Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hillary's dilemma

I watched the Clinton/Obama debate then listened to the media nitpicking about it. At one time during the debate, Hillary got quite sharp and referred to plagiarism. Is this what it has come to? Plagiarism? An academic hothouse concept that doesn't really exist outside the musty halls of academe? I mean, who really cares? And what does plagiarism mean anyway? It means taking another person's words without giving them credit. Actually, most definitions say another person's ideas, but substantiating an actual theft of an idea is very difficult. Einstein wasn't the first person to come up with E=mC2 (imagine a superscript there). Joe Biden and Martin Luther King have had charges of plagiarism leveled against them. What you can prove is that person A used the same words that person B did, and that implies theft. Wow! Right up there with child molestation. But, plagiarism, when it occurs, is a rending of the moral fabric, not a crime. Actually, it's not a rending; it's more of a snag in the sweater of consciousness.
Hillary's dilemma is that she can't really get nasty with Obama. This for a couple of reasons. For one thing, she might need him later on. For another, he's higher up the protected status ladder than she is. If Hillary is fighting a white male, she can blast away at will, saying any old thing that she wants. Any attacks against her can be attributed to sexism (The Anita Hill defense). With Obama, anything she says against him can be attributed to racism (The Spike Lee defense: "You don't like my last movie? You're racist.") The racist defense trumps the sexist defense. Please note that I am not saying that either Clinton or Obama (Why do we refer to Clinton by her first name and Obama by his last?) will use these defenses. I'm sure both Hillary and Barak (doesn't sound right) are aware of them, and are also aware that they can be used. But the defensive offenses will not come from the candidates themselves, or even from their handlers, but from the media. Clinton and Obama (still doesn't sound right) know that, and they can both count on it. "A wheel within within a wheel, way in the middle of the air." If I don't say where I got that, is it plagiarism?

1 comment:

bekkieann said...

Well said. I've often thought how much smarter it would be for one to say, "Person A and I agree on this point." Nobody really owns the idea after all. Then that issue becomes null and they can focus on those areas where they differ, and don't waste their time and ours bickering over how he came to adopt that point of view.