Wednesday, July 20, 2016

No Excuse for Plagiarism

This week, there has been quite the buzz surrounding a speech given by Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. It seems that Mrs. Trump’s speech had passages that were identical to those that appeared in a speech given by First Lady, Michelle Obama, in a speech she made several years ago.

My first thought when I heard that Mrs. Trump was accused of plagiarizing Mrs. Obama is that she didn’t do it. Not because I don’t think the speeches were virtually identical in some places but because I don’t think either woman actually wrote the speeches they gave. It’s common knowledge that political candidates employ speech writers. If anyone committed plagiarism, it was the speech writer. Sure enough, I just finished reading the latest story on this scandal in which Mrs. Trump’s speech writer admits that she used portions of Mrs. Obama’s speech when drafting Mrs. Trump’s speech, but guess what? It was an honest mistake and she feels terrible.

The cynic in me is calling BS on this so-called honest mistake that speech writer Meredith McIver admits to committing. According to Ms. McIver, she was discussing the speech with Mrs. Trump and soliciting her opinion on people she admired. Mrs. Trump claimed to have great admiration for Mrs. Obama and to have been moved by her now-plagiarized speech. In her discussion of said speech, Ms. McIver admits to writing down passages of it and referring to those when she later drafted the speech for Mrs. Trump.

So, the speech writer went so far as to ask Mrs. Trump what public speakers she admired and to ask for quotes from them. Ms. McIver made a note of these quotes but couldn’t be bothered to make one pesky addition as to their original source. Then she “forgot” where these quotes came from when she drafted the speech for Mrs. Trump?

It all sounds pretty fishy to me, but I understand the need for the cover story. When we screw up, especially in such a public way, it’s human nature to look for a scapegoat so that we can make ourselves look better.

The reason I’m on such a tear about this is because I’ve been a victim of plagiarism, and I know how much it hurts. Yes, it can hurt financially for writers, but I was more emotionally devastated. I’d worked long and hard on the story that someone stole from me. That person took my story and made minor changes and then attempted to pass it off as her own. When it was discovered and brought to my attention, I had to do all the work to prove the story belonged to me first. I was wronged and then I had to prove it, which pissed me off even more. The other author stole from me so she should have been the one who had to prove her innocence.

Plagiarism is not a harmless crime nor is it a victimless crime. The people whose words are plagiarized suffer a violation. People who commit plagiarism know what they’re doing and either don’t care or don’t expect to get caught or both. It is not an innocent or harmless mistake. Whether you intend to commit plagiarism or not, it most definitely hurts the original author when you do. So please don’t say that you’re sorry or that it was an innocent mistake. The bottom line here; there’s no excuse for plagiarism.

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