Monday, March 27, 2006

Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Paper

The Brookings Institution says Vladimir Putin is a plagiarist. Apparently someone finally got ahold of Putin's mysterious dissertation submitted for his claimed "PhD in economics," and it turns out that 16 pages of the paper's key section were lifted from a 1978 publication by University of Pittsburgh professors William R. King and David I. Cleland.

This revelation follows last week's saga at the Washington Post, where Ben Domenech resigned from his new blog after numerous instances of plagiarism surfaced from his past. Now he's being congratulated for his integrity because he resigned and apologized. What's being omitted is that he resigned one step ahead of being fired and that he apologized only after a week spent denying the allegations, claiming any malfeasance must have been done without his knowledge by a nameless and possibly nonexistent editor, and viciously attacking the character and motives of his detractors.

I'm getting tired of reading about plagiarism — in high schools, in universities, in the press. Students are forgiven and asked to resubmit. Professionals might be fired, but they're rehired the next month by the newspaper across town. Mike Barnicle was caught fabricating stories for his column in the Boston Globe, and he was promptly given an identical column by the Herald and a morning radio show by WTKK. It makes me sick.

Plagiarism is different. Plenty of crimes and misjudgments can happen in a flash and aren't necessarily indicative of a person's character. Just because you lost your temper doesn't make you a thug. Just because you got smashed doesn't make you a lush. But you don't plagiarize, you just don't, unless you're a liar and a cheat.

Putin is a spy. That's how he came up, through the rank and file of the KGB. And despite what you may have seen in James Bond films, spies don't rappel down skyscrapers or fire missiles from their cars. They coerce information from people, either by lying and cheating themselves or by inducing other to lie and to cheat. We need spies, and they're absolutely vital to national security — but don't think there's anything remotely honorable about the work, because there isn't. A spy has to be duplicitous — exactly the sort of person who would pass off someone else's work as his own.

Let Putin be the face of plagiarism, because he's a perfect model. It's an act that speaks to the character of its perpetrator. Plagiarists will never be any good; it's utterly beyond me, what would make any company decide to hire a proven plagiarist. It's like the women who date cheating men and firmly believe that this time will be different — this time, the guy will be loyal.


Post a Comment

<< Home