Copy and Paste

Posted at 09/14/2012 12:51 PM

In the scheme of Arctic melting, a nuclear Iran and Syrian atrocities, the matter of Sen. Sotto’s alleged plagiarism seems inconsequential. Yet since it has occupied our national conversation I thought I would weigh in.

To recap, in his four part series on his opposition to the RH Bill, the venerable Senator, or more correctly his speechwriters, saw it fit to ostensibly lift not once, not twice but thrice paragraphs from bloggers Sarah Pope, Janice Formichella and non-blogger Robert F. Kennedy. The Senator defended himself on the grounds his lines were either from non-entities simply mouthing off and therefore not worthy of attribution; or were not in the original language. It was a storm in a teacup (Attribution: Unknown) and much ado about nothing (Attribution: William Shakespeare?). Needless to say this did not help his cause.

His staff were, to their credit, more forthright. They claimed plagiarism is rampant in the Senate and that everything -the Bible, our Constitution, the human genome- “started from a little copying”. All humans, they went on to intimate and I am not kidding, in fact are plagiarists in that we were created in the image and likeness of God. Way to go, guys.

As a writer, I am not as offended as perhaps I should be on plagiarism. I am just uncertain why anybody should choose to go there. It could be simple laziness, why reinvent the literary wheel when somebody has already done so and more eloquently. It could be the need to embellish an otherwise mediocre message. It could be the requirement for higher prose to transport an ordinary idea. It could be hubris and the longing to be seen as more erudite than one is.

Sen. Sotto undoubtedly had important things to say on the RH Bill as he has occasionally on other legislation. However, and this is the tragedy, because of the manner in which he chose to frame his arguments and the way he defended himself when exposed; we have all but lost what it is he wanted to convey. All we can remember is he took stuff without leaving a credit behind.