I seem to recall stories of one guy who used to sit around reading one of his contemporaries’ works looking for good lines. He then inserted those lines into his work. When his friends asked them about it he laughingly replied “I’m plucking pearls out of dung.” He laughed about it. Like a monster.
That guy was Virgil. His contemporary was Quintus Ennius, but no one now remembers him.
And that’s to say nothing of the greatest plagiarist of all, William Shakespeare. People think of Shakespeare as being a plagiarist because he lifted plots pretty heavily from Greek myths and The Decameron. That’s true. He did that. He followed exact plots and pretty much filled in dialogue. It would be like taking everything that happened in Harry Potter, but making all the characters talk as though they were in David Mamet play (which, come to think of it, someone ought to do).
And Shakespeare stole lines directly from Plutarch. Those lines about “The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne…” in Antony and Cleopatra? That comes verbatim from Plutarch’s Life of Mark Antony. He was well known to do this – one of his contemporaries said that Shakespeare was “an upstart crow, decorated with the beauty of our feathers” to which Shakespeare is rumored to have quipped that he preferred Plutarch’s feathers.
And Alexandre Dumas! Dumas is known for producing volumes at a rate that would actually be impossible for printers to keep up with. That’s because he supposedly employed a stable of writers who helped him come up with plots and would write large sections of books on his behalf.
One of my favorite stories about him relates to the time a young writer came to him with a volume, hoping that Dumas might be willing to publish it under his name and share the profits with him. Dumas scanned the volume, and exclaimed “your hero doesn’t wear a cloak.” The young writer asked what he meant. Dumas replied “he goes out to fight a duel in the middle of winter and he doesn’t put on a cloak.” Dumas rejected it. A while later, the young writer noticed that Dumas has come out with a book essentially identical to the one he gave him. He went to Dumas and furiously declared “you’ve stolen my book!” “No, no,” Dumas replied, “in my version, the hero wears a cloak.”
Dumas was kind of a shitbag, actually.
But the people that Fareed Zakaria or, say, Kaavya Viswanathan (remember her? Of Opal Mehta fame) lifted lines off of are not going to starve cloak-less in the gutter as a result of that theft. Their careers will not be even remotely negatively impacted. The only people that modern plagiarists are really going to hurt is themselves. Which makes one wonder why they plagiarize at all.