Monday, July 25, 2016

Richland on plagiarism

Shedding Light on the Truth
Stew Richland

Mark Twain on plagiarism
All ideas are second-hand in a letter written to Helen Keller Twain wrote: “The kernel, the soul — let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances — is plagiarism.”

In the early 1940’s there was a radio program called the 4th Estate written by Mark Hellinger, a well-known author and screen writer. The theme of the program extolled the virtues of the American press and its historical role in investigating crimes and misdemeanors against  Americans.  These “Muckrakers” shed light on actions by politicians and individuals that were damaging the life, health, and welfare of Americans. A new form of journalism was created when Americans were introduced to the evening news segments when television  began to provide the public with the “news events of the day.”  One of the first things the network stations shared was news. During the late 1940s and early 1950s television viewers began watching the news on four television networks: NBC, CBS, ABC, and DuMont.

John Cameron Swayze, who worked in radio for many years, had done voice-over work for the Camel Newsreel Theatre before becoming the television anchor of Camel News Caravan. He made eye contact and understood the visual role that anchors play in presenting the news. Swayze ended his program each night with the line, "Well, that's the story,  Glad we could get together."

The Today show with host Dave Garroway first aired on January 14, 1952. Garroway began the first Today show with the following introduction:”Well here we are, and good morning to you.  The very first good morning of what I hope and suspect will be a great many good mornings between you and me. Here it is, January 14, 1952, when NBC begins a new program called Today and, if it doesn't sound too revolutionary, I really believe this begins a new kind of television.”

The Huntley-Brinkley report first aired in 1956.  Over the years viewers came to expect their familiar sign-off, "Goodnight, David -- Goodnight, Chet." Walter Cronkite began his nightly news broadcast in 1967.  When Chet Huntley retired he said: "Be patient and have courage -- there will be better and happier news some day, if we work at it."

These were the faces and voices Americans that entered the lives of millions of Americans each day.  Americans believed their view of the news.  We  trusted their analysis.  We felt that we were being told the truth.  Political partisanship was did not temper their objectivity.  This what Americans demanded from the 4th Estate.

Sadly the 4th Estate slowly but relentlessly began to evolve into a partisan organization that looks for “gotcha” news in order to support their own political agendas.  There is no question in my mind that the overwhelming news media outlets along with their reporters, journalists and editorial boards are liberal left wing supporters and will do anything necessary to undermine their conservative opponents.
Just look at how the left wing press attacked the potential First Lady. They accused her of plagiarism after several passages in her speech to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland appeared to echo lines from Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The Trump campaign denied it borrowed lines from Michelle Obama, including: “that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond…”.

CBS has spent the most time on this (25 minutes, 52 seconds), followed by NBC (17 minutes, 6 seconds) and ABC (16 minutes, 27 seconds). ABC’s Jon Karl padded his report this morning by relaying social media mockery of Mrs. Trump:  “The hashtag #Famous Melania Trump Quotes trending online, joking about Melania making up other famous phrases like ‘you can’t handle the truth,’ ‘Luke, I am your father,’ and ‘I have a dream.’”

Trump’s wife joins Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden as accused plagiarists. Even Michelle Obama was accused of plagiarizing part of her own 2008 DNC speech.
Michelle Obama: “…the world as it should be.” In 2008, the aspiring First Lady was accused by bloggers of lifting lines for her DNC speech from Saul Alinsky.   Alinsky wrote, in Rules for Radicals (emphasis added): “The standards of judgment must be rooted in the whys and wherefores of life as it is lived, the world as it is, not our wished-for fantasy of the world as it should be.” Michelle Obama said: “And Barack stood up that day, and he spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about ‘the world as it is‘ and ‘the world as it should be.'” (Perhaps Mr. Obama who left out the attribution.)

Barack Obama: “Don’t tell me words don’t matter.” As then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) surpassed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, largely on the strength of his oratory, Clinton said that Obama’s record was “just words.” Obama responded in a speech whose refrain was lifted from then-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. The Obama campaign did not even bother to refute the claim. Instead, it circulated examples of lines that it said Clinton herself had borrowed from Obama. The left media defended Obama, saying that he had not committed plagiarism, but merely, at worst, “poor footnoting.”

The first network coverage of Obama’s evident plagiarism appeared on Monday, February 18, 2008. Over the next day and a half, CBS produced only 2 minutes, 58 seconds of coverage, or less than one-eighth their total coverage of the Melania Trump flap. The other broadcast networks generated much less coverage — just 14 minutes of airtime, or barely one-fourth what they’ve covered over the Melinia Trump speech.

To further illustrate the biased nature of the reporting community one just has to examine similar events occurring in 2008 and how the press and TV reported these issues of so-called plagiarism.

Hillary Clinton: “No bank can be too big to fail, no executive too powerful to jail.” After the Obama campaign accused Clinton of stealing lines in 2008 — a claim supplemented by The New Republic, which accused her of stealing lines from then-Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) —  she ought to have learned her lesson. But in 2016, she stole lines from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who responded by telling NBC News’ Meet the Press, jokingly: “We’re looking into the copyright issues here.” Clinton was accused of lifting other lines, too — and Sanders supporters responded on Twitter with the hashtag: #StealtheBern.

Joe Biden: “My ancestors who worked in the coal mines…”. Biden was found to have borrowed heavily from the oratory — and the biography — of British Labour Party leader Neal Kinnock, without attribution. In addition, it was discovered he had committed plagiarism while in law school. The scandal helped bring down Biden’s presidential campaign in 1988 — though Biden’s angry outburst at a reporter — “I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect” — didn’t help, either.

*NOTE: the above two items came from an internet search dealing with the events of the 2008 Democratic Convention.
The questions about Melania Trump’s speech are legitimate and deserve coverage, but the networks have blown this all out of proportion. If suspected plagiarism by an actual presidential candidate deserves only 14 minutes of coverage, then how does the same alleged offense by a candidate’s wife merit four times as much journalistic scrutiny?

Mark Twain, one of America’s greatest wordsmith reflected on this idea of plagiarism and I selected just a few of his observations to illustrate my thoughts on the issue.

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.
Unconscious appropriation is utterly common; it is not plagiarism and is no crime;
But lemme correct you in one thing -- I mean soothe you with one fact: a considerable part of every book is an unconscious plagiarism of some previous book. There is no sin about it. If there were, and it were of the deadly sort, it would eventually be necessary to restrict hell to authors -- and then enlarge it.- letter to editor of Grants Pass Observer dated April 2, 1887. Reprinted in The Morning Oregonian, May 4, 1910, p. 10.

Solomon, when he said there was nothing new, meant also there were no new literary styles under the sun, either.
- quoted in Twenty Years in Europe by Samuel H. M. Byers
What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. William Shakespeare.  How often have people used this quote as an idiomatic expression to explain a concept or idea.

 The nature of a thing is more important than what it is called.  How many of us have read books in which we find a passage so well expressed that we underline it and place a copy of it on your refrigerator.  As a teacher, I have placed on the board many ideas found in books that clearly are thought provoking and inspiring in order challenge my students.  This is what good teachers do.

The Press, by over reporting what Melinia Trump said in her speech at the Republican Convention and using a wide brush to minimize the ideas that she was conveying in comparison to what how they treated others from the Democratic side clearly proves that the role of the 4th Estate has not lived up to the logo which is found on the front portico of the New York Times building, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” It is sad that our press today does deem to allow all the light to shine on their reporting and not cast shadows on what they don’t  report because of their bias.

Shame on you all.

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