Tag Archives: quotes
The Washington Post has an interesting piece about the scandal that has engulfed cutie patootie pop neuro-theorist and journalist Jonah Lehrer. In an article for The New Yorker, Jonah reused the first three paragraphs of a piece he had published in the Wall Street Journal a year earlier. And that wasn’t the only time. Apparently, he does this type of thing all the time. (Dun dun DUN!) But it’s HIS WORDS he’s reusing, so where’s the harm?
Alexandra Petri at the Post argues there is none: “‘Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it,’ said Ralph Waldo Emerson. What if you happen to be the originator of the good sentence yourself? It seems unfair to the sentence to use it only once. Some sentences are bridesmaid dresses. Others you can wear to work after the big day. Rules vary. There’s a line between recycling material and regurgitating material. You do not stop orchestras from playing ‘Beethoven’s Ninth,’ as someone wise once said, on the grounds that your audience might have heard it before. There are familiar cadences and repeated sentences that mark a writer’s style.”
The problem, really, is that he was paid by The New Yorker to write an original piece. Otherwise, why hire him at all – why not reprint his earlier work? Of course The New Yorker didn’t lose money or traffic over this because the two articles were a year apart and what he said was still relevant a year later, it’s just that in 2012 it’s harder to get away with quoting yourself.
Continues Petri: “One of the bizarre things about modern life is that everything we have to throw away is constructed to last forever. Blogs stay on the Internet until the seas dry up. The little plastic doodads that come with your hamburger will outlast most of us. The trouble these days is not that the things that were once ephemeral are permanent. The trouble is that they are permanent and searchable. A paragraph here, six pages there — what harm? No one is paying attention until everyone is paying attention. That is the wonderful, terrible thing about the Internet. You have a full record of pretty much everything that you’ve ever put on it. And if you don’t, the Wayback Machine probably does. It has made plagiarism easier to do and harder to get away with.”
As someone who is guilty of reusing EVERYTHING I’ve ever said or done, this subject fascinates me. What do you think?
ALSO: OMG, HE’S SO GORGEOUS.