Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just Words, or You've Got a Friend in Me?

It's yet another round of Tuesday elections, and last weekend's big pre-primary story was Barack Obama's alleged (I write alleged because that's what one should write when making allegations...or so says my old college media law textbook) plagiarism of Governor Deval Patrick's 2006 speech.

After virtually every pundit expressed his/her opinion on the matter, Patrick essentially absolved his friend Obama for lifting his words (which referenced several iconic speeches of the 20th century), and Obama quietly acknowledged that he should have used APA citation (okay, maybe not that far) whilst doing the "Just Words" cover song...err, cover speech.

While it was both convenient and fortuitous to borrow words from one's understanding and supportive friend, is it still plagiarism? Or is it only plagiarism when there is no interaction between the original source and the alleged plagiarizer?

I remember one particular coincidental weekend, when I watched two public speakers in two different counties on two different days use the same humorous anecdote from a book for their respective speeches. One was a sermon, and the other more-or-less a motivational speech. The first speaker referenced a book and its author before getting into the humorous anecdote, the audience laughed, and there was nothing more to remember after that. The second speaker gave the impression of autobiographically relaying the story, and I realized that it wasn't his story - and that speaker just ended up sounding like a gigantic alleged douche. The chances are good that the author of the book didn't absolve that speaker for being an alleged plagiarizer, unlike Obama and Patrick.

So...is the above situation the same as Obama's, or is it different?

In couch potato news, last night's season finale of Prison Break wasn't as bad as I had anticipated (check out the episode on Hulu):



The new Terminator show featured flashbacks for the 90210 dude's character, which doubled as flash-forwards relative to the continuity of the show. It was definitely cool, and sort of one-ups what Lost is doing right now with flash-forwards.

Barack Obama senate photo credit: United States Senate.

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