Plagiarism: An Analysis

Plagiarism, as I have always been told and understood to be, is a serious violation of the code of ethics taken on by a write, especially in professional journalistic circles. I know that plagiarism is using the words of another author in your own work, either without citation, or by presenting it as your own words. In high school research papers, this issue had always been avoided by a clever re-arrangement of words. However, the column about Fareed Zakaria blurred the lines between what I thought to be acceptable paraphrasing and blatant plagiarism. Although the section of his article that has been brought up as plagiarism is not a verbatim copy, Zakaria barely endeavored to even change the order of sentences in the small paragraph. Knowing that he has been suspended from several of his positions at large media outlets, I realize that, even in my own seemingly unimportant assignments, simply paraphrasing information will not suffice.
In Jonah Lehrer’s case, he has been called out on a practice that I didn’t even know could be considered plagiarism: copying and pasting a prior work of your own into a new piece, without citing yourself, or at least acknowledging its original context. Of course, his made-up quotes from Bob Dylan are untruths and should serve to discredit him as an author of high moral standards, I did not know that bullshitting was a from of plagiarism.
Lehrer resigned from his position at the New Yorker, which begs the question: should Zakaria be called to resign from his journalistic positions as well? Do not all forms of plagiarism deserve the same scrutiny? Or are some instances less severe? For instance, Chris Anderson’s recent run-in with allegations of plagiarism have hardly affected his professional career. Because Anderson has a seemingly plausible excuse for his lack of citations, and because his publisher publicly accepted his apology, his book is still set to be released. Is this difference of punishment due to the fact that Anderson has an alibi? Perhaps the question is not whether different cases of plagiarism are more or less severe than others, but rather if the difference in backlash faced by the alleged plagiarists is acceptable.


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