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August 11, 2012 5:10 AM   Subscribe

Time, CNN Suspend Zakaria After He Admits "Terrible Mistake" [slate.com] "The columnist was caught passing off large chunks of a New Yorker essay as his own."
posted by Fizz (105 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jonah Lehrer and now Fareed Zakaria. Not really surprised considering the state of journalism, just disappointed.
posted by Fizz at 5:13 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, apart from anything I'd like to have thought he'd be smart enough to not plagiarise in a way that wouldn't even pass a TurnItIn check.
posted by jaduncan at 5:16 AM on August 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


I can't imagine that he did it on purpose, he's way too read and copied a far too popular source.
posted by empath at 5:17 AM on August 11, 2012


A friend who works as a copyeditor for academic books was just saying that she found some cases of completely blatant copy-and-pasting in a manuscript she's working on for a university press. How on earth does anybody think they're not going to get caught in this day and age? Especially someone as visible as these guys?
posted by bokane at 5:25 AM on August 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you must write prose or poems, don't plagiarize or take on loan. There's always someone, somewhere, with a big nose, who knows. Who'll trip you up and laugh when you fall. That's how it seems to me, anyway.
posted by iotic at 5:29 AM on August 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


I can't imagine that he did it on purpose

from the link:

Here's one example of the similarities between Zakaria's column and Jill Lepore's New Yorker essay.

Zakaria in "The Case for Gun Control":

"Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, documents the actual history in Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Guns were regulated in the U.S. from the earliest years of the Republic. Laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813. Other states soon followed: Indiana in 1820, Tennessee and Virginia in 1838, Alabama in 1839 and Ohio in 1859. Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas (Texas!) explained in 1893, the "mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man."

And Lepore in "Battleground America":

"As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man."


That is a remarkable coincidence - but there's more:

Here is Zakaria:

" ... Robert H. Jackson, said the Second Amendment grants people a right that "is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only one which exists where the arms are borne in the militia or some other military organization provided for by law and intended for the protection of the state." The court agreed unanimously."

And this from The New Yorker:

"... Furthermore, Jackson said, the language of the amendment makes clear that the right “is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only one which exists where the arms are borne in the militia or some other military organization provided for by law and intended for the protection of the state.” The Court agreed, unanimously."

Next, Zakaria writes about a quote from Chief Justice Warren Burger:

"Things started to change in the 1970s as various right-wing groups coalesced to challenge gun control, overturning laws in state legislatures, Congress and the courts. But Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative appointed by Richard Nixon, described the new interpretation of the Second Amendment in an interview after his tenure as "one of the greatest pieces of fraud--I repeat the word fraud--on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

That quote also appears in Lepore's piece, though she has a more detailed introduction.

"According to the constitutional-law scholar Carl Bogus, at least sixteen of the twenty-seven law-review articles published between 1970 and 1989 that were favorable to the N.R.A.’s interpretation of the Second Amendment were “written by lawyers who had been directly employed by or represented the N.R.A. or other gun-rights organizations.” In an interview, former Chief Justice Warren Burger said that the new interpretation of the Second Amendment was “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”


I don't think this was coincidental.
posted by dubold at 5:30 AM on August 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


I don't think this was coincidental.

Lazy?
posted by Fizz at 5:31 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why was anyone still taking this warmongering idiot seriously anyway? American punditry has a pretty low bar for being an 'expert'; you can be completely wrong about everything important, as long as you don't plagiarize.
posted by nikodym at 5:32 AM on August 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Has Jill Lepore responded? I hope her response comes in the form of a sexy colonial-era epistolary novel (with cross-dressing!). Seriously, Blindspot is a very fun read and Lepore's more serious work is even better. This piece on Ben Franklin is especially good.
posted by Xalf at 5:43 AM on August 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Some of the pundits on Twitter yesterday (Matthew Yglesias in particular) were speculating that is wasn't a case of intentional plagiarism as much as it was a case of Zakaria relying too much on assistants to help write his columns--assistants who has passed on information nearly word-for-word from other sources without properly attributing them. He probably can't come out and say "it wasn't me, it was my staff whose work I've been passing off as my own" but that could be what happened. That's not a lot better than outright plagiarism, but it's somewhat more understandable. FZ couldn't have thought that he could copy/paste the New Yorker without someone catching on, but if he thought he was just copy/pasting lowly assistants who expected to half ghostwrite his columns and blog posts, that's a different matter.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:44 AM on August 11, 2012 [39 favorites]


How on earth does anybody think they're not going to get caught in this day and age? Especially someone as visible as these guys?

