Two Words does not Plagiarism Make

I continue to be amazed at the bizarre and absurd twists and turns that the Clinton presidential campaign takes. The latest involves an accusation of plagiarism against Barack Obama. Apparently, one refrain from a recent Obama speech in Wisconsin closely resembles that of a speech made by Obama supporter Deval Patrick several years ago.

Let’s look at this case of “plagiarism”. Much like Obama, Patrick was attacked for being an empty suit spouting rhetoric without substance (i.e. just words, nothing more). His response was to cite several profound historic quotes (e.g. “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”) followed by the phrase “just words!” In Wisconsin this past weekend, Obama used the same approach. He chose an historic quote or two different from Patrick, but he ended each quote with the phrase “just words!”

So, let me get this straight. Repeating the same TWO WORDS in the refrain of a speech that someone else used, now qualifies as plagiarism? If we’re gonna count “stolen words”, surely Hillary saying she is “fired up and ready to go” (six words lifted right from Obama) smacks much more of plagiarism than Obama’s supposed offense.

But more to the point, if Obama is guilty of anything, he is guilty of using Patrick’s rhetorical construct to make his point. But loads of orators borrow constructs from other orators. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in the rhythmic patterns of many preachers before him. Did that make him a plagiarist? A good motivational speech employs rhythm, imagery, repetition of certain phrases and a certain vocal tone. Every great speaker from FDR, to the Kennedys, to King, to Obama employs these methods.

One would have hoped that after Hillary “accused” Obama of being an ambitious kindergartner back in the day (yes, she actually did that), that she would have abandoned the lightweight foolish diversions and focused on the substantive issues Americans face today.

The fact is, Hillary’s accusation of plagiarism against Barack is “just words”, signifying absolutely nothing.



2 thoughts on “Two Words does not Plagiarism Make

  1. This is listed as one of your top posts.

    You’re right, of course. Plagiarism has become trivialized by frequent and false accusations by those seeking advantage in the gossip of the day.

    It’s trivialization is not a trivial thing. It has become part of a huge ‘bait and switch’ in human rights in America. The popular conception is that intellectual property rights are being zealously guarded, but in fact the concept that no one owns their own learning is being advanced.

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