Service of Excuses
February 22nd, 2010
Categories: Arrogance, Audacity, Blame, Excuses, Guilt, Indifference, Manipulation, Suspicion
Who hasn’t made a mistake? But sometimes, oversights and errors are deliberate.
Thanks to computers and people with lots of time on their hands, fists in the cookie jar, especially those belonging to high profile people or those who are blatantly greedy about the cookies they sneak, are outed.
Their transgressions are obvious. Their excuses are pitiable.
Take the spate of plagiarists in the news of late. Zachery Kouwe formerly of The New York Times–he wrote for the DealBook blog–lifted copy from The Wall Street Journal that covered a tangent of the Bernie Madoff story [of all topics...!]. According to John Koblin, writing in the New York Observer, on learning of this, Kouwe’s bosses found six additional instances from the Journal and Reuters.
Koblin quoted Kouwe:
“‘I was as surprised as anyone that this was occurring,’ said Mr. Kouwe, referring to the revelation that he had plagiarized. ‘I write essentially 7,000 words every week for the blog and for the paper and all that stuff. As soon as I saw, I guess, like six examples, I said to myself, ‘Man what an idiot. What I was thinking?’”
Koblin quoting Kouwe again:
“In the essence of speed, I’ll look at various wire services and throw it into our back-end publishing system, which is WordPress, and then I’ll go and report it out and make sure all the facts are correct. It’s not like an investigative piece. It’s usually something that comes off a press release, an earnings report, it’s court documents.
“‘I’ll go back and rewrite everything,’ he continued. ‘I was stupid and careless and fucked up and thought it was my own stuff, or it somehow slipped in there. I think that’s what probably happened.’”
Writing for Salon, Laura Miller addressed the 17 year old German author of “Axolotl Roadkill,” Helene Hegemann. Miller wrote: “Hegemann lifted as much as a full page of text from an obscure, independently published novel, “Strobo,” by a blogger known as Airen.”
Miller again: “Count me among those who think that most plagiarism scandals are overblown.” But she didn’t include Hegemann among “most” plagiarists. Miller continued: “The daughter of an avant-garde dramatist, she says she practices ‘intertextuality’ and explains, ‘Very many artists use this technique … by organically including parts in my text, I am entering into a dialogue with the author.’”
Miller goes on… “If Hegemann intended to enter into a dialogue with Airen, she took pains to make it look like a monologue. If she viewed the writing itself as collaborative, she suppressed any urge to share those handsome royalty checks.’ Hegemann is up for a German book award, by the way.
And then there’s Gerald Posner, who borrowed words from the Miami Herald for an article in The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast‘s chief investigative reporter’s excuse was perhaps the nerviest of all. Quoted in Newsweek: “‘The core of my problem was in shifting from that of a book writer-with two years or more on a project-to what I describe as the ‘warp speed of the net,’ Posner wrote, noting that since June 1, he had published 72 articles with ‘intensive reporting.’”
Plagiarism hits a nerve with me but there are all sorts of people lining up with excuses for wrongdoing from Barry Bonds, who didn’t know there were steroids in the cream he used, to Tiger’s sex addiction which he hopes takes him off the hook for his actions. What wrongdoings bug you the most or what excuses are most memorable?