I'm guessing you weren't implying visible minorities, but that still probably counts for an especially especially.
posted by fairmettle at 5:45 AM on August 11, 2012


Some of the pundits on Twitter yesterday (Matthew Yglesias in particular) were speculating that is wasn't a case of intentional plagiarism as much as it was a case of Zakaria relying too much on assistants to help write his columns--assistants who has passed on information nearly word-for-word from other sources without properly attributing them. He probably can't come out and say "it wasn't me, it was my staff whose work I've been passing off as my own" but that could be what happened. That's not a lot better than outright plagiarism, but it's somewhat more understandable. FZ couldn't have thought that he could copy/paste the New Yorker without someone catching on, but if he thought he was just copy/pasting lowly assistants who expected to half ghostwrite his columns and blog posts, that's a different matter.

So...
posted by Fizz at 5:52 AM on August 11, 2012


What a dumbass. I hope someone runs all of his previous columns through TurnItIn or Google, and see where else he has "borrowed" from over the years. When I was a TA in grad school, I had undergrads turn in papers with the copy/paste Wikipedia paragraphs in different font colors and they were shocked that I would notice; this is the equivalent of their cluelessness.
posted by Forktine at 6:11 AM on August 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wow. Why would anyone do this in the era Of search engines?
posted by Artw at 6:18 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA

"As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A.

Ah, the old add-a-hyphen trick.
posted by Artw at 6:20 AM on August 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Globe & Mail's Margaret Wente routinely plagiarizes in her columns. I hope the increasing attention to this issue gets her fired.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:20 AM on August 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


What a moron. Fingers crossed someone runs all of his earlier columns through Google or TurnItIn, and find what else he has "borrowed" in previous years. In grad school, when I was a TA, I had undergrads submit papers with copied and pasted Wikipedia paragraphs in different font colors and they were surprised I'd even notice; this is the equivalent of their cluelessness.
posted by jeremy b at 6:21 AM on August 11, 2012 [31 favorites]


It isn't plagiarism to use your own work. The baseline definition of plagiarism requires stealing other people's works.
On the issue of assistants: yes, does anyone think that any of these pundits who float from screen to print to web and back actually write all their own books? Not a chance, I'd say.
posted by etaoin at 6:25 AM on August 11, 2012


I find myself aghast or in layman's terms, WTF Zack?

But am tending towards Pater Aletheias' point about this may be due to hordes of lowly helpers than an idiotic attempt to cut paste.
posted by infini at 6:26 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


excuses, yes.

He is a main stream darling and like Brian Ross reporting, this will be forgotten and deemed a "mistake".
posted by clavdivs at 6:30 AM on August 11, 2012


It isn't plagiarism to use your own work. The baseline definition of plagiarism requires stealing other people's works.

Not in the case of Jonah Lehrer apparently.

Why Did Jonah Lehrer Plagiarize Himself?
Because he stopped being a writer and became an idea man.

posted by infini at 6:32 AM on August 11, 2012


Possibly from now on one of the helpers should be paid a bounty for catching the other helpers at this shit?
posted by Artw at 6:34 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's 40$ out of county.
posted by clavdivs at 6:46 AM on August 11, 2012


I've ghostwritten opeds for people in my current job. You never plagiarise, there's usually an explicit part of the contract dealing with damages for loss of reputation for both that reason and for disclosing you wrote it.
posted by jaduncan at 6:51 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jonah Lehrer and now Fareed Zakaria. Not really surprised considering the state of journalism, just disappointed.
posted by iamck at 6:55 AM on August 11, 2012 [16 favorites]


"Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA

"As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A.


Ah, the old-add a hyphen-trick.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:56 AM on August 11, 2012 [19 favorites]


Stop stop stop!

No more plagiarizing comments from earlier in the thread else you'll be fined 10 favourites per character!
posted by infini at 7:20 AM on August 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Stop stop stop!

