If Senator Sotto would just admit that he and his speechwriters ripped off someone else’s work and apologize, this would all be over. The audience has a very short memory; it will simply move on to the next topic. But no, he has to insist that he did nothing wrong. He has to maintain the veneer of moral superiority and keep it shiny with the daily applications of saliva spewed in his defense. He must be righteous, because that is the primary argument of the opponents of the reproductive health bill: Righteousness. They have hijacked goodness, virtue, godliness, decency, and claimed exclusive rights to these. Anyone who disagrees with them is against goodness, virtue, godliness and decency and is therefore Eeeveel.
But what if someone from the ranks of the self-proclaimed Righteous is publicly exposed as a plagiarist? Could it mean that they are not all they’re cranked up to be?
Here’s the thing about plagiarism: You can’t commit it accidentally. You can accidentally kill a person—your brakes fail, you can’t see through your windshield, he suddenly runs into the path of your car—but you can’t accidentally rip off another person’s writing. It cannot cut and paste itself into your speech on its own. What can you do?
Speaking as an evil, non-virtuous, godless, indecent human, here are some methods for defending yourself against charges of plagiarism.
1. Pass the buck.
“Somebody else wrote it for me—he’s the plagiarist! Get him!”
“Oops, I forgot to put quotation marks. So-wee.”
3. Blame technology
“Dammit, the document was accidentally reformatted in Word so the quotation marks or italics were removed. Ergo it’s Bill Gates’s fault. Get him!”
4. Blame your brilliance
“I have a photographic memory so I remember everything I read, and I can’t distinguish between other people’s thoughts and my own. This is the problem of having an IQ like mine. I apologize for my spectacular intelligence.”
5. Turn the tables
“Actually, I wrote that paragraph and that blogger stole it from me. Plagiarist! Get her!”
6. Cheap flattery and misquotation
“Copying is the sincerest form of flattery.” Rimshot.
“I am paying the author the highest compliment by copying him. Because what greater honor is there than to be me? His words ring truer and louder when they come from me. You should thank me, ungrateful wretches.”
8. Diss the author
“But the author wasn’t stating an original idea anyway. I just happened to restate her unoriginal idea using the exact same words and punctuation marks. There being a finite number of words, phrases and punctuation marks that may be used to express the same thought. What an amazing coincidence!
“The author is a nobody so I’m doing her a favor by bringing her work to a wider public than she could ever reach. Seriously, did you know she even existed before I said something she wrote, using the exact same words she used, and conveniently forgot to mention her?”
“That portion you say was plagiarized was not in the original draft of my speech. Clearly, someone is trying to get me in trouble. Probably an advocate of the reproductive health bill. They must’ve stolen my speech while I was signing autographs, and replaced it with a speech that included portions stolen from the work of other people. I’m being framed, like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. Find that one-legged man!”
10. Cite precedents and invent a fake trend
“This is a problem many public intellectuals have had to face this year. Fareed Zakaria, Jonah Lehrer, and now me. Obviously we’re in the middle of a plagiarism epidemic. I blame the 24-hour news cycle and the frantic schedules that over-hyphenated media celebrities like myself must keep. The Internet must be held to account for this disturbing development.”
11. I am the Kwisatz Haderach!
Only makes sense if you’ve read Dune.
12. The English Major Defense
“Who is Sarah Pope? Oh I thought that stuff was written by Alexander Pope! You know, like, The Rape of the Lock? The Dunciad? ‘Cause Alexander Pope is in the Western canon and his words should be instantly familiar to all literate, erudite persons. “And all who told it added something new, and all who heard it made enlargements too…” You’ve never heard that? God, you illiterates.
“Anyway, when words are universally familiar, it’s silly to even attribute them. You don’t have to say, “Fourscore and seven years ago, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter,” that’s just showing off.
13. So What
“Herodotus didn’t have proper attributions in The Histories either, and he’s the Father of History. Whenever he actually cites his source—that’s your clue that he’s making up the story.”
Note: The above may be an instance of plagiarism since it does not cite the classicist who first noted that when Herodotus cites his source he’s usually lying.
14. The Shakespeare Defense
“It may seem that I have committed plagiarism, but centuries from now my speeches will be taught in schools, analyzed in dissertations, performed in theatres all over the world and adapted for the screen. Just like my esteemed predecessor, William Shakespeare. He borrowed the plots of all his plays, and he never even mentioned his sources. Hamlet is from the Saxo Grammaticus, Julius Caesar and Coriolanus are from Plutarch, Henry IV, V, VI are from Holinshed’s Chronicles, and so on.
“How is what I did different from what Shakespeare did?”
Note: Shakespeare did borrow the plots of his plays, but his plays were way better than their sources, plus he wrote all the lines in his plays himself. Some critics still insist that other people wrote Shakespeare’s plays. They’re just bitter.
15. Come clean
“I did it, I copied from the blogger. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. Now how about that woman who freaked out at the LRT station, huh? And what’s with Elle Fanning’s ugly shoes?”