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.