Why We Should All Want Politicians Who Plagiarize

from the it's-called-learning-from-others dept

There's been a rather bizarre debate about plagiarism kicked off by charges from Hillary Clinton's campaign that Barack Obama has "plagiarized" some of his speeches. This isn't a political blog, and I won't get into the politics of this, but we do talk about plagiarism here, and it's a ridiculous claim. In the past, we've noted that it's time to rethink the concept of plagiarism, and even pointed to Jonathan Lethem's fantastic defense of plagiarism, which was entirely plagiarized itself. Many people wrongly confuse copyright and plagiarism -- even though they are two separate things. Copyright has nothing to do with making sure someone gets credit for their work. What some people want to call plagiarism, others are realizing is actually a form of collaboration. Ideas and words do not come to us uniquely as a burst of inspiration -- but are built on what we have all learned from others. When anyone speaks, they are "plagiarizing" others in some form or another. Name a political candidate who has only uttered his or her own words, not taking anything from anyone else and improving on it in their own way.

Thankfully, various speechwriters have come forward to ridicule the charges of plagiarism, noting that all political speeches pull from others, and when is the last time you heard a politician credit his or her own speechwriter for a speech he or she had just given? Copyright expert William Patry has blasted the charges as well. In fact, most of the commentary seems to be about what a lame tactic it is. Most amusing of all, perhaps, are the false claims by one news organization that it broke the story. Think about that for a second: a news organization is demanding undeserved credit for breaking a story on a politician who, by omission, failed to credit where his ideas came from. Which is worse? Claiming credit for something you did not do, or failing to credit a friend and advisor who provided you with an idea you built on?

But the key point here is that I want a politician who plagiarizes. I want a politician who takes the ideas of others, mixes them around and comes out with something better. I want a politician who doesn't think that all good ideas spring from his or her head alone, but knows that by listening to others, and by internalizing those ideas, remixing those ideas and building on top of those ideas something better, something more profound, something more meaningful can be produced. Any politician who chooses not to build on the ideas of others and who insists that only he or she creates the speeches and policies put forth is not a politician worth following.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    granto, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 7:21am

    I think Hillary should take a flying roll in a manure pile.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Feb 21st, 2008 @ 7:24am

    Re:

    C'mon, man! Manure doesn't deserve that!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Matt Bennett, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 8:14am

    So, I don't he's really being accused of plagiarism. It's the most immediate word for it, so that's what people are saying it is, but no one really thinks it literal plagiarism in the traditional sense. It's obvious he either had Deval Patrick's express or implicit permission to use the speech, and that Deval obviously doesn't mind.

    It's not a legal or moral issue. No one (and I'm a Republican, mind you) really thinks it was WRONG to use those words.

    The problem with it is that it reeks of the same old crap. Obama has made a very big deal of claiming that he's different....and this is same old same old. People shut down Romney not so much because he waffled on some issues but because of what that implied.....that he was fake, that he was simply willing to say whatever it took, that he was treating the campaign like a corporate marketing effort. Clinton gives much the same Vibe, which is part of why her negatives are so high.

    I had noticed that Obama was making very similar moves and striking the same tone that Deval Patrick's Campaign had (I live in Boston), I just hadn't realized it was literally the saem thing until it was pointed out.

    So here's Obama, and it looks like he's been essentially borrowing a winning playbook. Just saying what it took, essentially. And that's why it's so bad, cuz people really thought he was different. It made up for the fact he was so inexperienced. And now maybe he's not so different, and maybe it doesn't make up for it anymore.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    crat3, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 8:29am

    Obama plagarized

    Preaching hope, inspiration, change, with no substance, no specifics, no media challenge, and media fawning, Obama is instructive of how demagogues rise to power to inflict horrors on humanity.

