It wouldn’t have occurred to me if I hadn’t stumbled on a few suspect cases over the last few weeks here and there. Blogging is largely a journal of individuals’ thoughts and activities and not necessarily load-bearing when it comes to scholarship or news, but some bloggers put themselves under quite a bit of pressure to publish every day, and we all know that it’s the deadline that usually causes the accidental “borrowing” of someone else’s words. Some of us actually put copyright notices on our blogs to ward off scavengers, but let’s face it, with the ease of cutting and pasting, anyone can snatch a bit of our writing and pass it off as his/her own.
I don’t see much of a deterrent to it in the blogosphere either. Unless the plagiarizer wants to run for office one day or apply for some kind of executive position that would require an exhaustive look-see into his past, getting caught wouldn’t mean very much. An earnest mea culpa, a promise never to do it again — or even ignoring the whole thing. You’re probably not going to feel the pinch.
But still. Writers have to have integrity. We’re the interpreters of experience. We know what all the signs and symbols mean. We’re the oracles and the readers of cultural tea leaves. If you can’t trust us, who you gonna call?
What those who are tempted to swipe others’ work need to realize is that it’s awfully easy to Google suspect phrases and locate the source. (There are even plagiarism checkers that will sift the questionable text through their sieves.) I ran a little experiment a while back. When something didn’t feel quite right in my readings, I copied the eight or ten words that seemed “inorganic,” plugged them into the old search box in quotes, and up popped — at the very top of the list — the original document. Busted! This was more than once, too. Discouraging.
I read a lot of stuff and, as a writer and blogger, I’m always looking for information and thought about a wide array of subjects, from Nietzsche quotes to reviews of books, music, and movies. There are a lot of words out there and a hell of a lot of blogs. It would be easy to convince yourself that nobody will notice if you take this one little paragraph and slip it into your post, but it’s not worth it. Someone might notice. Your integrity will take a hit. You might be able to keep blogging, but some of your readers will always be wondering…
Have you noticed this in your own reading of blogs? Is it prevalent or rare? Does it really matter? Especially if your own blog isn’t monetized, would you be mad or secretly flattered if you found out someone plagiarized your writing?
I guess all I know for sure is, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.