On Plagiarism

The Middle East is not the only place subject to proportionate responses to attacks.  The following headline appeared in this morning’s edition of the New York Times.

Wife of Investor Who Pushed for Harvard President’s Exit Accused of Plagiarism

Without looking into the merits of the charge, the first thing that came to mind was a question.  Is it possible any prolific writer could be accused of intellectual theft?  And the Dr. ESP corollary, could I?

Regular readers of this blog know, I certainly make an effort to attribute quotations to the originator.  Additionally, some feedback to my recent book In the National Interest suggests the number of footnotes (over 250), at times, detracted from the pace of the narrative.  Looking back, however, I wonder whether a recent post did involve plagiarism.

My December 29, 2023 post “Word of the Year 2023” included the following sentence about reaction to Nikki Haley’s attempts to clean up her “gaffe” about the cause of the American Civil War.

This response was so ludicrous even Ron DeSantis accused her of trying to whitewash history (after which he vanished in a puff of irony).

As I was drafting the sentence, I self-acknowledged the parenthetical phrase had a ring of familiarity.  So, I Googled several variations of the phrase, the most generic being simply “puff of irony.”  No hits.  In the process, I did learn that many language experts believe “irony” is the most abused word in the English Language.  And that Glenn Burnett and Jeff Devlon wrote a book titled The Ironic Cloud in which they describe irony  as “…a powerful and incompletely understood feature of human dynamics.”

Believing I had satisfied my responsibility for due diligence, I included the passage.  Though there is always that possibility someone (most likely a satirist a la the late Mort Sahl) will contact me and demand I either give the originator credit or delete the phrase from the archived version of the post.  Which I would immediately do, no questions asked.

But what if that individual, instead, went to the New York Times with the story how a blogger masked his own plagiarism in December by posting a subsequent blog about how hard he tries not to steal others’ intellectual property.  If contacted by the Times for comment, I would tell them exactly what I shared above.  Would that be good enough?  When so many people are out for blood, it is hard to stop the flow from even the slightest wound.

For what it’s worth.