There. The forbidden thing. I’ve said it. Also, I stole this entire article off of some old lady on street, just so we’re clear. She was carrying it around in her pocket. That’s why I tattoo all my best lines over my body. So no one can get them except some sort of horror movie villain, like that guy in Saw.
Though honestly, I just stole that notion of writing on the body (cc: Jeanette Winterson) from The Pillow Book. You know how it is.
In any event, now that I have said the forbidden thing, I expect flowers from Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria, Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair. Despite his fictional status, I also expect them from the Bradley Cooper character in the upcoming movie The Words, who, if the trailer is to be believed, seems to respond to his guilt about plagiarizing a novel by running, just running everywhere. That is what you do when you plagiarize. You run. Not literally. Sometimes the running is only in your soul. If can be depicted with a lot of jumpy camera shots in the movie depiction of your crime, as it is in Shattered Glass. Although in The Fabulist, the novel written by the, well, fabulist, Stephen Glass, the protagonist responds to his exile from journalism by moving home and working in a video store. So, sometimes it’s literal.
Fareed Zakaria has made a rather frantic dash away from his plagiarism scandal, attempting to minimize it by claiming:
“Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column this week bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore’s essay in the April 23rd issue of The New Yorker. They are right. I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time, and to my readers.”
Jonah Leher offers a fuller confession, saying:
“The lies are over now. I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers. I also owe a sincere apology to Mr. Moynihan. I will do my best to correct the record and ensure that my misquotations and mistakes are fixed. I have resigned my position as staff writer at the New Yorker.”
Because people want to make it clear that these are very, very bad thing people are doing. Reuters reports:
Suppose I steal my neighbor Jill’s flat-screen television and install it in my living room. Jill or one of her friends who knows about Jill’s missing television comes over to my house a few days later, notices the television and asks, “Hey, isn’t that Jill’s television?”
I immediately confess. “Yes, it is,” I say. “I’m really sorry. It was a mistake.”
Jill or any interested observer or even the police might ask, “What do you mean by ‘mistake’? Did you mistakenly break into her house and mistakenly haul her huge flat-screen into your living room and set it up on the wall?”
Well, so far, most of the press seems content to let a colleague – Fareed Zakaria, who writes for Time and the Washington Post and has a Sunday CNN talk show – get off with exactly that explanation for stealing something. In this case, the theft was plagiarism.
That Fareed, what a scumbag! He’s no better than a television thief. Since we’re talking about it, though, let’s look at some other scumbags.