Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Monica Crowley and the Perils of Plagiarism

Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 
II Timothy 2:14-15

It is quaint, really.

A reminder of a bygone era, a time when even the whiff of a scandal was enough to derail one’s candidacy for public office. Like Tom Daschle withdrawing from a proposed cabinet position in the Obama administration because he got a free ride (literally, the use of a limousine and chauffeur) which he did not declare on his income tax. 

Monica Crowley’s withdrawal as a candidate for the position of senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council in (soon to be) President Trump's administration because of alleged plagiarism seemed oddly out of synch with everything else going on in the new administration.

She would have been working for a man who apparently believes strange conspiracy theories and tweets fake news without apology. And that man, of course, would be working for a president who once bragged that he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue without losing any of his supporters. 

All the fuss over plagiarism seems strange.

In a comprehensive analysis for CNN Money, Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie and Nathan McDermott reported that a CNN KFile review found that Crowley had plagiarized thousands of words in her Ph.D. dissertation.
“In her dissertation on America's China policy under Truman and Nixon, entitled ‘Clearer Than Truth,’ Crowley, whose Ph.D. is in international relations, lifted multiple passages from Eric Larson's 1996 book, ‘Casualties and Consensus: The Historical Role of Casualties in Domestic Support for U.S. Military Operations.’ She also repeatedly plagiarized James Chace's 1998 book, ‘Acheson: The Secretary of State Who Created the American World,’ as well as a 1982 book by Yale's John Lewis Gaddis called ‘Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy during the Cold War.’ Crowley's dissertation also contains passages taken from a 1996 book by Thomas Christensen of Princeton, ‘Useful Adversaries: Grand Strategy, Domestic Mobilization, and Sino-American Conflict, 1947-1958.’”
Plagiarism covers a wide variety of academic misdemeanors and felonies from the high school student who turns in a paper written by someone else to the researcher who does some sloppy work on the footnotes or leaves out quotation marks. Most of the time it is more about sloppiness and laziness than what we traditionally think of as cheating.

But the Crowley case belies that generalization.

One is struck by the sheer volume of the sections in question. The CNN Money article lays out her text beside the original. The individual passages are long. We are not talking about a sentence here and a sentence there. And they are word for word. And they go on for pages.

One guesses that the readers who signed off on her dissertation are not feeling very good about themselves right now.

And. There’s more.

Her 2012 book, “What the (Bleep) Just Happened,” published by Harper Collins, also contains significant material lifted from other sources.

But that’s not all. As Kaczynski, Massie and McDermott report:

“Crowley's first plagiarism scandal came in 1999, the year before she submitted her dissertation. After The New York Times reported a reader found that a column she wrote in the Wall Street Journal strongly resembled a 1988 article in the neoconservative magazine Commentary, a Journal editor said that the paper would not have published her piece if it had known of the parallels. Crowley denied the charge but acknowledged that the language is similar.”

So this wasn’t just a footnote missing here or there, or even a stray sentence or two, this was extensive and comprehensive. This was industrial strength plagiarism. 

Even so, I bet Donald Trump could have gotten away with it.

Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome. Please feel free to share on social media as you wish. 

No comments:

Post a Comment