Disclaimer: this is not a political post. I find politics fascinating, but I don’t intend to comment on them (or take them seriously).
The point of this post is to talk about plagiarism, and highlight a potentially powerful strategy which may have drastic repercussions on the writing world – a strategy that authors and writers may have to fight against in increasing amounts.
Let’s begin with a quote from one of my favorite novels:
“Nothing is true, and anything is permitted.”
– Vladimir Bartol, Alamut
The world is changing faster than usual.
Reefs are dying, artists can’t get paid, bankers can’t stop getting paid, and corporations are growing larger than countries.
Only one year ago, if you said Donald Trump was going to run for president, you’d be laughed out of the room:
The scary thing is that the more powerful of the aforementioned groups seem to be getting away with more and more.
My theory is simple: internet citizens are suffering from information overload. There are too many “SUPER HUGE IMPORTANT THINGS YOU HAVE TO DO RIGHT NOW.”
If everything is ‘interesting,’ and ‘immediately important,’ then everything is forgettable. For those of you on Facebook, what did you read this morning about your friends/family/distant-acquaintances-that-you-only-accepted-because-you-saw-a-cute-girl/guy-in-the-photo?
For those of you who have seen the movie The Big Short or who lived through the 2008 financial crisis, what repercussions did the wrong-doers face?
When Melania Trump(‘s speech writer) blatantly plagiarized part of Michelle Obama(‘s speech writer’s) 2008 speech, the glorious 24-hour news cycle took vicious hold of the story and …
…and did what, exactly?
Why would Melania Trump plagiarize something so obvious?
There is a distinct possibility that Melania’s writing staff stole from Michelle’s writing staff ON PURPOSE.
This is my theory:
- Michelle’s speech was eight years ago, far too recent for this to be a simple “quote from the good ol’ days.”
- Michelle and Melania are both popular enough to have their speeches watched by similar audiences.
- Melania’s speech writers knew someone would remember Michelle’s speech…
- …and discover the blatant plagiarism, only to spread the word over the internet and through the vulturous entity known as “the News Media.”
- Trump-related news articles sprout up (e.g. this post you’re reading right now).
- The News Cycle focuses on Trump and his campaign for a few hours/days.
- People discuss the heinous faux pas for a few days.
All this leads to FREE TRUMP PUBLICITY.
Now, whether you like it or not, you are thinking about that certain politician with the carrot-colored skin:
What does this mean for writers everywhere?
As “First Lady of the United States,” Michelle Obama positioned herself as a role model for kids. I mean, tween girls. Wait, no, it was definitely people with body image issues. Or was it women everywhere?
I’m not really sure, but I believe the idea is that EVERY First Lady is supposed to be a paragon of virtue; someone that the children of the United States can look up to and say, “I want to as great as her.”
But there will be no repercussions for Melania Trump’s plagiarism. Maybe if she does it again, her credibility will be shot – although I’m banking on ‘won’t really matter.’
As it stands, all this act of plagiarism did was support the Trump movement. Nobody will even be fired for this.
Note: to be fair, I don’t think, if Hillary wins, the First Gentleman of the United States, Mr. Bill Clinton, will be any more of a paragon of virtue, but this is a writing blog, and we’re talking about what matters to writers.
Does this mean anyone can get away with Plagiarism now?
Here’s a simple quiz to see if you can get away with Plagiarism:
- Are you a student turning in a paper to the Academic World?
If you answered no to this question, then YES! You can get away with Plagiarism!
Plagiarism [noun] –the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.
We’ve been stealing each other’s ideas, and passing them off as our own, for years. In the internet age, it’s even easier to get away with plagiarism. Case in point: all of the articles I’ve linked in this blog that DON’T refer to the original tweet from @JarrettHill, the guy who first publicized the plagiarism discovery.
Even if those websites/publications/blogs do link back to him, many of them go out of their way to obscure credit, or in some way pass off his ideas as their own “investigative journalism.”
The problem with Melania Trump is she took your normal, everyday plagiarism two steps further:
- She copied, word for word, Michelle Obama’s speech
- She passed those exact words off as her own during a very public speech
As there were ZERO negative consequences, and plenty of good publicity for Trump, we, as writers, can actually learn something from this ordeal:
You can now think of plagiarism as a tool to gather publicity for yourself. After all, that’s why we write: fame, publicity, and the power to sway people to our opinions. Right? …no? Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments below.
To further illustrate this point, I’ll share Cunningham’s Law:
“The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question, it’s to post the wrong answer.”
I would like to put forth an addendum to this law, or Hoffman’s Correlation, if you will:
“The best way to gain publicity is to say something outrageous that you know internet citizens will react to, even if poorly.”
It may not be as eloquent as Cunningham’s Law, but I’m sure someone else will steal this idea from me and make it better. After all, ideas are cheap (unless you’re Melania Trump, in which case they appear to be free).
For writers, you still have to be careful with your plagiarism. If you steal someone’s entire book, you know you’re going to get burned (at least, I sincerely hope you do).
But if you end up plagiarizing in just the right way, you might end up setting the internet afire, while you float up into notoriety on those super-heated drafts of publicity. Legally speaking, you might be better off sticking to outrageous ideas of a less theft-oriented nature.
It would appear that the majority of the Trump platform is built on these super-heated publicity drafts – now known as Hoffman’s Correlation.
For example, Trump claims he’s going to build a towering, border-length wall to keep out immigrants, and then he promises Mexico will pay for that wall? Ridiculous.
Then again… anything is permitted.
Seriously, though. Please Don’t Plagiarize.
Speaking of Facebook, you can LIKE THIS PAGE HERE NOW CLICK ON IT RIGHT NOW OR IT WILL GO AWAY, and I promise I won’t get political on you. All I do is share stuff about books and writing and movies, etc.
Thank you for reading. Please tell me how wrong I am, or say anything that pops into your head in the comments below.