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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

The Plagiarism Scandal Continues

Somebody on my FB is ranting in defense of the plagiarizing poet I mentioned over the weekend. First of all, she didn’t plagiarize, he says. And even if she did, it was by accident. And even if it wasn’t, she’s a good person, which is what matters. And anyway, there are greater tragedies in the world. 

What makes the situation even more delightful, this same fellow recently posted a long screed condemning Columbus for not anticipating, back in the XVth century, the moral code of the XXIst and not living up to it. 

Of course, it’s easy to pass judgement when it doesn’t obligate you to do anything. As an acquaintance says, “I love fishing because fish don’t talk back.” Columbus doesn’t talk back, so it’s a pleasure to take him to task.

My FB friend is not the only one. A bunch of writers published a letter in support of the plagiarist. Because she didn’t do it, and even if she did, etc, etc. 

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7 thoughts on “The Plagiarism Scandal Continues

  1. When I was a TA, I had these two students who were awesome people. They were engaged, they did well on everything, they didn’t plagiarize. Except for one written assignment. How in the world can anyone not see that being a good person has absolutely nothing to do with one’s ability to plagiarize? They’re not mutually exclusive.

    Also, this “accidental plagiarism” excuse is the worst excuse you can possibly have. Even if you did do it, it should show up in your editing/revising process and credit should either be attributed or the passage erased. If it doesn’t, the book should be pulled and gone through with a fine-toothed comb before even being considered for release again. In this case, though, just the fact that there were multiple sentences copied — almost word-for-word — makes that seem extraordinarily unlikely. And wouldn’t the style of those sentences be substantially different from the rest of the writing, especially in a book?

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  2. AcademicLurker on said:

    I agree that the practice of acting shocked and outraged that figures from centuries ago didn’t have exquisitely up-to-the-minute-current modern values is kind of pointless.

    But wasn’t Columbus’s governing of Hispanola considered a scandal even at the time? I seem to recall that he was actually brought up on charges and jailed at one point.

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    • He was jailed because he wanted a title that the Crown wasn’t willing to confer on him. The Spanish crown had just thrown out all of the Jews from the country, just like that. They were so not paragons of virtue.

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      • AcademicLurker on said:

        I know relatively little about Spanish history, but from what I have read it’s always amazed me how quickly they ended up in difficult financial straights after gaining control of a mind bending amount of wealth in the Americas.

        I realize we’re starting to drift pretty far from the original topic of the thread. Unless Columbus was also a plagiarist.

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        • “it’s always amazed me how quickly they ended up in difficult financial straights after gaining control of a mind bending amount of wealth in the Americas”

          Wh? Tha’ts the usual consequence of quickly gaining control of mind bending amounts of wealth (see lottery winners)

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          • Yes, the riches of the Americas ended up bankrupting the Spanish Empire. As a result, Spain lost time before managing to enter capitalism. It industrialized late. The results are still felt today.

            It’s not just that one thing, of course. This all snowballed over the centuries.

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  3. We have “situational ethics” taken to an extreme. If you like someone, you give them a pass on legal and moral standards. We see that in people defending Weinstein and Trump, for example. Formerly, society recognized that good people can err and have to be help accountable when they do. Now the punishment doesn’t have to be “one strike you’re out.” There are legitimate cases in which that shouldn’t be true. However, there has to be some form of public acknowledgment of the error and atonement. Otherwise, law become entirely subjective.

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