Monday, August 13, 2012

On plagiarism

Many writers will experience something about this topic at some point. We revolve our lives around words: giving them, taking them, pasting them together.

 I raise this question because of the news about Fareed Zakaria "borrowing" passages from a New Yorker article to write his own. Some are saying he should be dismissed entirely. Don't you think that's a bit harsh? Yes, people make mistakes but should they have to lose everything for it? 

My main question has more to do with the why than what. Why do people do this? Is it a mistake entirely? A simple lapse of judgment? In many cases, it's seen as an attempt for advancement (whether that's personal, one's reputation or image, professional, etc.) and the idea that they'll get away with it. It's crushing to see someone take credit for your spin on your thoughts. But still, that doesn't mean everyone sets out with bad intentions. It's many times a simple mistake, nothing more. 

At least he admitted to his mistake instead of wallowing in denial or blame. Mistakes will happen but it's how they're handled that may show true character. 

What are your thoughts? 


  1. Sometimes it's done out of malice, but sometimes it is a mistake. At least the guy owned up to it.

  2. It's an iffy issue, that's for certain. I totally agree: it's the 'why' that matters. Sometimes people plagiarise by accident. It's hard to do, and I suppose most of the time that's just 'idea theft' or something similar, but it happens. And then there are people who simply take ideas and sentences and whole passages because they think they can. They're two very different types of plagiarism, in my opinion, and one is a mistake and forgivable, while the other is harmful and nasty.