Oh, my goodness, I had not noticed that at all. Unintentional mistakes were made, and I don't know how they slipped passed my editors, who should know better.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:24 AM on August 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


He's clearly gotten tired of writing his op-ed columns and views them as just so much formulaic sausage pushed out through his factory. He needs a long-term suspension to let him think about if he actually has anything to say.
posted by shivohum at 7:26 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sad business--especially the sophomoric "I'll change a few words here and there and NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW" tactic. What's particularly bizarre (and this is true more often than not in the case of students, too) is that he could have just quoted the passages directly with attribution and everything would have been fine. No one expects him to independently research the history of gun control in the US.

On a slightly unrelated note--that Jill Lepore piece is terrific. You should all go read it if you haven't already.
posted by yoink at 7:41 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would have really made my day if it had been Thomas Friedman.

Still this is pretty damn funny.
posted by bukvich at 7:46 AM on August 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Stop-stop-stop!
posted by Artw at 7:49 AM on August 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Some of the pundits on Twitter yesterday (Matthew Yglesias in particular) were speculating that is wasn't a case of intentional plagiarism as much as it was a case of Zakaria relying too much on assistants to help write his columns--assistants who has passed on information nearly word-for-word from other sources without properly attributing them.

You know what? I don't think that's any better. If you're going to pass off writing as your own, whether it's ghost or plagiarism, you're taking credit for things you aren't doing. It's one thing to have researchers, it's a whole other thing to not even analyze the work and write a bloody summary, and if you're so disengaged with the process that you can't see something like this, then you either need to give up the role of "writer" or get more involved.

It's really hard to do good quality, original work. It should be hard, and people taking whatever shortcuts they want on the road there should be blasted for it and returned to start their careers over doing things the right way.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:03 AM on August 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Plagiarism is one of those rules that it just seems inconceivable to me when people break them. Like using the HOV lane with one person in the car. I mean, you just don't do that! What can possibly be wrong with you that would make you do that!?
posted by cmoj at 8:07 AM on August 11, 2012


He used the same quote, and listed items in a similar way. Was he supposed to say that the quote came from another publication? Ok, fine. But it doesn't appear that he plagiarized any big creative thoughts--just info and quotes. Help me take this kerfuffle seriously, because I'm not feeling the outrage.
posted by hanoixan at 8:21 AM on August 11, 2012


Shit, he's still doing it:

Zakaria's statement --
"I made a terrible mistake."

Bluth family --
"I've made a huge mistake."
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:23 AM on August 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


What can possibly be wrong with you that would make you do that!?

Overwhelming sense of privilege? It leads to derangement of senses, thinking, and imagination. That shit's toxic.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:23 AM on August 11, 2012


Granted. But what about the damn internets and the fact that people can add 2 and 2 together? Its not like it was some remote random blog was it?

Mindboggling.
posted by infini at 8:25 AM on August 11, 2012


How on earth does anybody think they're not going to get caught in this day and age?

Many, many people go through their entire education without managing to learn a) how to paraphrase effectively, b) that not only direct quotation but also paraphrase and summary have to be documented, and c) that folks outside academe DO care about this stuff. They seriously believe that if you omit the quotation marks and change a couple of words, it's perfectly OK to use anything without attribution, especially if it's on the tubes.

I have sat in a room with a student and put the two passages side by side and observed that the person actually cannot see that they're 99.9% identical. Whether that's from denial, cognitive dissonance, or some brain chemistry thing, I can't say.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:32 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


It seems punditry has gone all Martha Stewart: they aren't people anymore, they're brands.
posted by klarck at 8:36 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would have really made my day if it had been Thomas Friedman.

Friedman's crimes are many, but word theft isn't one of them. The manner in which he mangles language is entirely his own. The best we can hope for is that in this era of heightened scrutiny, someone finally prosecutes him for metaphor abuse.
posted by gompa at 8:54 AM on August 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I honestly think there's some level of self-destructive compulsion or neuro-psycho-misfiring at work in some instances. Last year, I referred a flagrant case of just this type of copy-paste plagiarism (on two brief 5-point assignments -- Jesus, just take the zero, dude) to campus judicial services. The student almost immediately did the same thing on the midterm exam and then a third time -- on the reflective essay about academic honesty judicial services required the student to write as part of the penalty for the first offense.

