Sunday, February 7, 2010
Ruppel Plagiarizes -- apparently it's Wikipedia this time
About three weeks ago, Gondolier columnist Mary Kay Ruppel was caught red handed plagiarizing from several sources (see OWW for January 17, below). This weekend, her very next appearance on the Gondolier's editorial pages, Ruppel plagiarizes again.
This time, the source appears to be Wikipedia. So much in Wikipedia is plagiarized that it's entirely possible Ruppel simply uses the same unnamed sources as the Wikipedians. And so many people plagiarize from Wikipedia, that it's also possible that she is simply plagiarizing a plagiarizer.
Whatever. Ruppel's words are the identical; "her" ideas march in perfect order with that good book. And Ruppel makes no attempt to identify the source as anything other than her own fond memories (the column set-up is an old Better Homes and Gardens that carried the story of Kati Marton and her family -- her parents were journalists in Budapest and arrested by the Soviets -- which Ruppel also fails to identify in her nostalgic narrative, but that's another sin for another day.)
Here's the duplicitous chunk of Ruppel's column compared to that font of all knowledge.
Ruppel: “The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a spontaneous national-wide revolt against the Community government of Hungary and its Soviet imposed policies.”
Wikipedia: “The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a spontaneous national-wide revolt against the Community government of Hungary and its Soviet imposed policies.”
Ruppel: When it ended, more than 2,500 Hungarians and 722 Soviet troops had been killed and thousands more wounded.
Wikipedia: Over 2,500 Hungarians and 722 Soviet troops had been killed and thousands more were wounded.
Ruppel: In the wake of the revolution of 1989, The soviet troops started leaving Hungary.
Wikipedia: In the wake of the Revolutions of 1989, the soviet troops ... started leaving Hungary.
And the strangest part of her cut-and-paste operations is....
What she plagiarizes is general, common knowledge. The Soviet occupation of Hungary and decimation of Budapest are widely known events; they are part of our cultural, political, and social history. We've heard these things from scores of sources, from eye-witnesses to chapters in our history books. So, when writers refer to the events in order to make a point, they don't have to cite the source for general knowledge that has been described, reported, analyzed and interpreted in scores of sources, unless the writer is debating one particular account or correcting a fact. Every element Ruppel plagiarizes is part of her own general history and common cultural knowledge. She's allowed to report it without having to say she turned to Wikipedia to refresh her memory and get the dates right.
The problem is, Ruppel doesn't get it: The "it" part is where honest writers express general knowledge in own words. Ruppel plagiarized not because she used Wikipedia to refresh her memory and pick up a couple of numbers. She cheated when she stole the wording -- phrase for phrase, clause for clause, in Wiki order. Educated writers learn the art of paraphrase; they learn how to tell the story of history accurately, in their own words.