Plagiarism, Al Franken, Ben Domenech, Newsbusters
On Franken's Plagiarism, Why The Double-Standard?
While ultimately proven guilty as sin, it was just over a week ago that we watched the blogosphere, both left and right, instantly tear a conservative writer to shreds over an ever-increasing list of plagiaristic transgressions.
When the shoe is on the left foot, however, why is the issue swept under the carpet?
Even though right-leaning blogger/editor/columnist Ben Domenech was ultimately confronted with astounding examples of stolen work, the speed by which his neck was chopped off was a bit unsettling. Clearly, in the blogosphere, due process is still a rather fuzzy concept.
When the writer in question is Al Franken, however, why are less serious (but still quite genuine) charges virtually ignored?
Because Franken carries so much political baggage, we spend our equalizing time pursuing only the most important stories, avoiding unverified allegations that sometimes lurk in dark corners of the Internet.
This one, however, is easily checked out and using our copy of Franken's second book (purchased for 50 cents at a yard sale, did we overpay?), we did so.
Sparked by this week's fishy media ethics conference featuring Al Gore, Dave Pierre at Newsbusters asks this:
As reported by Newsbusters on Sunday (April 2, 2006), Middle Tennessee State University is hosting a journalism conference this week called, "Self-Inflicted Wounds - Fact and Fiction in Journalism: Fabrication, Plagiarism and Confidential Sources" (Al Gore is delivering an opening address.)
Here's a question: On the topic of plagiarism, will the conference breach the subject of Al Franken?
In his recent book Pants on Fire: How Al Franken Lies, Smears, and Deceives, Alan Skorski (who has been featured on C-SPAN's Book TV) analyzed Al Franken's body of so-called "research," including his 2003 bestselling book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. Skorski provides compelling evidence that "Franken appears to have plagiarized" passages of his book from a 2001 report on the Fox News Channel by the liberal organization FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting). Skorski's most striking examples:
FAIR, July/August 2001: "The Most Biased Name in News" by Seth Ackerman, writing about Hannity & Colmes:
Even Fox's "left-right" debate show, Hannity & Colmes--whose Crossfire-style format virtually imposes numerical equality between conservatives and "liberals"--can't shake the impression of resembling a Harlem Globetrotters game ...
FRANKEN, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (Dutton, 2003, hardcover 1st edition), page 63:
For those of you unfamiliar with the Hannity and Colmes dynamic, it's a conservative-versus-liberal talking head show, kind of a combination between Crossfire and a Harlem Globetrotters game.
"Crossfire"? "A Harlem Globetrotters game"? "Conservatives"? "Liberals"? Yikes. That's a tough one to write off as a simple coincidence, especially in light of some other "striking similarities of thought and expression" that Mr. Skorski found in nearby passages...
As Pierre's piece continues, other examples are cited. While not quite as serious as those by Domenech and disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair (with Franken in the images shown here), plagiarism is plagiarism, isn't it?
So, months after Alan Skorski made these comparisons in his book, where's the Internet uproar?
One theory: because few believe Franken contributes more than a few words to "his" books, are these accusations are more properly levelled at his Harvard writing team?
Does this hold water? It's Al's name there on the cover, isn't he on the hook for what's inside?
In addition, when a conservative is in trouble, heat comes from both sides. But when one of their own faces similar accusations, the left will remain silent, or go into nasty mode. It then becomes about "right-wing attack dogs" trying to tear down good "progressives".
As to why Franken gets away with so much, what's your theory? Feel free to leave a comment below.
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UPDATE: there's some grumpiness out there from a few people who believe only they have the right to define plagiarism. We were clear that it doesn't rise to the level of Ben Domenech or Jayson Blair, but is still worth investigating.
What's becoming tiresome: people who believe they look "fair" if they attack their own, while defending the other side. It's not fooling anybody.
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