Friday, March 24, 2006

RedState.org founder Ben Domenech is, apparently, a serial plagiarist.

I am, too. But only when crafting military memoranda and integrating doctrinal sources with my own military company SOPs. Other than that, it's a fireable offense.

Full disclosure, and mea culpa: About 11 years ago, I accidentally lifted the phrase "gruesome house of bones" from an earlier, historical work, and inserted it in an article I wrote for another publication. It was my first piece as a professional writer (meaning the first piece of writing for which I actually received a check, albeit four years after its writing, which convinced me that freelance history writing was, as a business model, suboptimal.) It was just one of those instances where I retained the phrase in my notes, transferred it to a legal pad, wrote a manuscript, and rewrote the manuscript, and never worked the phrase out of the prose.

Four little words.

I didn't even realize it until, years later, I read the piece back to myself and recognized the phrase.

I was truly mortified at myself, and it's bothered me ever since. For years. I can't look at the clip and not feel like a heel.

Four little words. It is so not worth it, gang.

Splash, out


UPDATE: Domenech rebuts!

I can rebut several of the alleged incidents here. The most recent accusation, is that I stole a music review from Crosswalk and passed it off at National Review Online. In fact, I wrote both lists myself; I was one of Crosswalk's music review contributors at the time.

The Left has also accused me of foisting Sen. Frist quotes and some descriptive material from the Washington Post for a New York Press article on the Capitol Shooter. But the quotes I used were either properly credited or came from Sen. Frist’s press conference, which I attended along with many other reporters. So it is no surprise that we had similar quotes or similar descriptions of the same event. I have reams of notes and interviews about the events of that day. I also went over the entire piece step by step with NYPress editors to ensure that it was unquestionably solid before it ran.

Virtually every other alleged instance of plagiarism that I’ve seen comes from a single semester’s worth of pieces that were printed under my name at my college paper, The Flat Hat, when I was 17.

In one instance, I have been accused me of passing off P.J. O'Rourke's writing as my own in a column for the paper. But the truth is that I had met P.J. at a Republican event and asked his permission to do a college-specific version of his classic piece on partying. He granted permission, the piece was cleared with my editors at the paper, and it ran as inspired by O’Rourke’s original.

My critics have also accused me of plagiarism in multiple movie reviews for the college paper. I once caught an editor at the paper inserting a line from The New Yorker (which I read) into my copy and protested. When that editor was promoted, I resigned. Before that, insertions had been routinely made in my copy, which I did not question. I did not even at that time read the publications from which I am now alleged to have lifted material. When these insertions were made, I assumed, like most disgruntled writers would, that they were unnecessary but legitimate editorial additions.

But Domenech, unfortunately, doesn't account for the similarity of his movie review of "Bringing Out The Dead" to a Salon.com review of the same movie.

Nor does he explain the similarity of his "translucent and glowing" passage to a Cox News piece (though the timeline is not clear.)

Obsidian Wings has several examples of probable plagiarism which cannot be explained by youthful naivete, a bad college newspaper editor, etc.

Splash, out


Here is what Florence King says about plagiarism (in connection with Doris Kearns Goodwin):

Do I think Goodwin is guilty? Let's put it this way. The AP story about what she told the Boston Globe states: "She said she had copied from her notes rather than going back to the sources, sometimes losing track of which passages were hers and which were written by others."

I say this is impossible. Sentences are a writer's children; we can pick them out anywhere. Like children, they squirm and wriggle, hop up and down, scream at us, and in general make themselves instantly conspicuous. Blood is thicker than ink.

I totally agree. It is impossible for me to "accidentally" lift a phrase from somewhere. I know my own work, instantly, and I know where every phrase came from.
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