The fierceness and vigor of the Banhammering that resulted were daunting to behold.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:05 AM on August 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


He made a good choice in Jill Lepore. If you're going to steal, steal from the great.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:14 AM on August 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


It must be a Post American world already.
posted by infini at 9:45 AM on August 11, 2012


Metafilter: Help me take this kerfuffle seriously, because I'm not feeling the outrage.
posted by sendai sleep master at 10:19 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are you people piling on Willem Dafoe? I liked Platoon.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:23 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I second the awesomeness of Lepore's historical cross-dressing epistolary mystery Blindspot!
posted by nicebookrack at 10:24 AM on August 11, 2012


It seems punditry has gone all Martha Stewart: they aren't people anymore, they're brands.

Just what I was thinking. It's so disturbing that there's speculation that he didn't steal this himself... and that it makes the offence less that it's just the people who are writing his work without credit who stole it. Ok, no problem, then! I feel like "being a writer" is losing its meaning these days.

All the world's a marketing campaign, and we are but the target audience.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:33 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


...Zakaria relying too much on assistants to help write his columns--assistants who has passed on information nearly word-for-word from other sources without properly attributing them.

This makes a lot of sense to me. Especially if the assistants are recent college grads. Since the rise of the internet, students' attitude to copying has changed - or maybe just the ease and frequency has changed, who knows, but in any case, many students do not at all get basic things about doing your own research. Even conscientious profs only have the time to charge the most extreme cases, so few bother to be hardliners, so it just goes along. Sadly, I don't see the trend reversing. I predict that in ten years this kind of behavior among journalists/public figures will be so common that it will just stop being a reason for scandal or dismissal.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:43 AM on August 11, 2012


I'll be using this in my Comp. classes this fall, along with the Cook's Source scandal . . .
posted by exlotuseater at 11:50 AM on August 11, 2012


oh dear, added apostrophe up there.
posted by exlotuseater at 11:51 AM on August 11, 2012


...speculating that is wasn't a case of intentional plagiarism as much as it was a case of Zakaria relying too much on assistants to help write his columns--assistants who has passed on information nearly word-for-word from other sources without properly attributing them. He probably can't come out and say "it wasn't me, it was my staff whose work I've been passing off as my own"...That's not a lot better than outright plagiarism...

That's considerably worse than plagiarism. It's owning and operating a plagiarism sweatshop.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:57 PM on August 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Now if CNN will somehow get rid of Sanjay Gupta, who for some reason annoys the ever-living crap out of me.
posted by mrbill at 1:12 PM on August 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


What's particularly bizarre (and this is true more often than not in the case of students, too) is that he could have just quoted the passages directly with attribution and everything would have been fine. No one expects him to independently research the history of gun control in the US.

No, that's not what's going on. If the whole paper was made up of cut-and-paste stuff like the two paragraphs the article quotes, then there would have been one quotation mark at the top of the essay and another at the bottom. There is a difference between an essay and a hotlink.

There's a huge population of people, including some of the commentators on the article, who just. do. not. get. the. point. of plagiarism. There's no "grey area" here, and people who try to argue that there are no similarities between the two paragraphs the article uses to illustrate the case are, in fact, lying. It's just not socially acceptable to call someone a liar.
posted by jrochest at 1:29 PM on August 11, 2012


Like Pater Aletheias, I'm in the "summer intern in his ghostwriting sweatshop probably did it" camp. Mind you, in my moral scale, somebody who relies on ghostwriters is just a small step above plagiarists. In both cases, this old Spanish saying applies: "Who borrows his clothes gets stripped naked in the street."
Mind you, I have some trouble accepting that Zakaria (who singlehandedly turned me off "Time") managed to find a ghostwriter to match his writing. Not because of the depth of his geopolitical analysis, which is well within the reach of a three-grader with an illustrated atlas, but because it would have been very difficult to replicate his inane, smarmy pomposity and self-righteousness without retching.
Anyway, I'm sure Friedman will never fall into this: it's obvious he's been using a Markov generator at least since the '90s...
posted by Skeptic at 1:50 PM on August 11, 2012


Dammit. He was really someone whose opinion I respected, who I wanted to hear speak, whose analysis of issues was thoughtful and measured. Dammit.
posted by headnsouth at 2:50 PM on August 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


The staffers-wrote-the-peidce scenario seems likely to me, although, as said above, it's not much of a defense. Surely this guy is smart enough to not just do this himself.
posted by thelonius at 3:08 PM on August 11, 2012


What's particularly bizarre (and this is true more often than not in the case of students, too) is that he could have just quoted the passages directly with attribution and everything would have been fine.