    Obama lifted rhetoric and passed it off as his own. Obama plagarized, but Duval has covered for him as a crony. Obama lied to his audience; he perpetuated a fraud on them. He also lied about rudely snubbing Hillary Clinton at the SOTU. He lifted from her economic solution. He has shown a pattern of lying showing he cannot be trusted on his word. He has the character flaw of dishonesty of a corrupt politician.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 8:36am

    If plagiarism is so great, why the hell do I have to bust my ass re-writing and re-interpreting things for my damn essays, rather than just copying them down?

    It'd make my life a hell of a lot easier.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Matt Bennett, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 8:40am

    I don't actually think he snubbed Clinton at the SOTU. I think that just a random photo not really representing the situation, and then Clinton taking advantage of her after the fact, cuz let's face it, she's a bitch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    nipseyrussell, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 8:44am

    your essays? you mean for school? um, i think its because you are supposed to LEARN how to do things in school.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 9:07am

    Re:

    Because the point of your essays is not to enlighten your professor, who likely has read the same material once if not a dozen times before, but to get you to think critically about what you've consumed and produce meaningful output of your own. Plagerism in school is (or ought to) not be banned because it's wrong, but because it's not right; it doesn't demonstrate your own abilities.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 9:30am

    Re: Matt Bennett's comment

    There's merit in your observation that this looks to be part of a playbook -- then again, ALL campaigns are based on playbooks, and those are based in large part on the collective experience of those managing the campaign. For example, just at the moment, it appears that Senator Clinton's campaign tried out some plays in Wisconsin (perhaps because they were fairly sure they'd lose anyway, so it made a safe testing area) and are now choosing among those to see which will work in Ohio and Texas. (I don't mean to single her campaign out: everyone does this at all levels of politics. It's just that this example is timely and easy to observe.)

    I'll argue, though, that the we the voting public have brought this upon ourselves: we are presented with this because it works. Look at how much press coverage has been expended on McCain's younger wife or Edwards' haircut or Clinton's tears or Obama's wife's comments or other essentially meaningless trivia, compared to substantive coverage of tough issues like "how the heck are we going to fix the broken economy?" All of these things garner TV ratings and sell newspapers and boost candidates -- because we make them do so. If we'd stop paying attention to them, stop responding to them, then maybe we could get a sober discussion of various economic proposals -- boring, lengthy, and wonky, but vitally important and something we should be paying close attention to.

    I'm not concerned about this plagiarism non-issue. I recognize that clever lines (such as Senator Obama's "Washington is where good ideas go to die" line from Tuesday night) are often derivative -- for instance, that's similar to my own "Paper is where data goes to die" which I turn got from someone else's "X is where Y goes to die" whose origin I've long since forgotten. Memes like this are everywhere, and it'd be too much to expect everyone to come up with new ones every time they give a speech. I'm far more concerned about the concepts beyond the words -- what those saying them actually plan to do should they be given the opportunity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    mrprincipal03, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 9:38am

    comments on plagiarism

    Windmills come to mind.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Spuds, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 9:48am

    Re: Obama plagarized

    You should really look at the "Blueprint for Change" before saying that he has no substance or specifics. Most everyone that claims that he has no substance or specifics is parroting the Hillary or Republican party line-- and has never heard of the Blueprint before.

    http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/ObamaBlueprintForChange.pdf

    Then come back and talk to us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Feb 21st, 2008 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: Matt Bennett's comment

    Regarding Obama's "Washingto is where good ideas go to die," line...isn't Obama currently working in Washington?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Matt Bennett, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Matt Bennett's comment

    I won't argue with any of that. It's just think that the reason it's bad for him is not because of the plagiarism, but because it just comes of as far too canned. He would have been much better shape had he at least switched around the words a little more.

    I likewise agree that the media preys on our baser instincts cuz it works. Foxnews.com has a "most read" listing on the right, and it's usually a story about Britney Spears going crazy that wins. I die a little inside each time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Cutter892, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 10:12am

    Re: Re: Obama plagarized

    First the document is broken. Just like his plans. I've heard what he wants to do and it's the same thing s Hillary, except he has a personality. But either of the plans boils down to enslave the population to the government with high taxes, bad policies, and socialized medicine. The last one being the biggest issue. Why would I want the federal government controlling health care? The same federal government that can not secure are own borders, the same federal government that's bankrupted Social Security by not privatizing or locking that money away, the same federal government that continues to spend billions on earmarks to be in control of are health care!?!?!?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Spuds, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Obama plagarized

    "First the document is broken. Just like his plans."

