Saturday, December 13, 2014

Allen West matter: not such a bombshell

In a post titled Updated: Allen West plagiarism bombshell: Tea Party hero lifted passages from viral Internet post , Salon savages West for copying, without attribution, from a "viral internet post" relating to President Obama's silence on shootings of white police officers.

The Salon post began with the text After the New York Times revealed that Montana Democratic Sen. John Walsh had plagiarized his master’s thesis for the U.S. Army War College, Allen West brought the knives out. Apart from getting facts wrong [it was not a Master's thesis, but rather a paper for a Master's degree at the War College; certain text was copied without attribution, but the whole paper was not copied], the implication by Salon that the copying was uncovered in a political context is correct. The assertion about West is also politically-motivated. So also were charges about Glenn Poshard.

But the underlying "bad act" is different as between John Walsh and Adam West. Walsh was getting a degree for academic work, which was represented to be original to the granting institution. West was not.

The response was different. Walsh blamed stress. West immediately corrected the problem.

In the ongoing discussion of the Malcolm Gladwell copying, Gladwell's allusion to his earlier essay amounts to "who cares".
In Walsh's case, the answer is --the War College does.-- Gladwell's essay alluded to the Laurence Tribe incident, but conveniently ignored the ghost writing aspect. Indeed, legal scholarship is a culture of copying. But the War College should be different, and the outcome of the Walsh matter in Carlisle suggests it is.


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