Sunday, July 30, 2006

Conservative says Coulter 'cribbed' his work

According to Lee Salem, president and editor of Univeral Press Syndicate, star columnist Ann Coulter knows when to give credit to her sources.

"Universal Press Syndicate is confident in the ability of Ms. Coulter, an attorney and frequent media target, to know when to make attribution and when not to," Salem said in a statement received by Editor & Publisher nearly three weeks ago.

But does knowing "when to make attribution" mean that if you crib nine different lines from a source that doesn't mind, then the citation is the author's judgment call?

Apparently so.

A little over a week ago, journalist Cliff Kincaid spoke to a conservative-cribbed-from-by-Coulter (one of many in the C.C.F.B.C. club) who doesn't mind being dissed by his richer and more famous comrade-in-conservatism (and her syndicators to boot).

Kincaid writes:

On the charges of plagiarism that have been leveled against Coulter, one of the apparent sources for some of her material has come forward to say that he had his work used without attribution but that he isn’t offended or bothered by it. One of the charges was that she heavily borrowed, without attribution, some material from a Heritage Foundation report by Robert Knight on offensive "art" subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Knight, who now directs the Culture & Family Institute at Concerned Women for America, tells me that all of the NEA examples cited in the Coulter column “were right out of my paper, although the phrasing was changed. Several were in the exact order I had them in my paper. It appears that Miss Coulter cribbed them directly from my Heritage report. Since it involves a considerable number of examples (nine), it would have been nice if she had credited me or Heritage, but I’m not upset. I’m glad she used this stuff to good effect."

Mr. Salem, did you catch that?

Knight said that Coulter's column's NEA examples were "were right out of my paper, although the phrasing was changed."

However, it's not true that all the "phrasing was changed."

Three of the nine examples from Coulter's THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT RELIGION which almost fully match lines from the Heritage report (exact clauses duplicated are bolded, but most of the unbolded words are practically the same as well):

Heritage: One photo showed a woman breastfeeding an infant; it was titled Jesus Sucks.

Coulter: A photo of a woman breastfeeding an infant, titled "Jesus Sucks."

Heritage: The title of a photo of a newborn infant with its mouth open suggested the infant was available for oral sex.

Coulter: A photo of a newborn infant with its mouth open titled to suggest the infant was available for oral sex.

Heritage: Sprinkle masturbates with sex toys and, inserting a speculum into her vagina, invites audience members on stage to view her cervix with a flashlight."

Coulter: A female performer inserting a speculum into her vagina and inviting audience members on stage to view her cervix with a flashlight.

"Several were in the exact order I had them in my paper," Knight said. "It appears that Miss Coulter cribbed them directly from my Heritage report."

Unfortunately, it doesn's seem to appear that way to Mr. Lee Salem, editor and president of Universal Press Syndicate.

But something does strike me odd about Robert Knight's forgiving nature. If he doesn't mind if Coulter "cribbed" from him and Heritage Foundation Research Assistant John M. Slye, why is he so certain that the sources he himself cited won't mind either?

After all, the Heritage report included footnotes.

For example, Knight gave credit for the "Jesus Sucks" "newborn infant" items to Betty Wein's March 2, 1984 article, "Sick, Pornographic 'Art' Funded with Your Taxes," published by The Washington Times.

The Annie Sprinkle example cites two sources: "Bush Rewards NEA with Raise," published by Human Events on February 10, 1990 and Valerie Richardson's "NEA Uses Tax Dollars to Fund Art Show by X-Rated Video Star," published on February 6, 1990 by The Washington Times.

Granted, with these examples, both The Washington Times and Human Events are conservative sources. But did Knight give them credit out of the goodness of his heart or because that's what's expected?

One would think a newspaper syndicator would apply the same principles to attribution as a conservative think tank. But, apparently, Universal Press Syndicate has much lower standards.

In his "get out of plagiarism jail free card" statement, Salem also said that there were "no merits to the allegations of plagiarism" and "[t]here are only so many ways you can rewrite a fact and minimal matching text is not plagiarism."

Perhaps the child reprimanded by her mother for getting her essay "off the internet" in this Univeral Press Syndicate distributed comic strip (which I'd reproduce here but I wouldn't want to infringe on anyone's copyrights) should be scrutinized by Mr. Lee Salem, and then maybe he'll get the picture that non-citation of sources is not a "game."

(The cribbing in Coulter's 2005 article was first discovered by The Rude Pundit last year, and I found more at Raw Story. Unfortunately, last year I didn't have LexisNexis access, and multiple trips to multiple libraries still didn't help me nail down the correct original source, but I did show how the same "similiar language" showed up in countless conservative publications online and off here.)

(Hat tip to Daniel Borchers for the Kincaid link. Borchers, a Republican, has previously reported on Coulter's probable plagiarism: PDF file article, and also has a current post at his friend's blog about the "Right Wing Coulter Smear Machine.")


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