November 20, 2005

Behind the Gym at 3 O'clock (L vs R)

L: You're a plagiarist.

R: Racist!!! But you're right that I don't really write all my own stuff.

The L response.

Posted by binky at November 20, 2005 07:50 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Blogorama


Very wingnutty stuff around. She just about admitted that she doesn't write all of the posts on Malkin; what else is there to argue about.

And that is, after all, clearly plagiarism.

Posted by: baltar at November 20, 2005 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

[Ed. note: spambot deleted]

Posted by: spambot at November 20, 2005 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

Uh-huh. Nothing like clarity.

Is it just me, or does that read like a spam-bot?

Posted by: binky at November 20, 2005 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

What the fuck was that? Was there an argument there? Or coherence?

Hey, dude (dudette?): drugs are bad. If you give them up, you might pass 3rd grade! Go you!

Posted by: baltar at November 20, 2005 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, it's a spam bot.

Also, Binky, she didn't say she didn't write all of her posts; she said her husband helped her out with a handful.

Even if he did write them, it isn't plagiarism... where did you get an idea like that? Plagiarism is when you "steal" someone else's work without permission. If plagiarism was what you seem to think it is, then every celebrity or politician with a book would be guilty.

But it's a moot point. If her husband actually wrote any complete posts it was most likely one of the "I'll be blogging light today..." type deals when she was busy. And, of course, no reasonable person would get all worked up over that

Posted by: Dave S at November 20, 2005 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Plagiarism is when you put your name on something you didn't write.

This is epidemic in schools, and both journalism and academia have had increased attention in the last few years. This is why you now see bylines with multiple authors, to recognize the work that several journalists put in, and not just the big name. Using written content you research assistant wrote is different than using information your research assistant dug up. Just like stealing can be as easy as taking an unlocked bike off of someone's front porch or as complicated as an elaborate heist, there are many ways to plagiarize. They are all wrong.

All those politicians have what are called "ghost writers," who are acknowledged in the form by Joe Politician with Milly Ghostwriter. This is what Auguste was getting at with the "Ghost" stuff in his post titles (I imagine, not knowing Auguste). From what both MalkinsWatch and LiberalAvenger have posted, it sounds like they have confidential sources who have asked not to be identified that have backed up their own findings of "inconsistencies" (my word) in posting, and that the accumulated evidence they they have seen suggests to them that Michelle ought to be recognizing a ghost writer (or partner to her acknowledged, prolific output).

Editors do lots of things. The help a writer improve his or her writing by fixing mistakes, highlighting weak arguments, and suggesting alternatives. Now, I haven't worked for a newspaper, and I know that editors in this context often excise bits and rephrase others without sending the story back to the writer, but this doesn't seem to be the case here. There was no editor mentioned, and such editing was in the past denied (from what I read). The claim (as I read it) is that there is a group effort being passed off (and vigorously defended) as a solo operation. Now, in a reversal of the prior stance, there is an acknowledgement of not just editing, but of having someone else author a "handful" of posts. Again, from my reading, I don't think the invitation to meet behind the gym would have happened had not the solo blogger thing been defended so vigorously. Now that there has been a (admittedly, half-hearted) retraction of that defense, it looks like the detractors were on target.

Finally, in this case, I think the category is more like "guest" than "ghost" (the guest blogger is not an uncommon thing). And, given the partnership that happens with blogs, it would not seem weird at all to have posts that essentially say: "Michelle just called from the in-flight phone and asked me to tell you XY and Z. Thanks for readings, xoxo Jesse." We've done it here, when Baltar posted Binky Reports In From Patchouliland, he posted as himself, reporting my phone-in comments. It's a fine way to get stuff done if one has good working relationships within a team, and circumstances (like mud, and smelly hippies) keep someone away from a keyboard.

I haven't seen any evidence one way or the other to suggest that this is true (or false):

But it's a moot point. If her husband actually wrote any complete posts it was most likely one of the "I'll be blogging light today..." type deals when she was busy.

The implication from the "L" side of things is that there are substantive posts in that handful, not just "be back soon" stuff. I would be interested to see more on that, but I suspect the confidential source issue in involved.

I think the other issue here is the way that different kinds of criticism get lumped together as all being vile, racist, and despicable. There's a lot of really ugly shit out there in blogland. I've seen it from L to R, from R to L, and within the happy (?) little dysfunctional families of both sides of the aisle. No doubt Malkin, as a very very very big fish, attracts a lot of the worst sort.

In my opinion, however, what Auguste has done doesn't fall in that category. Uncomfortable scrutiny? one wants to be put under the microscope. But second guessing major public information outlets (Dan Rather, Bill O'Reilly, Malkin, hell, I've seen 'em go after Conkrite) and trying to catch them in a mistake is part and parcel of the public media figure job. Just like signing authographs and listening to boos if you're a baseball player. We're lucky to be small here, and so we don't attract huge numbers of nasty trolls (knock on wood) nor are we generating a million hits such that someone makes it a full time job to fact check us. We have Morris (our most regular dissenter)for that, and while we disagree, we get along fine, discounting a little juvenile tongue showing now and again.

