Politicians’ plagiarism should be treated as a serious issue

In Opinion
Photo Courtesy of / Flickr / illustration by / Deanna Trombley
Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore / Flickr / Illustration by / Deanna Trombley

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) remained silent for a time after accusations of plagiarism were made in relation to his speech given at Liberty University in Virginia last month.

Similar plagiarism allegations were made regarding a speech Paul had given earlier this year at a conference in Washington, D.C., and in his book, Government Bullies.

The serious indictment was first brought to the media’s attention during the Rachel Maddow Show. Maddow took no hesitation in her opinionated blast of the Kentucky senator’s ethical code.

In recent weeks, the senator has given explanation as to why text from Wikipedia articles have found their way into his speeches with absolutely no attribution.

The politician has been accused of lifting passages from the Wikipedia entry for the 1997 science fiction film, Gattaca. The speech, given on Oct. 28, was made in support of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli. The expression warns audiences to be aware of the advances in science.

Eugenics, the study of improving qualities of the human species through a discouragement of reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits, was a hot topic.

Heavily placing emphasis of the fear that should coincide, Paul attempted to gain audience concern through statements like, “In the movie Gattaca, in the not-too-distant future, eugenics is common and DNA plays a primary role in determining your social class.”

This statement does more than just mirror the Wikipedia explanation of the movie’s plot, but, taken almost word for word, the quote does not stand alone in being recognized as unoriginal words spoken by the senator.

Reports from multiple news sources have indeed pointed out drastic similarities in addresses given by Paul.

BuzzFeed reporter Andrew Kaczynski declared that one of Paul’s speeches, given in June 2012, had lifted language from Wikipedia in relation to a discussion of the movie Stand and Deliver.

Excerpts of Paul’s 2013 response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address reflect the exact language of a 2011 Associated Press report.

The public has not reacted well to the findings that more than 1,300 words from Paul’s book, Government Bullies, had been taken from a 2003 study done by the Heritage Foundation.

Paul has responded by saying he is a victim of attacks against individuals attempting to destroy his political career.

“The footnote police have really been dogging me for the last week,” Paul told ABC News. “I will admit that. And I will admit, sometimes we haven’t footnoted things properly.”

The issue exposes the concern of determining where reference ends and plagiarism begins.

The senator does not seem to be deeming the matter as a topic of great controversy. Paul openly admitted that his actions, and those of his campaign office, have at times been done haphazardly.

“In some of the other things that are now going to pop up under thousands of things I’ve written, yeah, there are times when they have been sloppy or not correct or we’ve made an error,” Paul said.

The integrity of our country’s politicians is a subject that is of constant concern. The leaders of our nation are placed in a position of trust, as they are the individuals implanted to represent the public.

The fact that Paul excuses the relevance of correctly citing attributions in his work is absolutely cause for alarm. The intense influence that our nation’s politicians have been given should not, in any situation, be taken for granted.

Simply put, Paul is in the wrong. The senator has conducted himself in a dishonest and lazy manner which goes beyond a simple citation issue.

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