By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Plagiarism and the political speech

I am not making any excuses for Melania Trump, and yes, I’m sure she was lying when she said she wrote her speech pretty much by herself.

But let me reflect briefly on what an odd construct a political speech really is. You hire a speechwriter and read his or her words. If you’re a neophyte, like Trump, you probably just read what’s put in front of you. And if your speechwriter plagiarized, you’re a plagiarist. But if your speechwriter didn’t plagiarize, you’re not a plagiarist, even though you are passing off his words as your own—the very definition of plagiarism.

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  1. Consent and compensation I would say are obvious differences. But sure, lack of originality and willingness to pretend that something is yours when it isn’t are themes in both plagiarizing and reading a political speech written for you.

  2. pauljbass

    Let’s not forget Joe Biden plagiarizing Neil Kinnock on the presidential campaign trail! I think the Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson has written the ultimate piece on what Dan is talking about:

  3. Stan Franzeen

    I’ve always associated plagiarism with theft. Hence, this on Google: “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.”
    synonyms: copying, infringement of copyright, piracy, theft, stealing; informal cribbing
    “accusations of plagiarism”
    And the word derives from the Latin for ‘kidnapper’, which is clearly non-consensual.

  4. William Kirtz

    good point, Dan. check out Chris Christie’s (“93% of her speech was original”) defense. With friends like these….

  5. Karen Hall

    Newsflash: plagiarism is a cultural construct. In Melania’s homeland, as in many other culture am incorporating other’s words into your own writing without citing the source is NORMAL AND ACCEPTED, not dishonest. The concept of plagiarism doesn’t even exist for many people in the world, and the American obsession with it is considered ridiculous.

  6. Mike Rice

    It’s all farcical. Bill Clinton gets tuned up by Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office and today he’s some kind of folk hero. Go figure.

  7. Mike Benedict

    ^hahahaha. The bigger crime is a woman with fake lips and fake boobs is lecturing Americans on the virtues of integrity and hard work.

  8. Mike Rice

    “It’s all farcical.”
    Meanwhile the middle-class continues to be hammered by the cost of living with no relief in sight. For example, friends of mine who are married, both working and have two kids paid $34,000 for child care last year. Brutal.

    • Mike Benedict

      ^That’s an odd statement. How much should they pay?

      • Mike Rice

        Since you missed my point, here it is again: “Meanwhile the middle-class continues to be hammered by the cost of living with no relief in sight.”

  9. Mike Benedict

    I could see your point, if only you’d first remove your hat.

    • Mike Rice

      Once again, it’s time to put on my t-shirt that reads : “I used to be a people person… but people ruined that for me.”

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