War Room – Salon.com – on Coulter’s plagiarism

War Room – Salon.com
In defense of Ann Coulter

This was an interesting discussion of Ann Coulter’s recent problems with plagiarism charges. Apparently, her syndicates and publisher has decided its OK to steal a little bit of writing. The argument that “There are only so many ways you can rewrite a fact,” is true, as Grieve points out here, but its somewhat disingenuous.

Grieve explains the ‘truth’ behind it this way …

It’s not a bad argument. When we cite a CNN story saying that “North Korea test-fired a long-range missile,” there are only so many ways to say “North Korea test-fired a long-range missile,” and we’re not inclined to call ourselves plagiarists just because we say that CNN reported that North Korea test-fired a long-range missile.

And he’s hit the target dead on, IMO. The key point here is attribution and as Grieve goes on to point out, Coulter’s issues stem from lack of attribution.

Yes, there are “only so many ways you can rewrite a fact.” But when you’re writing a column in which you identify 23 “offensive” samples of speech the government has funded, is it fair game to lift 10 of them nearly word for word from a Heritage Foundation document — without crediting Heritage? When you’re writing an 850-word column on John Roberts and David Souter, is it appropriate to take nearly a third of that column pretty much straight out of a Los Angeles Times profile of Souter — without mentioning the Los Angeles Times?

One of the reasons I wanted to write this piece was to highlight an excellent bit of analysis by Tim Grieve at Salon. But at the same time, it serves as an excellent example of how to use the words of others without running the risk of plagiarism. A significant percentage of this post is lifted from other people, directly ’stolen’ so to speak from Tim Grieve at Salon. But it all comes down to attribution. The issue was never that she used other’s words … writers have been doing that for millenia … or even the number of words she ‘borrowed.’ The issue was ALWAYS that in borrowing those words she tried to pass them off as her own without acknowledging where they came from. Coulter was ALWAYS free to borrow the words of others to help make her point, as we are ALL free to do … but she must acknowledge the people who’s words she borrows. That’s ALL this is about, and there’s really no question about it … if she’d simply footnoted those 10 points to the Heritage Foundation, none of this would be an issue. If she’s too lazy or too ignorant to do that, its hardly our problem when we call her on it later. I argue that rather than whining, she should grow up and learn how to write, and how to give proper attribution.


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