There is perhaps no topic that is preached more in college than plagiarism. The heinous act of plagiarism is hammered by professors so hard that some students become nervous writers and over-cite. However, there are also those students who seem to simply not grasp the concept of plagiarism. Despite how often professors and students fret about lifting another's words and passing them as one's own, many students continue to keep turnitin.com in business through their copying antics. Rand Paul must have been one of those students.
The media firestorm against Paul started when Rachel Maddow reported that Paul had lifted part of his speech to Liberty University from the Wikipedia entry on the movie Gattaca. Paul's speech read as follows: “In the not-too-distant future, eugenics is common, and DNA plays a primary role in determining your social class.” Meanwhile, the Wikipedia entry reads, "In "the not-too-distant future", eugenics is common, and DNA plays the primary role in determining social class."
From last Monday night forward, things have not been good for Rand Paul. Through a series of investigations, Paul has been charged with plagiarizing from multiple sources in various mediums. For instance, Paul copied Wikipedia once before when he gave a speech on immigration policy. This time, he lifted from the entry on the movie Stand and Deliver. When Buzzfeed, the site which originally reported this plagiarism charge, contacted Paul's office for comment, they responded in a way which downplayed the seriousness of the accusation:
“In the course of a 25 minute speech, Senator Paul described the plot of a movie attributed it to the primary sources – the movie – in no way insinuating they were his own thoughts or ideas. If the text had been submitted for academic publication, of course it would have been footnoted. Only in Washington is something this trivial a source for liberal media angst.”
Okay - so Paul lifted parts of speeches from two Wikipedia articles. One has to cut him some slack since he is an extremely busy politician, right? Wrong. Soon after Buzzfeed discovered that Paul had lifted from Wikipedia once before, they also discovered that Paul had plagiarized 1,318 words / 3 pages from the conservative think-tank, The Heritage Foundation, in his book, Government Bullies.
In all fairness, though, Paul did include the following note in his endnotes section:
“This book is not an investigative book. Many of the stories told and information reported represent work already done by others. Rather than endlessly noting multiple sourced items mixed in with personal conversations and research, we have included here other sources of information for the stories presented."
Regardless, one can imagine the outrage when The Heritage Foundation found out about Paul stealing their work, right? Wrong again: “We like when people cite our work. We wish more progressives would cite our work, maybe then they wouldn’t be so progressively wrong,” stated Mike Gonzalez, vice president of communications for The Heritage Foundation.
The response from the Cato Institute, another organization that Paul had plagiarized from, was similar to that of the Heritage Foundation: “Our ideas got in the book, we got credited in the notes. So that seems like a good thing for a think tank,” said David Boaz, the executive vice president of the Cato Institute.
In addition to the examples above, Paul has also been caught plagiarizing an op-ed piece for The Washington Times from an article published in The Week (Who, just like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, responded favorably, saying, "“We’ve always known that the audience of The Week consists of smart, busy people who want to feel even smarter, including a lot of people on Capitol Hill. We’d like to thank Sen. Paul for his endorsement.”), parts of an AP release, and information from conservative group Focus the Family when discussing DC's voucher system.
With all of these very serious allegations, one would think Rand Paul and his office would be worried, right? And one would be wrong once again: “In the course of lengthy speeches, Sen. Paul has described facts and relayed examples that, of course, had been reported first elsewhere – in no way insinuating they were his own thoughts or ideas. If the text had been submitted for academic publication, of course it would have been footnoted. Only in Washington is something this trivial a source for liberal media angst,” stated Paul adviser Doug Stafford.
In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," Paul downplayed the charges once again, trying to cast those who have discovered the instances of plagiarism as "haters": “In some of the other things that are now going to pop up under thousands of things I’ve written, yeah, there are times when they have been sloppy or not correct or we’ve made an error. But the difference is, I take it as an insult and I will not lie down and say people can call me dishonest, misleading or misrepresenting. I have never intentionally done so... But I think I’m being unfairly targeted by a bunch of hacks and haters. And I’m just not going to put up with people casting aspersions on my character.”
Paul then took things one step too far by uttering the following inane statement: “If dueling were legal in Kentucky, if they keep it up, you know, it would be a duel challenge. But I can’t do that, because I can’t hold office in Kentucky then."
After this entire series of events, it is difficult to decide which is worse: The fact that Paul is plagiarizing so rampantly, or the fact that those he is plagiarizing from simply don't care and actually see the act as a good thing. It is shocking to see so many accept the unethical acts perpetuated by a United States Senator. It is especially upsetting that Paul and his nonchalant attitude towards plagiarizing represents the state of Kentucky, a state which already faces an uphill battle for proper recognition due to its poorly educated populace and deplorable school systems.
So, Mr. Paul, take a risk with that duel. Kentucky and the rest of the nation would most likely welcome any potential solution to their current political woes.
(Also, let's not forget that Joe Biden's 1988 Presidential run was ended by plagiarism allegations. Bye, bye Rand Paul 2016 Presidential bid.)
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