That's what I just don't get. Instead of passing it off as your own, how about, "As Jill Lepore noted in an April essay in the New Yorker..." Why not just attribute it?
posted by kgasmart at 3:09 PM on August 11, 2012


Why not just attribute it?

This is what makes me think the "young assistants" theory is correct. There are an awful lot of younger people who just do not have a good grasp of proper attribution. They may have thought it would be a fine shortcut, and nobody would notice, or -- more likely -- they may really think that changing a few words and punctuation, very lightly paraphrasing, is sufficient to meet the required standard.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:21 PM on August 11, 2012


@LobsterMitten, that sounds about right, but if I'm Time or CNN, it's concerning to me that a columnist is having his work essentially written by assistants.
posted by kgasmart at 3:28 PM on August 11, 2012


Oh definitely. I am not at all condoning either the ghostwriting or the plagiarism! Just trying to get a handle on the WTF factor of a seemingly knowledgable (about basic rules of writing) and high profile person doing something so obviously dumb.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:34 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like the passing the fault on to the lowly interns angle here.

WTF, people? It's more "understandable" that he'd not only allow plagiarizing but also screw his underlings as well?
posted by DU at 4:26 PM on August 11, 2012


It's more "understandable" that he'd not only allow plagiarizing but also screw his underlings as well?

Not more understandable, more likely. We aren't argueing about whether he's a shit, only whether he'd be such a stupid shit as to so blatantly plagiarise himself.
posted by Skeptic at 5:14 PM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


also screw his underlings

Not sure what you mean by this. If indeed an underling wrote the plagiarized piece, Zakaria has not said so, and thus has not screwed the underling. If anything he is taking the fall for the underling (accepting responsibility for someone else's plagiarism), in order to avoid taking a bigger fall himself (ie, he avoids admitting that he has underlings do his work, and then he doesn't adequately review it).
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:34 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not more understandable, more likely. We aren't argueing about whether he's a shit, only whether he'd be such a stupid shit as to so blatantly plagiarise himself.

1: To quote from the apologist above: That's not a lot better than outright plagiarism, but it's somewhat more understandable.

2: He didn't plagiarize himself. He plagiarized other people. The fact that he is additionally so lazy that his plagiarism is accidental because he has underlings he abuses for his own ends doesn't make that "understandable" it just makes it worse.
posted by DU at 5:36 PM on August 11, 2012


DU, nobody is saying that having an underling write your articles makes it better. We're saying, makes it more understandable in the sense of - if an underling didn't write it, and Zakaria did the plagiarism himself, that is so dumb as to be totally baffling. I can't understand how he would be so stupid.

But it's more understandable how he would get into this situation if he did have someone else writing for him, and that person did the plagiarizing. Having someone else writing for you is wrong, but I can at least understand how he would think nobody would catch on.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:41 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, that's not what's going on. If the whole paper was made up of cut-and-paste stuff like the two paragraphs the article quotes, then there would have been one quotation mark at the top of the essay and another at the bottom. There is a difference between an essay and a hotlink.

Except that the "whole paper" was A) not a "paper" and B) not made up of cut-and-paste stuff.

It was a column article. We've all read plenty of such articles that contained large chunks of attributed quoted material--that's a perfectly legitimate thing to do. The column also contained opinion and commentary that presumably was original to Zakaria and which does not derive at all from Lepore's piece. It would have been entirely acceptable for him to have used the material from Lepore so long as he had done so openly and with clear attribution.

I say this nit at all to excuse him, simply to marvel at what an egregious and pointless transgression this was.
posted by yoink at 5:50 PM on August 11, 2012


I say this nit at all to excuse him, simply to marvel at what an egregious and pointless transgression this was.

