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Plagiarism As A Subset of Hackwork

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Paul Waldman has a smart take on the plagiarism in Juan Williams’s column. Or, more precisely, the plagiarism that appeared in the column with Juan Williams’s nominal byline:

But here’s what I can fault Williams for: What he actually got caught doing was an act of double plagiarism, even though only one of the acts of plagiarism is considered problematic. After all, plagiarism is taking someone else’s words and passing them off as your own without attribution. Williams does that whenever his assistant writes something for him that then appears verbatim in his column, which from his explanation sounds like something he does regularly. It’s just that this time, his assistant passed off CAP’s words as his own to Williams, and Williams then passed off CAP’s words as his own to his readers, when he thought he was only passing off his assistant’s words as his own, which otherwise nobody would know about.

Relatedly, this is why it’s not terribly surprising that Jonah Lehrer turned out to be an outright fabulist and plagiarist not just of self; when someone is too lazy to check out basic facts about the central anecdotes in their high-advance books, making stuff up and using other people’s work is the logical next step.

The other depressing thing about Williams’s double plagiarism is that Williams can’t even be bothered to write his own banalities while people who are still actual journalists are being asked even by financially secure organizations to write for “exposure.” I don’t even understand how Williams’s column makes narrow economic sense. When was the last time a Juan Williams column went viral for its content? If the Hill dropped his column tomorrow, would anyone stop reading the publication? Would anyone even notice?

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