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November 08, 2005

Real Victims vs. "Plagiarism's" Victims

One of the problem I have with the politics of scandal is that people feel so free to find a crime without a victim. Notably, I've been quite skeptical of Plamegate precisely because there is little proof that anyone was really hurt very much by the disclosure.

I know who the real victims of Alito's anti-worker court decisions are, yet the rightwing is doing everything possible to divert attention from that issue onto this silly "scandal" story. Yet it's Brown's office that was actually promoting the true purpose of my original words-- and it's the rightwing misusing my words to hurt that cause.

So I feel victimized by the rightwing, not by Sherrod Brown.

So in the case of Brown using my blog post, clearly I'm not a victim. So the only other possible victim is the public that was somehow deceived.

Were they deceived that Brown got on LEXIS, did the legal research himself, and wrote every word of the letter he sent Mike DeWine himself?

This is the comparison to academic plagiarism, but the difference between students (and I teach two classes) and politicians is that we expect students to do their own research. Politicians have speech writers and use other peoples ideas without attribution all the time.

So the problem isn't using other people's ideas, but that somehow the American people assumed that Brown paid good money to staff for these unattributed ideas and the fact that he got them for free from a blogger is a scandal.

Now, if I was a volunteer on the Brown campaign, and not a paid staff person, would all these conservatives beating their breasts over plagiarism still see a problem? I doubt they could do so with a straight face.

So is the problem that I am an independent political activist offering my ideas to all progressive comers, without working for Brown specifically? But that's true of a whole range of think tanks and other political activists who promote talking points and rarely expect attribution. Ironically, rightwing corporations spend a lot of money generating ideas and information and whitewashing them through independent institutions precisely to cover up where those ideas came from.

If Brown had been asked about attribution and tried to cover up where the information came from, that would be a problem, but his office readily confirmed where the information originally came from.

So how did the public suffer in any way? They never expected that the research was done by Brown personally and the office readily told the reporter where it came from when asked.

This is the fakest of fake "scandals." It's actually about a bunch of intellectuals, reporters and journalists, who are so frigging self-absorbed with admiring their own words that they don't understand that people who care about the actual substance of politics give away our writing for free (both in terms of payment and attribution) all the time.

Politicians are not "authors" but collective expressions of their supporters political will. They don't write their own material but reflect the ideas and aspirations of their political allies. If they misuse those ideas, the public hears about betrayals from those allies.

But as long as those politicians hold that trust and use their allies ideas with respect, there is inherently no scandal.

The only scandal in this story are rightwingers who refuse to engage in the substance of the original post. Why don't they spend as much time trying to defend Alioto's rightwing labor decisions? Why don't they explain why workers should be denied the minimum wage or the freedom to form unions or access to jury trials to prove discriminatory treatment?

Why? Because they don't want to discuss these cases, because THEY want to mislead the public and change the subject. It's those attacking Sherrod Brown who are victimizing the public by distracting them from useful political information and a substantive debate.

National Review's The Corner had multiple posts about the "plagiarism" charges, but not one of the posts actually had the courage to try to defend Alioto's legal decisions. They know these economic issues are losers for them and Alioto and are determined to fool and distract the public.

So who misused my post again?

Posted by Nathan at November 8, 2005 06:36 PM