I agree, but like I said, if it was the "assistants," it floors me that something like an opinion column would be ghost written.
posted by kgasmart at 6:00 PM on August 11, 2012


It isn't plagiarism to use your own work. The baseline definition of plagiarism requires stealing other people's works.

Self-plagiarism is a big deal in academic circles. It's obviously also a big deal in journalism, though perhaps more because it's a slap in the fact of your editor than because it's lazy.
posted by asnider at 6:05 PM on August 11, 2012


But self-plagiarism isn't what's happening in FZ's case. I think Skeptic just misspoke.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:11 PM on August 11, 2012


Here's a piece Jill Lepore wrote after Aurora: Batman’s Gun
posted by homunculus at 6:51 PM on August 11, 2012


DU, nobody is saying that having an underling write your articles makes it better

1: To quote from the apologist above: That's not a lot better than outright plagiarism, but it's somewhat more understandable.

"Not a lot better than" plagiarism to me sounds like "better than, but not by much".
posted by DU at 6:53 PM on August 11, 2012


Regardless of how you want to parse that phrase, I don't think Skeptic, or people in this thread generally, are in any sense "apologists" for FZ. Everyone is saying this is bad. Skeptic, for example, agrees that "he's a shit."
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:06 PM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some of the pundits on Twitter yesterday (Matthew Yglesias in particular) were speculating that is wasn't a case of intentional plagiarism as much as it was a case of Zakaria relying too much on assistants to help write his columns ...That's not a lot better than outright plagiarism, but it's somewhat more understandable.
That would obviously still be plagiarism in college. Interestingly though what he did might not count as plagiarism in some college classes, as he did 'reword' it. (I suppose it depends on the professor and the school, And I don't think it would have triggered a turnitin check, as far as I know) The overall structure and information is the same, but the specific word choices are different. He didn't just copy and paste it. That could explain why the "assistant" thought it was OK to do.
posted by delmoi at 7:17 PM on August 11, 2012


Interestingly though what he did might not count as plagiarism in some college classes. . .

"In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledg­ing its source."

This (or other, very similar definitions) is my understanding of plagiarism. That "ideas" bit there is key. Rewording matters not. And Zakaria's rewording as noted above is painful. If I saw his language and then searched and found the original, that is a smoking gun, baby. And then I'd have an interesting talk with the student in question.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:16 PM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Suspended? For a month? That's absolutely insane. People have been strung up and thrown out of the profession with no recourse for much less. I'm kind of astonished that they need "further review," given the facts are clear and acknowledged by all. I guess this "suspension" is really a "let's see if everybody forgets about this in a month and you can write your column again."
posted by koeselitz at 8:57 PM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Further review could simply mean that they're hoping its a case of "they'd meant to link to the credited source but forgot before hitting publish" ?
posted by infini at 11:42 PM on August 11, 2012


But self-plagiarism isn't what's happening in FZ's case. I think Skeptic just misspoke.

Damn ambiguous English grammar: I didn't mean self-plagiarism, but doing the plagiarism himself. I see now that the sentence could be understood both ways.
posted by Skeptic at 12:53 AM on August 12, 2012


The best we can hope for is that in this era of heightened scrutiny, someone finally prosecutes him for metaphor abuse.

Won't somebody please think of the taxi drivers !?
posted by y2karl at 4:50 AM on August 12, 2012


Friedman's crimes are many, but word theft isn't one of them.

"The World Is Flat now that the Electronic Herd has stopped Playing Baseball Without A Bat and decided to don the Golden Straightjacket and offer The Lexus And The Olive Tree to this Hot, Flat, and Crowded world. After all, the First Rule of Petropolitics is that freedom and oil flow in opposite directions because Mother Nature is Father Greed. Sigh, That Used To Be Us guys, That Used To Be Us."


This was my stuff for poetry slam back in the day. Imma get you Frienman, watch yourself.
posted by Winnemac at 7:34 AM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I believe that plagiarists ought to be exposed for the frauds they are, but even so I gotta say that some of the points brought up above are kind of flimsy.

Consider this:

Here is Zakaria:

" ... Robert H. Jackson, said the Second Amendment grants people a right that "is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only one which exists where the arms are borne in the militia or some other military organization provided for by law and intended for the protection of the state." The court agreed unanimously."