    So what you're saying is.... you didn't read the document... right? You can go ahead and cop out if you want to...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Cutter892, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Obama plagarized

    No actually I haven't read the document itself. I have however heard him on the few rare speech's where he actually talked about his plans for health care and a few other issues. It's effectively the same thing as Hilary's plans. Make people dependent on the government. Yes actually unlike a lot of people when it comes to presidential campains I listen to what they are really saying and look at there plans. The thing is most of Obama's speech's are void of substance, he sits there and talks about change but he hardly ever spells out what he wants to do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    George, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 11:19am

    Cutter892

    You're an idiot. re-read what you wrote and start over.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Spuds, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 11:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Obama plagarized

    Read the document. It's well worth it. The difference between Obama's plans and Clinton's plans are vast. http://thomas.loc.gov is a good place to start. You can see the bills both have introduced, compare their bills... often both he and she would introduce similar bills-- but his would be tough... hardline. He wanted RESULTS and not some symbolism. He has a lot of supporters and co-writers to his bills where Clinton often has none.

    Don't get me wrong... Clinton isn't BAD... she's just not THE candidate. As far as I am concerned, out of EVERYONE that is running-- the only one that has actually worked for CHANGE-- is Obama. He's proven it time and time again.

    Getting bills passed is tough. And even though some of his bills didn't make it, you only have to look at them to notice that he wants (and has wanted) real change for a long time, and has worked for it long before he was a candidate.

    It's easy to parrot something you've heard someone else say or something you read somewhere else or whatever... but when you take the time to sit down and go over their voting habits and look over the bills they have written, one candidate truly starts to shine. And that's why I support Obama.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    napacab, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 12:00pm

    Hillary's campaign

    The Clinton campaign is starting to smell of desperation as well as manure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Frank, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 12:10pm

    TechDirt about politics...

    You should probably just avoid it in the future, Mike.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Dr. Slobber, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 12:33pm

    Plagiarize

    Plagiarism refers to the written word, not the spoken word.

    Start from there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Cutter892, Feb 21st, 2008 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Obama plagarized

    I'm glad to see that at least someone else is looking at the meat and potatoes of a candidate instead of it being a popularity contest. Honestly I don't like Obama and I hate Hilary when it comes to policies. I'd like to see shrinking government that gets out of the way instead of having the government be the answer espicaly with health care. I'm not to fond of McCain either. What is so hard about small government that stay's out of peoples lives, secures the border and follows through on commitments like Iraq. Should we have invaded? I'll let history decide that but we are there and we should finish the job we started instead of just leaving it a mess and pulling out. On topic of the story Obama got verbal permision to use what he used from the sorce. Hilary know's her campain is about dead in the water but she doesn't want to give up her chance at power.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Nick (profile), Feb 21st, 2008 @ 1:19pm

    If the this "paganism" attack against Obama is not a good enough reason to vote against Hillary, what other reason do you need?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Nick (profile), Feb 21st, 2008 @ 1:26pm

    whops. ^ "plagiarism. Please fix if you have the time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    ipanema, Feb 22nd, 2008 @ 12:22am

    Re: Plagiarize

    right! :)

    goodness sakes these people look like kids telling grandma someone stole their sweets. enough Clinton camp.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Johanna, Feb 22nd, 2008 @ 12:04pm

    I believe that Mike was correct in what he said. You have to build on other peoples ideas otherwise you will always start from scratch.


    "But the key point here is that I want a politician who plagiarizes. I want a politician who takes the ideas of others, mixes them around and comes out with something better. I want a politician who doesn't think that all good ideas spring from his or her head alone, but knows that by listening to others, and by internalizing those ideas, remixing those ideas and building on top of those ideas something better, something more profound, something more meaningful can be produced. Any politician who chooses not to build on the ideas of others and who insists that only he or she creates the speeches and policies put forth is not a politician worth following."


