Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Maureen Dowd: I believe her!

Maureen Dowd
(Image from Wikipedia)

Why is everyone down on Dowd for her 'plagiarism'? She simply repeated something she'd heard from a friend. Do we have to cite our friends every time we 'borrow' words from some conversation that we both shared?

I borrow words all the time. Why, hardly a word that I've used so far is original to me! I'd have to invent a word if I wanted to be truly original, and if I did that, nobody'd know what I was talking about. Take "dowdlerize," for example. Would anybody understand that? Not unless I also explained this invented word:
dowdlerize: tr.v. To modify, as by shortening or simplifying or by skewing the content in a certain manner.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I overheard this definition and decided to borrow what I remembered. It's kind of similar to the definition of another word at the Free Online Dictionary, as I learned later . . . sometime after I'd overheard it.

Anyway, what did Dowd 'borrow'? Let me see . . . she said:
"More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq."
That's it? Why, I overhear stuff like that all the time. A constant refrain of stuff echoing in my head. My head is so full of stuff that I hardly know when I'm just retaining stuff I've heard and when I'm actually thinking for myself!

Besides, Dowd didn't 'quote' those words exactly. She made them more or less her own. You can see that by checking the putative 'source' in Josh Marshall's blog:
"More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq."
See. Hardly identical by any strict reading! Dowd used "when the Bush crowd was looking," not Marshall's words: "when we were looking." Dowd's words are a lot more creative than Marshall's and are clearly not copied.

As for the other words that are somewhat similar? Well, that can happen to the best of us. Like me. I once accidentally used some words similar to something I'd overheard. Here's what I wrote:
"Act only according to that maxim whereby you and the Bush crowd can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."
I'd overheard some friend say that, I guess. Anyway, it was rattling around in my head, and I thought I'd come up with it, but turns out it was kind of like something Immanuel Kant once said:
"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."
As you can see, there's a 'similarity' in our choice of words . . . though I think that mine are slightly more creative. Besides, Kant said this in more than one way, so who can blame me if one of the ways that he said it sounds something like what I wrote? I categorically deny that I copied. Why, I wouldn't do that. I'd never do that! What if everybody copied from everybody? Like it was a general rule or something? That wouldn't be right.

I think we all know we should never plagiarize. This is a rule of thumb that I like to call a categorical imperative -- meaning that we wouldn't want everybody doing it.

Each of us implicitly knows this rule. I know it. You know it. Maureen Dowd knows it. And because she knows it -- and knows just how important this rule is -- she'd never violate it by copying someone else's words without attribution.

And lately, she has decided to quell the controversy over the similarity between her words and Josh Marshall's by deleting her own words, quoting Marshall's words exactly, and giving him credit.

That ought to satisfy everybody.

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4 Comments:

At 10:18 AM, OpenID sonagi92 said...

A little egg on the face is good for the complexion.

At least she credited the source unlike that Donga translator who got a little inspiration from my blog entry.

 
At 10:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Too bad that we foreigners can't embarass that translator who stole your work.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I admit it, I don't know that you ever posted this but the other day... feeling quite original I "almost" very closely came to typing in "Flared-Nostrilled Libertarian" in describing either his or my opinion (I can't recall the context) but then I got to thinking...

I know it's dangerous for JK to do, schoolbusses and all - and who knows who might be sleeping on schoolbusses - anyway Dr. Jeff, might you check out whether anyone has used "Flared Nostrilled Libertarian?" I was afraid if I used it you'd point out it was copyrighted and I'd owe you and Cran a bunch of money.

I forget what my opinion at the time was.

However - if it's not been ... (Dr.Jeff shhhh -don't tell cranberry - I see money in this.)

JK

 
At 1:50 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, JK, Google doesn't show the expression, so you're free to make money.

Jeffery Hodges

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