Here’s a story from a correspondent in Texas, who was canned for running material from Days of War, Nights of Love in a newspaper column—a humorous illustration of the hypocrisy and pettiness common in universities. Apparently, it is acceptable to argue in favor of plagiarism, but not to actually plagiarize anything; it is unacceptable to use text without citing sources, but it is perfectly standard to print outright falsehoods and censor the parties thus injured. We trust the erstwhile columnist, blessed with such absurd adversaries, is headed for finer things and brighter pastures.
I work for the Daily Toreador, the official newspaper of my college campus, Texas Tech University. Two days ago as of writing this, I was fired for supposedly plagiarizing a certain Christiaan Briggs, allegedly taking material from his weblog concerning an article supporting plagiarism.
My cousin sent me the book Days of War, Nights of Love, and I read it cover to cover in less than a week. It inspired me greatly, and I decided to find some sort of medium through which to spread these ideals. After all, the book claims that CrimethInc. encourages the plagiarism of their concepts, even suggesting several ways to do so. These include the broadcasting of readings over pirate radio, the reprinting of ideas in unwary newspapers, and complete republication of the book under a different name. So I took that idea and ran with it.
I published several articles, talking about living life to the fullest (and not behind a desk), morality and how everyone should establish their own moral code, mainstreams and their devastating effect on society, and the natural “sidelines” phenomenon, among other subjects. All was fine and good until I published a two-piece entry on plagiarism. It encouraged plagiarism in the name of spreading revolutionary ideas to everyone, with no emphasis on who owns the ideas or where they come from. I defamed intellectual property rights, brazenly stating their obvious defects. I tried to rebuke the negative aura surrounding plagiarism, though NOT the lazy plagiarism of students turning in other papers as their own or mimicking those around them, rather the plagiarism in the context of an understanding of the work and the passing on of ideas.
Anyway, it turns out that Briggs beat me to the punch and published almost the same exact article that I did, both of us apparently relying heavily on the book’s words. That’s cool with me, he’s doing what I’m trying to do and probably reaching many more people. I certainly approve of both our actions. Unfortunately, because Briggs posted his article first, things got a little twisted, and I was accused of plagiarizing not the book, but Briggs’ article supporting plagiarism.
The editor informed me that they have a strict policy on citing work.
“Why didn’t you attribute your information to this other guy?”
“Because I didn’t get any of my information from this guy. I got it from a book, and so did he.”
“Why didn’t you attribute the book?”
“Because the book doesn’t want to be attributed. It encourages plagiarism and is not copyrighted. I’ll bring it to you if you want.”
“So I’m fired?”
“Yeah, this makes me sick to my stomach. We’ll be publishing an article retracting your work and stating an apology, also the reason why we fired you.”
“Wow, that’s awesome and totally necessary. Thanks.”
I understand that the newspaper staff feels a need to cover its own ass, and that the editor is getting a lot of pressure from faculty members to chop someone’s head off, specifically mine. I understand all of that, but I don’t understand why they need to publicly humiliate me in a paper that thousands of people read. The actual article they wrote listed my full name and the actions I performed. Despite what I told them about what my source was, they retained the opinion that I plagiarized from Briggs and published this opinion as a fact. I know it shouldn’t shock me, but I was stunned at the absolute nerve they had, talking about integrity and maintaining a strict honesty policy, when in fact they knowingly did not publish the entire story.
In addition, I was not a paid writer. I voluntarily wrote articles for this paper using my own time and my own freedom. I was providing the newspaper a service, and the paper could not run without contributions from writers such as myself. Despite these dynamics, the editors did not hesitate to completely bury me in the mud.
After several polite requests directed at the editors to allow me to publish my side of things, or perhaps some sort of explanation, I was met with one response: “Absolutely not.” When I emailed them each again, asking why they blatantly lied about what had happened, or at least had passed off their opinions of the situation as truth, I received no reply whatsoever.
I don’t care at all that I’ve been fired, and I believe I made my point. I stood for what I believed to be write, and did my best to walk the CrimethInc. walk. I will certainly find a way to get my side of the story out there, hopefully along with more revolutionary material. As long as I was able to get a few people on campus to think though, even in this painfully conservative town, then I’m happy.
P.S. This story was not plagiarized.