And this from The New Yorker:

"... Furthermore, Jackson said, the language of the amendment makes clear that the right “is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only one which exists where the arms are borne in the militia or some other military organization provided for by law and intended for the protection of the state.” The Court agreed, unanimously."


In both cases, it is a quotation from the original source (forty words or so) with about a dozen words introducing who the source was and a wrap-up to say that the courts agreed unanimously. If you want to introduce and attribute this quotation and say that the court was unanimous in its agreement, how many ways are there to do it without padding the word count like an undergrad flailing to meet his 3000-word miminum?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:29 AM on August 12, 2012


ricochet biscuit, I think part of the assumption here is that much of the Zakaria piece is almost directly ripped from the Lepore article . . . so it would seem that a lot of the information in the former was learned from the latter.

He could say the same thing with a simple "qtd. in Lepore," or footnotes with "ibid." (over and over, because not original research).

Repetitive, yes, but varied marker words (Lepore notes, Lepore also points out, in "Battleground America," "in Lepore's article . . ." etc.) Repetitive, but that's what happens when you are repeatedly quoting one other person's work.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:41 AM on August 12, 2012


Ready To Kick Your Article Marketing Into OVERDRIVE?

Software called Wordflood is designed to facilitate this kind of literary massage.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 9:36 AM on August 12, 2012


So instead of Global Public Square, CNN is giving us an hour of Wolf Blitzer talking about Paul Ryan? Fuck that.
posted by homunculus at 10:11 AM on August 12, 2012


Presumably he is softballing the fuck out of it, per usual CNN policy?
posted by Artw at 10:14 AM on August 12, 2012


I turned it off so I can't say for certain, but that would be a safe bet.
posted by homunculus at 10:20 AM on August 12, 2012


conspiracytheoryfilter: Could someone have published this under his name (because its so ridiculously stupid and blatant) as a political move?
posted by infini at 10:31 AM on August 12, 2012


And now, as with Lehrer, other media outlets find that Zakaria has plagiarized in other past work.

Plagiarism is not a "lapse" - it is a habit on the part of those who do it.
posted by twblalock at 11:03 AM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


previous comment redacted
posted by infini at 12:41 PM on August 12, 2012


More like FRAUD Zakaria
posted by Renoroc at 12:44 PM on August 12, 2012


Having said that, I also invite you - the proud third-world consumers of the largest media industry in the world - to have a closer look at the magnificent hypocrisy behind the American mainstream media's self-righteousness and perceived integrity. Today, Time and CNN are considered the benchmarks of open, 'objective' and liberal journalism. They command awe, respect - not to mention a huge global market. But is the respect and power that these media organizations enjoy a result of their high journalistic standards? Well, that's where the catch lies.

Ideas and institutions gain respect and currency only when there is a force behind them. And power does not want truth. It wants what it considers to be true as the truth so as to create conditions to perpetuate and reproduce that power. Truth, in other words, is the enemy of power. Now that's an anomaly, because the media, by definition, is supposed to be the beacon of truth. However, the American mainstream media knows that truth does not bring money and market, proximity to power does. So what you get instead is a media, patronized by the dominant powers, that only cares about manufactured truths, propaganda, cover-ups, misinformation, concealment of information, and even blatant lies that gradually gain the force of truth simply because, as the saying goes, they must be repeated ad nauseum.

In other words, the mainstream media in the US has consistently prided itself at being the handmaiden of the dominant powers - political, economic, military and cultural. They have acted as tools to indoctrinate, provoke, preach, misinform, and even numb the Americans towards what perhaps the best-known American intellectual Noam Chomsky calls 'the manufacture of consent'. It is this consent that has helped the American corporates sell their products in the name of dreams, American armies to invade, kill and loot and the American empire dominate the world as it wished with absolute impunity.
[...]

It is when we try to answer these questions that we realize the hypocrisy behind what happened to Zakaria. It is at that moment that the 'hallowed' institutions of great journalism like the Time begin to look hollow and pedantic. Isn't it hypocritical then that an indefensible institution is being defended by sacking Zakaria, while its core is consistently compromised by its dubious practices?
The Fareed Zakaria episode and the hypocrisy of American media
posted by infini at 3:22 AM on August 13, 2012


> Possibly from now on one of the helpers should be paid a bounty for catching the other helpers at this shit?