So, what interested me about what happened with the 3 o'clock high scenario, is the rapid degeneration. On the one hand, Michelle Malkin might not even be talking about Auguste, and might solely be focusing on the wing-ier hateful stuff that gets written about her. On the other, she might be tarring his (assuming Auguste is a boy name) work with the same brush.

Ultimately, anyone who writes and publishes is faced with the issue of attribution. My attitude is to be inclusive, adding authors and recognizing contributions (and in this case I am talking real life writing, not just blogland). When I edit for other people, I rarely suggest whole sentences, much less passages, and prefer to suggest several alternatives (options a, b, or c would make this paragraph stronger) and in such a way that they do not put my voice in someone else work. I edit here at Bloodless, but I say so periodically, and insert comments if i do more than fix a spelling error of one of my co-authors. The newspaper example of an editor is worth noting, as the Editor(s) do get credit for their work, not with a note on every piece, but for the whole paper, and most editors of books get credit in the acknowledgements or on the title page for texts. That's a long way of saying that I disagree with having a regular, anonymous editor, who might even rise to the level of co-author, without attribution. Especially if one is making a career out of one's opinions, and the style with which they are presented.

Man, I didn't mean to write so much, or even discuss the merits of the fight. I just thought the whole 3 o'clock high thing was funny. That and no one got my "One More Time Chick Corea" gag.

If you want to read more detailed dissection of Michelle Malkin's position on attack comments, from a real live journalist, check out Orcinus' take on Unhinged: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

Posted by: binky at November 21, 2005 01:14 AM | PERMALINK

Plagiarism is when you put your name on something you didn't write.

No. Plagiarism is the unauthorized use of another persons work without citation. Period. You can't win this one.

Posted by: Dave S at November 21, 2005 07:44 PM | PERMALINK

I see you majored in hair-splitting. What are you going to say next, Vizzini's line ("Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line") from the Princess Bride?

However, the alternative you offered is incorrect. Authorization has nothing to do with it. You can cite Albert Einstein all day long without his authorization.

The unauthorized use of another person's work sounds more like copyright (trademark? not really my area) violation (i.e. printing t-shirts with the skull and roses without the permission of and payment to the owners). If you had the authorization of Steven Hawking to use his work, but handed in a paper using it without citations, you would still fail for plagiarism, no matter what Hawking said.

It is possible to split the definition I provided in regard to intent, but most honor codes and professional criteria do not (which is different from the Wikipedia definition, which focuses on intent). But, for argument's sake:

Plagiarism is putting your name on something you didn't write without acknowledging that someone else wrote it and/or without proper citation.


Plagiarism is knowingly putting your name on something you didn't write with the intent to pass it off as your own.


Plagiarism is putting your name on something you didn't write even if you didn't mean to do it.

Ultimately, I agree with Atrios on this:

You know, I don't care if Michelle Malkin writes her blog all by herself or if she has her army of flying monkeys do it, but it seems reasonable to be up front about it either way.

in the "I don't care who helps" sense (obviously she has neither red and white striped socks nor a crystal ball therefore there is no army of flying monkeys). Getting huffy about writing everything oneself, and then later admitting that it's not really true doesn't really leave her on firm ground. As other journalists (Rick Bragg) have found out, not crediting the people who help you write can get you fired (or, in his case, asked to resign).

From the link above, Malkin lists a whole bunch a great things that husbands and wives (and friends, and fellow sufferers in grad school, and moms and dads and aunts etc) do for each other to help support the writer in their lives. Great. That doesn't make it any less dishonest to put your name on someone else's work without attribution (and you're right, that's a good clarification to my original definition), no matter what that person authorizes. Why? Because doing so means you are deceiving your readers.

Finally, we've seen what was commonly agreed to be intentional (Steven Ambrose, Jayson Blair) and unintentional (Doris Kearns Goodwin) plagiarism in the last few years. I'd say Malkin probably goes in the latter category. It's corner cutting, and not truthful to readers who trust that what they read has been written by the person whose name is on the material.I don't think her die-hard fans will really care, given the weakness they accept from her other work (if you're curious about that, check out these posts at Orcinus. He's done a great deal of research on the subject). The original writers who started the kerfuffle ended up with several reasons why they thought this matters. If it doesn't matter to you, so be it.

