Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Self-plagiarism, recycling and fabrication: different approaches


Weeks after it was revealed that he had used recycled material, The New Yorker’s Jonah Lehrer has resigned after admitting that he also fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan.

The attention given to Lehrer’s recycling was interesting, given former MacLean’s writer Mark Steyn's frequent self-plagiarism.  (See here, here, and here).

As for Lehrer’s invented Dylan quotes, Steyn has yet to explain the discrepancy between a quote that appeared in the Toronto Star and his own version. 

Is it possible that there’s more tolerance for these things in Canadian, versus American journalism?  Perhaps that’s what Margaret Wente’s invented Occupy protester "John", and other examples here here,  here,  and here would  indicate.

As for Steyn’s recycling habit, my favorite very short example is “that flat in Marseilles” (in which only the punch line changes):

Steyn, UK Telegraph, 2005:
…a fellow in Marseilles is being charged with fraud because he lived with the dead body of his mother for five years in order to continue receiving her pension of 700 euros a month.
She was 94 when she croaked, so she'd presumably been enjoying the old government cheque for a good three decades or so, but her son figured he might as well keep the money rolling in until her second century and, with her corpse tucked away under a pile of rubbish in the living room, the female telephone voice he put on for the benefit of the social services office was apparently convincing enough. As the Reuters headline put it: "Frenchman lived with dead mother to keep pension."
That's the perfect summation of Europe: welfare addiction over demographic reality. Think of Germany as that flat in Marseilles, and Mr Schröder's government as the stiff, and the country's many state benefits as that French bloke's dead mum's benefits…
Steyn, America Alone, 2006, page 112-113:
A fellow in Marseilles was charged with fraud because he lived with the dead body of his mother for five years in order to continue receiving her pension of 700 euros a month.
She was ninety-four when she croaked, so she'd presumably been enjoying the old government check for a good three decades or so, but her son figured he might as well keep the money rolling in until her second century and, with her corpse tucked away under a pile of rubbish in the living room, the female telephone voice he put on for the benefit of the social services office was apparently convincing enough. As the Reuters headline put it: "Frenchman Lived with Dead Mother to Keep Pension."
That's the perfect summation of Europe: welfare addiction over demographic reality. Think of the European Union as that flat in Marseilles, and the Eutopian political consensus as the stiff, and lavish government largesse as that French guy’s dead mom's benefits…
Steyn, New York Sun, 2007:
A fellow in Marseilles was charged with fraud because he lived with the dead body of his mother for five years in order to continue receiving her pension of 700 euros a month.
She was 94 when she croaked, so she'd presumably been enjoying the old government check for a good three decades or so, but her son figured he might as well keep the money rolling in until her second century and, with her corpse tucked away under a pile of rubbish in the living room, the female telephone voice he put on for the benefit of the social services office was apparently convincing enough. As the Reuters headline put it: "Frenchman Lived With Dead Mother To Keep Pension."
Think of France as that flat in Marseilles, and its economy as the dead mother, and the country's many state benefits as monsieur's deceased mom's benefits.


Update:   this is how Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism was dealt with.

2 comments:

  1. It just got much huger & Lehrer is finished forever.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/08/jonah_lehrer_plagiarism_in_wired_com_an_investigation_into_plagiarism_quotes_and_factual_inaccuracies_.html

    Of course I though immediate of this blog, and of the contrast between American and Canadian ethical standards. Moreover, while Lehrer was prominent, he was nowhere near as prominent, relatively speaking, as Wente is with her regular column.

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