My friend Cathy Young recently went through a nightmare thanks to some very reckless plagiarism charges.
The story actually starts several years ago when the Boston Globe fired a woman, whose name escapes me, because she admitted to making up quotes in a column she was writing. After having nominated her for a Pulitzer Prize, they quickly showed her the door. It was the right thing to do.
But then, they royally screwed up. Along came Mike Barnacle, a very popular columnist at the Globe and a marginal national media figure. Barnacle got caught swiping a George Carlin routine and passing it off as his own in a column. Did they fire him? Nope. Then it came out that there were numerous columns that Barnacle had written in which he apparently made up everything. Barnacle wrote a touching column many years ago, for example, about a white family and a black family meeting in a Massachusetts hospital where they had children who each needed an organ transplant, and in the end the white family helps pay for the transplant for the black kid. The only problem is Barnacle made the story up.
It took forever for the Globe to finally fire Barnacle, compared to how quickly they showed the other columnist the door. Flash forward to a couple months ago. The Globe’s only conservative columnist, Jeff Jacoby, decided to write a July 4 column based on a widely circulating Internet e-mail that describes what happened to those who signed the Declaration of Independence. The Internet e-mail version has a lot of errors, so Jacoby hit the books finding out what really happened to the Founders. Unfortunately, he forgot to mention in his column that he took the idea from an Internet e-mail. He was suspended without pay for 4 months which is basically the death penalty — clearly the Globe wanted him to resign.
So here’s how we finally get to Young. Wanting to appease critics who charged the firing was ideological, the Globe hired Young and another columnist to fill in as the conservative voice in the newspaper. The only problem is that Young is more of a libertarian, and even when she tends toward pragmatism rather than ideology. FrontPageMag.Com pretty much attacked her as not being a real conservative, as did someone from the National Review. But the most bizarre charge was from Jewish World Review columnist Deb Schlussel who claimed that Young had plagiarized from Schlussel’s columns; an extremely serious charge based on the Globe’s sensitivity over plagiarism.
Here are the passages that Schlussel claims were plagiarized from that July 4th column:
Yesterday, most American college students were celebrating our country’s rich
history stemming from its independence, right? Nope. Most of them don’t know
a thing about U.S. history. For them, the Fourth was just another day to party
with MTV, drink beer, eat hot dogs, and celebrate American pop culture. Just
another day of ignorant bliss.”
As we watch the fireworks and have barbecues on the Fourth of July, do
we still remember why? That’s not entirely a rhetorical question. After a timely
news report on the results of a history quiz administered to more than 500 young
Americans, the answer may actually be in doubt.
What a coincidence, last week, when
TV producer Norman Lear bought one of the few original copies of the Declaration
of Independence for $8.1 million on-line. He probably wanted to hide it from
our kids before the Fourth arrived. Quick, before history poisons the empty
TV minds of our kids. Like Santayana’s trite but true adage, “Those who cannot
remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” After the 224th anniversary of
our country, we’re well on our way to proving his proposition.”
If people don’t know anything about the Constitution, they’re not likely to
get too upset when politicians violate it. They may even abet the destruction
of our freedoms. A recent survey by the Freedom Forum, in which 40 percent of
Americans could not name even one First Amendment freedom, also found that 51
percent thought the press had too much freedom, and most would ban speech that
offends racial or religious groups. Those who forget the past, it is said, are
doomed to repeat it. Are they also in danger of losing its gains?”
Schlussel is essentially arguing that the only way Young would have mentioned July 4th barbecues or repeated Santayana’s famous “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” is if she saw read Schlussel’s article first and then swiped the ideas. Give me a break.
In fact, Schlussel’s charges are probably motivated more by the fact that Young has attacked Schlussel in print for some of the nuttier things she has written in the past about the WNBA. Young’s column, WNBA is not a feminist conspiracy rightly ridiculed Schlussel’s bizarre rant against the WNBA. The most bizarre part of Schlussel’s ranting, which really illustrates the kind of person she is, was her attack on NBC’s media coverage of the death of WNBA player Kim Perrot,
The WNBA is no different. The leagueÂ’s biggest story was also off the basketball court Â— the cancer death of point guard Kim Perrot. And the WNBA is milking this story for all itÂ’s worth because thereÂ’s not much to milk on the court. Yet, the receipt of a kidney transplant by NBA player Sean Elliott of the San Antonio Spurs is getting much more attention, another illustration that fans could care less about the WNBA.
Aside from the rank insensitivity here, personal stories tend to predominate sports coverage because sports broadcasters are trying to appeal to people besides the hardcore sports fan. This is why most Americans probably know more about Kurt Warner’s wife than about the offensive scheme used by the St. Louis Rams.
The Jewish World Review should really be ashamed to put such baseless charges of plagiarism in print, especially how given how seriously such claims can affect a writer’s career.