August 20, 2012

"[T]here is a big difference between being a plagiarist — at bottom, lazy or sloppy — and being a fabulist."

David Carr on Fareed Zakaria and Jonah Lehrer.

It's tougher to make things up than to copy, and yet it's Lehrer who's screwed himself more deeply.

14 comments:

Matthew Sablan said...

Could Lehrer have ridden it out and kept his job?

I don't know. But I do know there's no reason Zakaria should have been able to. In that link, I take Yale's rules on plagiarism and apply it to Zakaria. He... does not come out looking good.

Baron Zemo said...

Fabulist?

Matthew Sablan said...

Lehrer made up quotes for a book he was writing; a fabulist is one who makes things up (specifically stories or fables), in this case being used pejoratively to mean he's a liar.

MayBee said...

It's funny, because on the Adam Carolla podcast, Jakob Dylan didn't seem to think a few made up quotes and stories about his father would really phase Bob. He indicated it was a pretty common thing.

Aridog said...

Both practices make one a liar, so how is there any real difference?

BS is BS, conjured or copied.

How would you feel if your doctor copied test somebody else's test results already on hand to apply to your case, or worse, yet, made them up? Results would be the same...if you lived.

cassandra lite said...

Safe to say that David Carr never has to worry about writers stealing any of his useful insights.

As Dr. Johnson once said to an aspiring scribbler, "Your writing is both good and original. Unfortunately, the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good."

creeley23 said...

I'm almost surprised that Obama's fables in Dreams from My Father didn't cause him more grief.

Obama's brilliance seems to be overwhelming his opponents with so many targets that Obama skates away on most of them.

AF said...

"It's tougher to make things up than to copy, and yet it's Lehrer who's screwed himself more deeply."

Is that a paradox? It's tougher to pull off a bank heist than to shoplift a sweater but bank robbers get longer sentences.

Larry J said...

creeley23 said...
I'm almost surprised that Obama's fables in Dreams from My Father didn't cause him more grief.


Didn't you get the memo - nothing Obama does gets criticized from the Left. And his excrement has no odor. The Press have their heads so far up Obama's ass that if the man farted, he'd blow out all their eardrums.

Zach said...

It can be tough to rewrite the same material more than once or twice without substantially repeating yourself -- things have to follow after one another in the correct sequence in order to make sense. So if you're rewording your own writing, I would give a lot of leeway for "self plagiarism." Making up quotes and anecdotes is another thing entirely, of course -- whether or not Dylan would be mad, Lehrer is breaking an agreement with his editors and his audience.

Zakaria's case is more complicated. On the one hand, how many ways can you rewrite a list of dates? On the other hand, it was a straightforward ripoff, and everybody knows you can't do that.

Often, a big name committing plagiarism means that the "author" is really outsourcing a lot of the research, so they literally don't know that the quote was directly lifted from a source.

A gray area is whether the use of an uncredited research assistant constitutes plagiarism. In my opinion, it does -- if you can't make your argument without someone else's work, I say that the other person is automatically an author. However, the world doesn't agree with me, and many experts who write busily about every subject under the sun have busy teams of assistants doing the actual research.

John Lynch said...

Not sure why academia's rules should prevail in every sphere of life.

That makes no sense at all.

Nichevo said...

How about spoken attribution? If I quote or reference Voltaire, Churchill, or a Mamet character, and don't add source, am I biting, or just not name-dropping?

Matthew Sablan said...

Zakaria did more than just use roughly the same ideas. His entire construction of the paragraphs are similar to Lepore's work. Yale considers it plagiarism to paraphrase without quotation, which is probably why Zakaria has resigned his position at Yale, to avoid any uncomfortable analysis from them.

Dexter said...

"Mr. Lehrer, now 31, became famous before he had a grasp of the fundamentals."

Um, I knew in high school that manufacturing quotes is wrong, and that doing so from easily checked sources is stupid.