Plagiarism and Competence

New York State Senator Greg BallThere seems to be a problem with Republicans and plagiarism. They have this tendency to just stick other people’s work in their speeches and bills without a thought. We saw a whole bunch of this with Rand Paul recently. And in the end, he didn’t even seem to understand what was wrong with what he had done. He made it out like other people were academic with their insistence of “footnotes.” He didn’t get the fact that saying something that was a direct quote without noting it is the definition of plagiarism.

Of course, some might bring up Joe Biden in 1988 when he plagiarizing part of a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. Actually, there are mitigating circumstances in this. Primarily, he normally did directly quote Kinnock, but simply forgot that time. He claimed to be exhausted and I believe him. The fact is that love him or hate him, Joe Biden is the most authentic politician around. But the main point is that Biden was embarrassed about the incident and withdrew from the race.

Recently, we got another Republican plagiarizer: New York State Senator Greg Ball. Like me, Ball was deeply affected by the documentary Blackfish. So he put together a bill to make it illegal for aquatic parks to keep killer whales in captivity. The problem is that the bill lifts a paragraph wholesale from a blog post by high school student Donald Rapier.

This is unfortunate, because while Ball is a Republican, I agree with the bill he is trying to get passed. It is also unfortunate because he decided to rip off this high school student rather than me. Of course, the biggest problem is the plagiarism. And to his credit, Ball seems to understand that plagiarism is actually wrong and something to be embarrassed about. So he fired one of his staff members, who supposedly did the plagiarism.

But the whole thing shows how writing has been devalued. I would think that everyone who works in a state (Or federal!) level office would at least be a competent writer. But instead, it looks like Republicans are forced to hire people who scraped out of English Composition with a C-. Or if they aren’t forced, they think that ideology trumps competence. As much as I admire what Senator Ball is trying to do, I think he must ultimately be held responsible. It isn’t enough to say that your staff did it when you are the one hiring people who can’t write and don’t value those who do.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Plagiarism and Competence

  1. Nothing to say but "It’s Okay." Here’s a welcome little reminder that you’ve got readers–readers who appreciate *your* writing. I sometimes share your quotes or columns, but I always give you credit. Well, except when I simply forget, that is. ;)

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