Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A guest post from DovWeasel

I promised to run a guest post from DovWeasel, if one was submitted, and true to my word here it is.

Some Myths Regarding DovWeasel and DovBear's Plagiarism
by DowWeasel

I plan for this to be my last post. The purpose of this post is to respond to the various claims being made about the plagiarism I revealed about a week ago. These claims are being made largely by DovBear's supporters and in some cases by DovBear himself.

1. DovWeasel Has a Political Vendetta. Some in the blogosphere have assumed that I am some political or religious right winger who aimed to "put a hit" on DovBear based on the substance of his views. One blogger even compared DovWeasel to the people who outed UOJ, a claim which displays the moral reasoning of a 5 year old. I didn't attempt to out DovBear or attempt to trick him in anyway. I didn't publish private email correspondence or do anything underhanded or nefarious. I simply used his own words to demonstrate undeniable instances of plagiarism. By the same token I get the sense that some on the right side of the blogworld are simply cheering about the black-eye inflicted on a political adversary rather than the vindication of values like honesty and professionalism.

In truth, I agree with DovBear as often as I disagree with him. I often find his posts insightful and entertaining, whether or not he wrote them (sorry, couldn't resist). That being said, I am not claiming that my sole motivation was the rooting out of plagiarism. I focused on DovBear because I find that he is too often the bad actor of the jblogosphere. Whether it's mistreatment of commenters or fellow bloggers, failure to properly hattip or just acting like an miscreant, DovBear has consistently failed to follow the rules of the blogworld.

However, given the squishy nature of those kinds of claims, I chose to focus on a misdeed that is more objective.

2. DovBear's Plagiarism Was Minimal, Unintentional or Harmless. Many have tried to minimize DovBear's sins in a number of ways. [DB: I've taken care not to do this, and I have asked my commenters to desist from it as well] Some have argued that DovBear's plagiarism was not the "bad kind" or that it was minimal when compared to his overall output. Others have taken issue with some of my examples. The only way to address these claims is to revisit each of the examples in my original posts. I used a rating scale for each post: 3 is for egregious plagiarism, including extensive cutting and pasting of text and other indications of premeditation. 2 is for run of the mill plagiarism, including cutting and pasting small amounts of text. 1 is for arguable cases of plagiarism, where a reasonable case could be made that the post is question is either not plagiarism or unintentional plagiarism.

"DovBear" on Bush: February 27, 2006

Pure unadulaterated word thievery. This gets extra points for the fact that the lifted portions follow a quote from an attributed quote from TNR, suggesting that the lack of attribution of the balance was
intentional.

Score: 3


"DovBear" on George Allen: August 30, 2006

Again. This piece was lifted word for word from a TNR piece. And again, extra points for the fact that DovBear added three hyperlinks in the piece to enhance the post, but forgot to add that pesky hyperlink that would show that the words weren't his.

Score: 3


"DovBear" on Republicans: September 04, 2006

Although DovBear clearly lifted text here, the amount of text was rather small.

Score: 2


"DovBear" on a New Senate Bill: September 27, 2006

This post was lifted in its entirety from another source. None of it came from DovBear.

Score: 3


"DovBear" on Mary Cheney: December 18, 2006

Although the amount of lifted text is relatively limited in the context of the entire piece, the manner in which the lifted portions were woven into the post to seek to conceal the plagiarism displays a level of pre-meditation that justifies a 3. Extra points for DovBear's initial response when confronted with the accusation: "Thank you for bringing this to my attention."

Score: 3

"DovBear" on Al Sharpton: March 09, 2005

The amount of lifted text is relatively small.

Score: 2

"DovBear" on Spying: March 20, 2006

While I originally identified a prior source (a TNR letter to the Editor) for only one paragraph of this post, it appears that the second paragraph of the post, beginning with the words: "If fisa is anachronistic…," comes from yet another TNR letter to the editor, this one from William E. Scheuerman. Thus, the entirety of the post comes from other sources, skillfully woven together. None from the mind of DovBear.

