Friday, July 22, 2016

Washington Post inadvertently raises some (other) plagiarism issues

In a post titled After Melania Trump’s plagiarism, the press hunts for more stolen speeches, Callum Borchers
wrote, as to speeches by Donald Trump Jr. and Mike Pence:

But as The Fix's Philip Bump explained Wednesday, the controversy quickly died when it turned out that Buckley helped write Donald Trump Jr.'s speech. So he was really just stealing from himself.

Here at The Fix, we also scrubbed Mike Pence's Wednesday-night address and found phrases borrowed from Ronald Reagan, the Bible and Bill Clinton, of all people. But as Aaron Blake noted, these were more like hat-tips to familiar texts than attempts by Pence to pass off someone else's ideas as his own (though not all news outlets were so charitable in their assessments).

Plagiarism is copying without attribution to the originator of that which is copied. Trump Jr. gave a speech written by a speech writer without attributing the writer during the speech. Certainly a common practice. The writer in turn self-plagiarized. Both are examples of plagiarism that are accepted by many as "not a bad act." Both are plagiarism.

As to -- hat-tips to familiar texts --, Abraham Lincoln's "House Divided" speech is right out of the Bible. Most in that 1858 audience probably knew this. One does not need to attribute an author that is already known , at least in speeches.
Joe Biden's Syracuse Law plagiarism shows that this rule does not always hold. Biden's fellow student (and professor) knew "where" the copied text came from. But on a paper, for a grade, copying without attribution is problematic, even when the readers know your source. That amounts to trying to take credit for the work of others. Not good on an assignment, but all right when using a speechwriter?


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