And I'm still waiting for someone to bite on Chick Corea. *sigh*

Posted by: binky at November 21, 2005 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

i think this whole debate over plagiarism is sort of off point. among other things, binky, i dispute your earlier claim that ghost-writing typically is acknowledged. i think the contrary is true. i mean, aside from the obvious examples -- what, the clinton's wrote books from front to back without serious contributions? either of them? what's important is that malkin went out of her way to misportray herself as a lone wolf when she, like other major bloggers with complex careers, unequivocally relies on the assistance of others. and this dishonesty goes to her credibility insofar as it suggests her preoccupation is more with her readers' perceptions of her than with what information she has to share (careerism versus her faux egalitarian PSA presentation).

also, i think it's misrepresenting things to suggest there's a consensus on goodwin. look at the letters section of this month's atlantic (responding to the prior month's review of her new book on lincoln, which review barely nodded toward the questions regarding her credibility). hers was not the sort of isolated incident that can be easily forgiven: her serial appropriation without attribution of whole passages of numerous books creates a catch-22 for her defenders: either she's an incredibly sloppy scholar, which her career belies, or she had at least some general sense of what she was doing. one doesn't just trip and transcribe whole chunks of text without recognizing some time prior to publication that it's not her own. i don't really care, and i still think she's a serious scholar, but to exonerate her of intentional plagiarism in one sentence seems to me a bit too kind.

anyway, malkin = not worth the ink, goodwin = some sort of plagiarist, binky = . . . well, i [heart] binky. okay, back to work. and happy holiday to all.

Posted by: moon at November 22, 2005 09:42 AM | PERMALINK

i think this whole debate over plagiarism is sort of off point.

As do I, but our guest seemed interested in pursuing it.

i dispute your earlier claim that ghost-writing typically is acknowledged

OK. You may be right. Some ghostwriters go get credit (the whole "with" deal) but honestly, I haven't done a study. I was talking about this with Baltar I/R/T presidential speeches for example, and whether that counted as plagiarism. He though my logic would say it was, but I maintain that it isn't since the writers are credited as being on staff, much like editors. But, as you say:

misportray herself as a lone wolf when she, like other major bloggers with complex careers, unequivocally relies on the assistance of others

Which is what I, and others have repeatedly said (see: Flying Monkeys etc). I agree with you.

misrepresenting things to suggest there's a consensus on goodwin

You may be right. I was in fact thinking about last month's Atlantic and its soft pedal. The end consensus may be different, but I do think there has been a kinder response to her than to Ambrose. And, just to be clear, I'm not trying to be kind, I was summing up what it seemed most people thought, with the point being, they (mostly) forgave DKG, so they will likely forgive MM. I, personally, hold a hard line on plagiarism.

The original post I made - brief on purpose - was not to engage the debate over what is or is not plagiarism. What I thought needed highlighting was the flip-flop of Malkin to the much-maligned and supposedly liberal tactic of alleging racism when confronted with a claim challenging the integrity of her statements about being a "lone wolf." She created a "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" distraction that has obscured the main issue, i.e. that someone has done research to show - and that she has admitted - that she doesn't do all her own work.

Posted by: binky at November 22, 2005 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Remember this discussion? And how some commenters thought it extreme to claim Malkin was a plagiarist for not acknowledging that her husband helped her with her posts? You may recall that she wrote that it wasn't plagiarism, it was marriage?

He has done copy-editing on my three books, conducted background research, taken dictation, drafted language for business letters, reviewed contracts, mailed my thank-you notes, helped me with a handful of blog posts out of the estimated 3,000 I've written since June 2004, corrected the math in a few of the estimated 800 newspaper columns I've penned since November 1992, and provided me with emotional support and encouragement through good times and bad. In turn, I've proofread his dissertation, conducted background research, reviewed his grant applications, helped him with speeches and conference presentations, picked out his ties for interviews, corrected his grammar, rewritten ledes for his business-related op-eds, brainstormed and edited some of his research proposals, and tried to provide as much emotional support and encouragement to him as he has to me. Message to crackpots and haters: This is not a right-wing conspiracy. This is marriage.

Well, somebody had better tell Jesse that Michelle is steppin' out on him with ABC News. Because she sure has hell wouldn't plagiarize, would she?

ABC News:

"We perhaps could have avoided so many of these fatalities with the right body armor," said Clinton, who recently wrote letters to Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee; and Francis J. Harvey, secretary of the Army, calling for an investigation into why troops were not being protected.

And Malkin's column:

"We perhaps could have avoided so many of these fatalities with the right body armor," concluded Brigadier General Clinton, who immediately dashed off letters to Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee; and Francis J. Harvey, secretary of the Army. Smarter-than-thou Clinton is, of course, demanding an investigation (highly recommended by image consultants to boost one's pro-military posturing).
Posted by: binky at January 14, 2006 03:09 PM | PERMALINK

Did Malkin cite the ABC story? Or did she just run the "fake" quotes as her own parady?

I must admit, I don't think I've looked at her site more than once or twice.

Posted by: baltar at January 14, 2006 03:25 PM | PERMALINK

She does not. Her column says that Clinton went on Good Morning America. She quotes Clinton in the same places, and changes up only a few of the words (as quoted above) from the ABC story.

Farther down in her column, she does accurately source a quote from a military blogger.

Malkin(s) did not quote a transcript, but a story, and only inserted some of her own words.

We fail people for this kind of thing.

Posted by: binky at January 14, 2006 03:36 PM | PERMALINK
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