Score: 3


"DovBear" on the Sin of Sodom: November 14, 2006

The source of this post consists largely of a compilation of sources on the sin of Sodom. DovBear's post cites those same sources using different words. If all DovBear did was rely on the original essay for a list of sources and failed to attribute the original list as a resource, that may be improper, but might not rise to the level or plagiarism. However, the fact that DovBear copied the opening paragraph word for word pushes this post way up the plagiarism scale.

Score: 3


"DovBear" on Income Redistribution: November 09, 2006

Pure, unadulterated plagiarism. The changes in language seem more designed to frustrate detection than anything else. In addition, the inclusion of hyperlinks and formatting of blockquotes also gives lie to the notion that the failure to attribute has anything to with laziness.

Score: 3


"DovBear" on Suckers: October 18, 2006

The amount of lifted text is relatively small.

Score: 2


"DovBear" on Etymology: October 17, 2006

One email correspondent argued that the source of the post derives from a well known text on etymology. However, I don't see how this makes the word for word copying any less culpable.
Score: 3

And now for the two instances of plagiarism that DovBear and his supports have been insisting are really not plagiarism:

"DovBear" on Scott McClellan: Thursday, May 04, 2006

Although the the lifted text here would seem to be limited to the phrase "Scotty Squealer," which appeared in a Vanity Fair article by Michael Wolff that was making its rounds in the left wing blogosphere at the time, the phrase is the touchstone of the post. However, DovBear tells me that he regularly uses the adjective "Squealer" to describe various figures, and a search of Google shows that to be the case. [DB: Here's the google search: http://www.tiny.cc/vPH3P ]

Score: 1


"DovBear" on Moral Values: April 13, 2005

This post is, in a strict sense, pure plagiarism. The post consists of words taken from a TNR piece in its entirety. DovBear and his supporters respond that the post had the word "Source" at the bottom. However, there was no link associated with that word. Accordingly, there was no attribution.

At best, one can argue that this is a case of unintentional plagiarism. That is if we are less willing to attribute a "nefarious rationale" to DovBear than he (or TNR) was to the GOP in the post in question. But even if we give DovBear the benefit of the doubt, the problem remains. The word "Source" at the end of a post does not suggest to any reasonable reader that the "source" provided the entire
text of the post word-for-word. That's what block indents and quotation marks are for.

At most, it suggests that the "source" provided some of the thoughts or facts in the piece. So even he supplied the link, one would have to click the link, obtain a subscription to TNR and compare the post to
determine that the whole piece was lifted.

[DB: Many, many of my posts are attributed this way. It's the house style and therefore, I assume that no deception was intended (I don't remember writing the post so this is speculation, and not fact, and should not be construed as an attempt to deflect responsibility)]

Score: 1


What this demonstrates is that DovBear has committed at least 10 acts of unquestionable plagiarism, at least 6 of which include indicia of premeditation which belie any argument that the acts were the result
of laziness or inadvertence. As for the argument that the number of cases is minimal over the course of two years and 3000 plus posts, I ask you this: would you make the same argument about someone who
shoplifted 10 times? Passed bad checks 10 times? Cheated on his taxes 10 times? You want to argue that those acts are more harmful than plagiarism? Fine. But that's a different argument. 10 misdeeds over a two year period is not a great record, any way you slice it. An interesting side note: Eight of the examples come within the last four months. I don't have an explanation for that, but maybe DovBear does.

A final point. I have no idea if I caught every last case of plagiarisim. It may be hard to believe, but I devoted a sum total of two or so hours reviewing DovBear's posts. I didn't check every single one. There may be more out there that I don't know about.

[DB: Since Thursday, I've made myself familiar with plagiarism software. I have nearly completed a total review of the blog. So far, I have found nothing else.]

3. DovBear Apologized. This is not quite a myth. DovBear has apologized repeatedly on his blog and has corrected his posts. DovBear also is giving me the opportunity to guest post on his blog. Although I initially I took issue with some of the language in his apologies that suggested that his plagiarism was unintentional and that he was guilty of laziness, I think it's clear that he has shown true remorse. Of course, he only apologized once he was caught, at which point his sins were made abundantly clear to all those who could read. One could argue that he had no choice but to act exactly as he did or else lose his readership. We will never know the answer to that question. In fact, I am not sure if DovBear can answer that question either. People are complex.

The weasel will now crawl down his hole. So long.

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