    As for Hillary Clinton, I feel she is weak. Her husband cheated on her, made a fool of her. She laid down and took it.

    If he was my husband his A$$ would be grass and everyone would know about it.
    She apparently has no real passion for her life if she would allow that fool to do that to her and never publicly humiliate him.
    You can hate what I said or like it. This is true, she is weak!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Lisa P, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 3:00am

    Barack Obama is serious about bringing change to the United States, and he has a “Blueprint for Change” that he proclaims as the avenue to get us there. If you work for the federal government, and you have concerns about just how this might affect you. Lois Romano and Eric Pianin of the Washington Post point out the “dozens” of proposals in the Blueprint that could change the careers of some government employees. It is not easy to handle new task, it will be hard for some to cope up if changes wanted by Obama will be implemented. Obama plans to go through the budget, line by line, and eliminate waste. He says, “I am not a Democrat who believes we can or should defend every government program just because it is there.” Though that may sound scary to some (and others running for personal loans), don’t get too frightened: Obama has a broad domestic agenda that could end up moving skilled employees from threatened divisions to other programs formed by his policies. He also encourages young public servants that are attuned to his kind of optimism, to help restore faith in the American Dream through public service. But the hazard here is there’s no assurance for the real change he wanted. It looks like trial and error.

    Click to read more on Personal Loans

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Michael, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 2:52am

    But either of the plans boils down to enslave the population to the government with high taxes, bad policies, and socialized medicine. The last one being the biggest issue. Why would I want the federal government controlling health care? The same federal government that can not secure are own borders, the same federal government that's bankrupted Social Security by not privatizing or locking that money away, the same federal government that continues to spend billions on earmarks to be in control of are health care bedroom furniture.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Jason, Apr 28th, 2009 @ 8:40pm

    In responce

    I agree with you on the issue at hand. Although I think that when giveing a speach and you are using some one elses words form another speach they need to give the orginator of that speach credict.
    Thanks for taking the time to read my responce
    Jason

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    plagiarism checking, May 9th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    plagiarism checking

    Choosing An Online Plagiarism Detector To Check For Plagiarism

    Plagiarism is a growing problem in academia and the work place. The internet has made it easy for nearly anyone to copy written material and pass it off as their own work. Because of the legal and ethical dilemmas associated with plagiarism, plagiarism checking software is now readily available. With so many online plagiarism detectors, choosing one may seem like an overwhelming task, but it can be easy if you know what you're looking for.

    Extensive Plagiarism Checking Software

    An online service that can check for plagiarism is a good place to start. A good plagiarism service won't just run through a few well-known plagiarism sites looking for copied work. Instead, the better plagiarism checking software programs will also compare work published through magazines, academic journals, books and billions of academic papers. The most advanced programs will also check message boards, blogs and other forms of casual internet communication.

    Because not all plagiarism is copied word for word, a service that compares sentence structure and searches for papers with different synonyms is important. This means that someone submitting a paper as their own won't be able to simply use a thesaurus to change a few key words.


    You can also find more details and services about plagiarism at here:

    In depth plagiarism checking service

    Thanks

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    lesil, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 10:27pm

    I've heard what he wants to do and it's the same thing s Hillary, except he has a personality. But either of the plans boils down to enslave the population to the government with high taxes, bad policies, and socialized medicine. The last one being the biggest issue. Why would I want the federal government controlling health care? The same federal government that can not secure are own borders, the same federal government that's bankrupted Social Security by not privatizing or locking that money away, the same federal government that continues to spend billions on earmarks to be in control handbags

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    toys, Dec 17th, 2010 @ 7:18am

    I've heard what he wants to do and it's the same thing s Hillary, except he has a personality. But either of the plans boils down to enslave the population to the government with high taxes, bad policies, and socialized medicine. The last one being the biggest issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This