Plagiarizing in school papers is stupid. Plagiarizing in newspaper articles is really stupid. Plagiarizing in blog entries is sheer idiocy. But that’s just what Sean-Paul Kelley of The Agonist did with material from the for-fee intelligence service Stratfor. The details are in this Wired News article.
I’m honestly shocked by the number of people defending him on the message board. I don’t think that Kelley’s sin is unpardonable, but passing off the work of others as your own is a serious breach of integrity for any writer. And unfortunately, Kelley doesn’t seem to be taking the issue very seriously himself.
Update 1: I e-mailed Sean-Paul a note about the above post. In response, he pointed me to this post written a week before (in his words) “the press decided to have a field day with me.” However, lack of time and equipment is hardly a justification for plagiarism. In any case, would “Via Stratfor” (even without a link) really have been so difficult to type in before copying and pasting?
Update 2: I just send this note to Glenn Reynolds, which I thought worth reposting here, even though it repeats some of the above:
Is it just me, or does Sean-Paul Kelley seem to be digging himself into hole? He seems to think that a long-buried blog post saying that he does sometimes copy-and-paste (without notice or attribution) was warning enough to his readers. He argues that his time constraints and the difficulty of posting from a PDA justifies plagiarism. (Hmmm… let me try that line with my philosophy professors sometime… not!) Worst of all perhaps, in response to my post on the subject, he claimed in an e-mail that that the “press decided to have a field day” with him, as if he did nothing wrong in liberally reposting from a for-fee news service without citation.
I think that unless Kelley mea culpas, this story is going to turn into a big hairy beast for him. But a mea culpa seems unlikely, as he just doesn’t seem to understand that passing off the writing of others as your own is wrong, wrong, wrong. And that’s a real shame.
Update 3: Sean-Paul has finally really apologized. I’m very glad.