Sunday, July 11, 2004

I Would Have Your Thoughts

The story of Roger Easson and his apparent plagiarism of an Internet email for a column he wrote in the local Democratic Party newspaper keeps on rolling on. Since I documented the discovery of the apparent plagiarism, Rep. Kathryn Bowers has come out with a column of her own (in her own language) in another paper that seems to have sprung from what Easson originally "wrote."

Now, there's another development. This past Sunday, David Waters, the Commercial Appeal's religion columnist, wrote his own column about the coming Bush draft! Where he got his idea, I can't say. I may email him and ask, just to see. It's not impossible that he saw the Bowers column in the North Shelby Times, or read Easson's "article," or heard about this idea in Democratic circles somewhere.

It's the seeming one-two-three of progression that caught me eye. From party paper, to small newspaper, to big newspaper. From a party functionary, to the party's local leader, to one of the daily paper's two columnists. I'm almost positive at the connection between the first two, but it's the connection -- if any -- between Bowers and Waters that I wonder at.

And that's my dilemma. This despicable distortion is gaining ground locally. I'll give Waters some credit for not falling headlong and for explaining some truths, but he's still spreading the basic, dishonest meme. That's what bothers me.

So, I ask you. Should I go ahead and contact Christian Brothers University and David Waters? Should I tell them about Easson's apparent plagiarism? Should I contact one of the local television stations and give my work to a reporter? I'm not interested in political spite or "gotcha." This isn't about scoring points or crippling an enemy. This is about stopping a terrible and pernicious misrepresentation in its tracks.

Should I, or is it even worth the bother? I shared this with a local bookseller I know, who was stunned and amused. S/he wants to pass it on to a politician of his/her acquaintance, which I agreed to, though I have no idea what will happen there.

On the one hand, a university professor seems to have been caught plagiarising. On the other, it's only a small article in an obscure place. But then, if someone is willing to be so blatant about something so small, you have to wonder what they'll do for the big, important things. And then there's the way the original story seems to have been metamorphic in spreading, growing and gaining credibility. That distresses me, but is it worth possibly damaging (or ruining!) a professor's career? Or is it precisely the kind of thing that should be exposed, come what will.

As you can see, this is a moral and ethical dilemma for me. I'm just some guy with a website. I shoot off my mouth on a routine, if irregular, basis and I'm sure there's a lot down in the posts below that someone could make a lot of hay of, if they chose. If I push the wrong person I have no defenses against being pushed back, even though I've got my end of the story nailed down, I think. Yeah, I'm saying I'm a bit scared.

What do you think?

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