Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Plagiarism and Margaret Wente (reprise)


Today’s column doesn’t amount to much - just a few quotes, in the same order, as a previous column by Irwin Cotler in the Montréal Gazette.

Wente: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad describes Israel as an "insult to humanity" and "a cancerous tumour," and calls for its "disappearance."



Cotler …. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who characterized Israel as an "insult to humanity" and "a cancerous tumour" while calling, yet again, for its "disappearance."



It’s the context – a brief glimpse of which can be had from a few examples below (taken from more extensive ones).  In many of these the overlap is not confined to quotes, and it's a legitimate question as to whether it constitutes proper attribution.

Wente: "delivering formal property rights to poor people can bring them out of the sway of demagogues and into the modern global economy…"



Cato Institute: "Delivering formal property rights to the poor can bring them out of the sway of demagogues and into the extended order of the modern global economy".



Wente: "For his challenge to the status quo, the Shining Path, the Peruvian Marxist terrorist group, targeted him for assassination. His offices were bombed and his car was machine-gunned. Today, the Shining Path is moribund, and Mr. de Soto continues his passionate mission".



Cato Institute: "For his efforts, the Peruvian Marxist terror group Shining Path targeted him for assassination. The institute's offices were bombed. His car was machine-gunned. Today the Shining Path is moribund, but de Soto remains very much alive and a passionate advocate…"



***

Wente and Helen Rumbelow, Sunday Times (prose overlap in bold):

Wente: one of the world's most authoritative sources of breastfeeding research is Michael Kramer, Professor of Pediatrics at Mcgill university. "The public health breastfeeding promotion information is way out of date," he says. The trouble is that the breastfeeding lobby is at war with the formula milk industry, and neither side is being very scientific. "When it becomes a crusade, people are not very rational."
Rumbelow: ...one of the world's most authoritative sources of breastfeeding research: Michael Kramer, Professor of Paediatrics at Mcgill University, Montreal.
..."The public health breastfeeding promotion information is way out of date," Kramer says. The trouble is, he said, that the breastfeeding lobby is at war with the formula milk industry, and "neither side is being very scientific ... when it becomes a crusade, people are not very rational."
***
Wente and the New York Times:
Wente: …But it hasn't worked out that way, Mr. West writes. Instead, what we've built is a vast cultural dependency. Americans and Canadians are fighting and dying while the Afghans by and large stand by and do nothing to help them.
Dexter Filkins: …This isn’t happening. What we have created instead, West shows, is a vast culture of dependency: Americans are fighting and dying, while the Afghans by and large stand by and do nothing to help them.

***

Wente and Stephen Pinker, New York Times: Leaving aside side a short section in quotes, some of Pinker’s analysis and wording (see sections in bold), are not included in quotation marks.

Wente: Mr. Pinker… wrote: “The common thread in Gladwell's writing is a kind of populism, which seeks to undermine the ideals of talent, intelligence and analytical prowess in favour of luck, opportunity, experience and intuition” – explaining his appeal to both the Horatio Alger right (Mr. Gladwell is extremely popular on the Dilbert circuit) and the egalitarian left.
Pinker, NYT: The common thread in Gladwell’s writing is a kind of populism, which seeks to undermine the ideals of talent, intelligence and analytical prowess in favor of luck, opportunity, experience and intuition… this has the advantage of appealing both to the Horatio Alger right and to the egalitarian left.
Earlier in the same NYT piece, Pinker had used the expression Wente places in parentheses, but not in quotation marks - a popular speaker on the Dilbert circuit.
Wente doesn’t summarize Gladwell’s wide ranging and eclectic book herself –  she uses Pinker’s words and ideas:
Wente: Mr. Gladwell claims that cognitive skills don't predict success, that intelligence scores do not relate closely to job performance and that above a minimum iq of 120, higher intelligence doesn't bring greater intellectual achievements.
Pinker, NYT: It is simply not true that… cognitive skills don’t predict a teacher’s effectiveness, that intelligence scores are poorly related to job performance or… that above a minimum i.q. of 120, higher intelligence does not bring greater intellectual achievements.

***


Or this recent example, where Ms. Wente appears to use unattributed material gathered by a live blogger at a lecture by Robert Putnam: 

Wente:  “’We’re about to go over a cliff when it comes to social mobility,’ he says. ‘Social mobility and opportunity [for kids who grow up in the bottom third of society] are going to plummet.’”

Weinberg, quoting Putnam:  “If we look out the windshield, we’re about to go over a cliff when it comes to social mobility…Social mobility and opportunity are going to plummet.”

Wente:  “’Over the last two decades or so, white kids coming from less educated, less well-off backgrounds are more and more going through life with only one parent at home,’ he says. These kids are disaffected and disconnected from a very early age. ‘There’s a growing class gap among American youth among all the predictors of success in life’.”

Weinberg:  “Over the last two decades or so, white kids coming from less educated, less well-off backgrounds are more and more going through life with only one parent at home.”

“There’s a growing class gap among American youth among all the predictors of success in life.”

Wente: “As Mr. Putnam said at Aspen, ‘I happen to think that hugs and time are more important than money.’ (He added that money is important too.)”

***
We won’t belabor the point with more  – like the damning example of the fake Occupy protester John, or the Maureen Dowd example here.  Some were addressed by Editor's Notes or corrections.  But it’s interesting to compare these (and others) with any number of instances where journalists have been cited for plagiarism or improper attribution. 

1 comment:

  1. Wente: Mcgill university.
    Rumbelow: .Mcgill University

    It takes special skill to plagerize and introduce one's own mistakes. McGill University for heaven's sake!

    ReplyDelete