Plagiarism and ignorance…

In “What the Dog Saw” by Malcolm Gladwell, he talks about a case of plagiarism and how the author that was plagiarized chose not to go forth with charges as his material was used in a play. There was hard evidence that the content was ‘stolen’ and used almost verbatim. I’m paraphrasing the exact story here mainly because I’m too lazy to go look it up again, and the details are ultimately irrelevant to my topic. Anyways, the author of these one-liners and gems that couldn’t have arisen from the public domain were being used in a fairly popular play. People said, “go after them! You deserve credit!” But he chose the higher road. He realized that his material would never had made it out if it weren’t for someone plagiarizing his work. It’s a concept such as freeware that is distributed by upcoming programmers who are simply trying to make a name for themselves. A long as the evidence is there that you produced something unique before anyone else you can eventually substantiate a claim later on if you really felt the desire.

Imitation is sometimes called the sincerest form of flattery. So is plagiarism to a certain degree. While taking college courses, plagiarism was about as strong of an offense as robbing a bank. Zero tolerance! Ok, I get it… We have to cite our sources and give credit where credit is due but in some aspects how much intellectual property can one person really own? Like the news today that a salon in Everett, WA is being pressured by Absolut Vodka to change their name from Absolut Hair (or something like that). Are you kidding me? Is this hair salon taking business from the vodka company? if anything, let it be free advertisement. This blog isn’t about traditional plagiarism however.

I was listening to an interview today on NPR with Bradley Manning’s defense attorney. Aside from this whole gender identity crises he/she is having, I came to a conclusion about something. He is not guilty of aiding the enemy, nor treason, nor derelict of duties. He is guilty of plagiarism. In fact, so is Edward Snowden. And more than likely most of the other famous government whistleblowers who ended up being punished for their actions.

Short of hardcore conspiracy theorists, it’s really easy to assume that certain things happen within the government and its agencies. Before Manning, it was merely ‘assumed’ without hard evidence that there was a huge lack of morality going on in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Pundits could rant about it and journalists could gamble on rogue sources but they were ultimately safe in reporting such assumptions.

Is the government watching you? Before Snowden we could only assume so from the cases of the ‘probablies’ over time. No one had the hard evidence or the balls to say it was happening, at least in the US. There was a report that Cisco is laying off workers because of the effect of these revelations about the government using their networking equipment to spy on virtually everyone. This is where ‘ignorance’ fits in to my title. I can tell you first hand, it is and always has been, amazingly easy to tap into the lines of communication provided by any source. Snowden has not ‘revealed’ anything that we shouldn’t have already known. He simply plagiarized the government.

Manning and Snowden tapped into one of the darkest corners of humanity in my opinion. Privy and greed. Even though they cited their sources very well, the government as an entity felt betrayed. There is a belief on the hill that it is not up to the governed to make choices to overstep the power given to the ones who are proclaiming to be ‘in charge.’ They took excerpts from government operations and made them very public. No government panel got together and decided how to release the information. There was no filter in which ‘shock and awe’ could be averted. What was revealed was the reality of what happens. It’s like the English major using Orwell’s 1984 in a research paper, fully cited, but still being chastised for making it known what was really going on.

I’ve always had a problem with people (and organizations) expressing their desire to be privy to certain bits of information. It’s a tool of power just as the fat cats use insider trading. You think it doesn’t happen? Maybe we just need another Snowden or Manning to show the hard evidence. Until then, it’s all speculation and the ones who are in power and control of this information are like the bully on the block who steals everyone’s lunch money and threatens to beat them up if they tell anyone. If everyone catches on to the bullies game, he loses his edge. If everyone catches on to the government’s game, it’ll lose it’s edge as well. And we need the government right? Right?

By the people for the people right? Does that even mean anything anymore? We can’t do anything without being affected in some shape or form by the government. Do I really need to list the examples? We are no longer free. We are simply free to move about the cabin until the man up front says to sit down, shut up and buckle your seatbelt. Thing is, we as humans are not on a perpetual plane flight so why the hell are we being treated like we are?

(Oh, and the picture below is from the Washington Post Website. Giving credit where credit is due.)

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