproducing the same words over and over again for different purposes in different settings. If you're not a professor, journalist or author, I can understand why people don't think it's a big deal. Similarly, I know otherwise reasonable people who don't consider watching illegally recorded movies as being unethical, probably because they aren't artists who depend on royalties.

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    1. "may see plagiarism as being NOT very important."

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    2. I think you're right there. There's a lot of boilerplate out there, and there are situations where boilerplate is appropriate (even more appropriate than original text).

      But this, of course, is not one of them. Besides the plagiarism thing, we now know that Melania Trump both agrees with Michelle Obama on some key points, and admires the current first lady -- all of which would be just great if the rest of the convention weren't busy demonizing both Obamas and a certain former member of his cabinet. Awkward. Very awkward.

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    3. What I don't understand is why exactly the originality of her speech, or lack thereof, is even an issue. Is she getting paid or published, or producing work for a class? Not at all! It's more like saying the same thing every year at the opening ceremony of the local cattle fair or at the annual family Thanksgiving dinner. Nobody care, even if the speaker is not the same person as last time. It's because of the notoriety of the characters and events in question that somebody noticed the so-called "plagiarism" and raised such a fuss.

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    4. This is everything. In my fevered imagination I couldn't ever imagine this, but now that it happens, the combination of actor and dialogue is just perfection.

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    5. Alice the AdjunctJuly 21, 2016 at 5:22 AM

      It is about the most Monica thing I've ever seen.

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    6. And I'm going to do an un-OPH thing and not engage.

      Stand with me, comrades; I need to feel your strength.

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    7. I have a long-standing promise to myself not to engage, OPH.
      Girding my loins for the return of Jesse Stommel.

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    8. There have been times that I've thought "Monica" was not actually the original Monica, but just some longtime reader who has picked up her schtick and brings it out for a wallop now and again. This comment couldn't be any more "Monica."

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  6. And the fact that has me crying into my lemonade (hey; it's early, and I still have students to talk to via Skype): the staffer who has now taken responsibility is an English major. At least the situation she describes -- Melania Trump reading her passages from Obama's speech over the phone, and her taking notes -- sounds somewhat plausible, and doesn't involve her cutting and pasting directly from the speech and claiming she didn't know it was wrong or mixed up her notes and her quotes, or whatever. And nobody ever claimed that an English major prepared one (at least not completely) for the complex job of a speechwriter. But it's still a sad day for English majors (not that we were doing all that well in the public esteem beforehand. On the other hand, I suppose this proves that one can do quite well, at least financially, as a ghostwriter, though it would be wise to pick one's clients carefully).

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    1. Yes. Yes. Yes. And now I am very sad, indeed, that Garrison Keillor has taken A Prairie Home Companion off the air again, because I think his thoughts on the subject would be worth hearing.

      I also harbor a suspicion that the staffer may have been doing such a good job as scapegoat that she's been promoted to martyr (to repeat a line I heard somewhere).

      Now I'm gong to go back to pretending that our national pep rally (part one) isn't happening. I find these even more nauseating than the ones I had to attend in high school.

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    2. I like that line, and I think the scenario it describes is quite plausible. It may well be that she, or somebody in the Trump campaign, turns out to be a creative writing major with a concentration in fiction (actually, I think a lot of political campaigns have at least one of those).

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  7. No, I am the English major who wrote Melania's speech.

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