If I were a columnist big enough to have staff of researchers and copywriters, you may bloody well believe that I would run the copy past TurnItIn myself before it ever got submitted for real.
posted by jfuller at 6:22 AM on August 13, 2012


If you want to introduce and attribute this quotation and say that the court was unanimous in its agreement, how many ways are there to do it

a) "if you want to x" is central - x is your idea. Where did you get that idea? Where did you first read (or hear) that quote? (In an academic paper you would have to cite that quote no matter how you knew about it.)
b) Maybe you read the decision - it would have to be a coincidence you chose the exact same portion of a quote;
c) it would have to be a coincidence you had the same idea about how to introduce it;
d) "the court agreed unanimously" may sound generic, but if you do a search for it the results will be for this article. The same four words in a row is actually pretty specific.

Basically, there are quite a few ways to do it, AND, the fact that you want to introduce & attribute this particular quote and state that the court unanimously agreed is already sharing a key idea.
posted by mdn at 9:06 AM on August 13, 2012


jfuller: " If I were a columnist big enough to have staff of researchers and copywriters, you may bloody well believe that I would run the copy past TurnItIn myself before it ever got submitted for real."

I contacted TurnItIn recently (I'm currently looking into it for work, for exactly this purpose: "Let's preemptively scan any article we write or presentation we prepare, just in case") and they pointed me towards Ithenticate as the service they offer for people who want to check their own writing.
posted by Lexica at 10:26 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


My theories on (intentional) plagiarism, in 100% my own words: older folks do it because they learned writing before the internet made it trivial to catch, and that fact hasn't really sunk in yet (if it ever will), and younger folks do it because they think they're so special they themselves couldn't possibly be caught - just everyone else.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:55 AM on August 13, 2012


Streams of Consciousness: ‘The Mansion of Happiness,’ by Jill Lepore
posted by homunculus at 7:58 PM on August 13, 2012


Reason: The Real Problem With Fareed Zakaria Isn't His Plagiarism
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:07 AM on August 14, 2012


Ithenticate as the service they offer for people who want to check their own writing.

*coughs*check their essay before the college submits it again to turnitin*coughs*

It's a good business they've got there, selling arms to both sides.
posted by jaduncan at 4:06 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


A False Charge Against Fareed Zakaria

Above is a PDF of the relevant footnotes of the 2009 paperback edition; below follows a PDF of the relevant pages in the 2008 hardcover. Prestowitz is credited both times. Had Farhi clicked Amazon's "look inside this book" button, he would have seen the footnote for himself. It follows that he didn't. Given the gravity of the accusation he lodged against Zakaria, that omission seems a grave act of journalistic malpractice.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:59 AM on August 15, 2012


As a former apprentice pipefitter, I find it incredibly cool that the Japanese set up threading machines right in the back of their van. I usually had to haul the goddamn thing out of the van (usually from underneath a pile of bagged fittings), and down two sets of stairs.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:20 PM on August 15, 2012


Wrong thread?
posted by Forktine at 8:43 PM on August 15, 2012


Is Zakaria a secret plumber in his sparetime?
posted by infini at 1:08 AM on August 16, 2012


That was quick:
"On Thursday afternoon, Time and CNN said they had completed their reviews, found no evidence of plagiarism and restored Mr. Zakaria to his demanding schedule. Just as quickly as his employers had questioned his credibility, they rallied around him."
From the same article, here's Zakaria's explanation for what happened:
The mistake, he said, occurred when he confused the notes he had taken about Ms. Lepore’s article — he said he often writes his research in longhand — with notes taken from “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” by Adam Winkler (W.W. Norton, 2011), a copy of which was on his desk at his CNN office.
I understand that a writer for the NYT doesn't want to add "this is obviously bullshit" to a paragraph like that, but couldn't she have found someone to say that? I was available.
posted by Xalf at 4:23 AM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fareed has always struck me as a great actor. He does a great job of acting like he's a true, impartial journalist who should be taken seriously. I really think he missed his calling in cinema.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 4:27 AM on August 20, 2012


CNN Host Dismantles Grover Norquist’s Anti-Tax Argument: ‘This Is A Wish, Not A Plan’
posted by homunculus at 12:02 PM on September 2, 2012


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