Now I know how Al Franken felt when Fox sued him.
Your humble blogger actually gets singled out by Mark Hyman in his most recent “Point” commentary. You’d assume that with everything I’ve written, Hyman would be complaining about something I’ve said about him on this blog. And in a way he is, but he doesn't have the courage to do it directly.
Rather than contradict anything that’s been said on this blog, Hyman does what has become all too familiar to those of us who know him well: misappropriate and misstate information about a political rival rather than actually talking substantively about the issues.
In what I’m sure is simply a coincidence [editor’s note: please drizzle several ladlefuls of sarcasm over previous comment], less than a week after being interviewed by "Ring of Fire" on Air America, Hyman includes yours truly in a list of “out of touch” academics. That’s right—I’m lumped right in there with the guy who compared 9/11 victims to Nazis. What did I do to deserve such scorn? According to Hyman, I think plagiarism is just fine and dandy. Here’s the exerpt:
You know what’s coming, don’t you? Altogether now: I never said that.
The University of Iowa's Ted Remington cautions that
while plagiarizing work shortchanges the student's own learning it doesn't
really hurt anybody.
"While plagiarism is often defined as 'stealing' someone else's
words or ideas, it is rarely the case that published writers or public speakers
are harmed by having their words or their thoughts 'stolen' by a college
If you need to plagiarize would you at least turn
your in assignments on time. I've got a latte waiting for me at the campus
Here’s what happened. Apparently deciding that my little blog and 15 minutes (literally) of Air America fame was a fly worth swatting, Hyman & Co. went on a search for something he might be able to embarrass me with. What he found was the course packet for the online rhetoric course offered through the University of Iowa. I currently teach this course, but I had nothing to do with the writing of the course materials. Not a single word. I’m simply listed as an instructor.
Not fazed by that, Hyman excerpted a portion of the standard statement on plagiarism, the point of which is that plagiarism is bad not because it does any major damage to an established author to have her or his words cited without credit by a college freshman, but because it is stealing. Here’s the excerpt in its full form:
Plagiarism is a serious academic offense that entails presenting the words and/or ideas of others as though they were original to you. While plagiarism is often defined as "stealing" someone else's words or ideas, it is rarely the case that published writers or public speakers are harmed by having their words or their thoughts "stolen" by a college student. On the contrary, the real harm of plagiarism is the harm that students do to themselves. Encountering new ideas and information, thinking about them critically, and finding effective language to express independent thinking is the central activity of a college education. When students "steal" the words or thoughts of another and present them as their own original words and ideas, they shortchange themselves educationally. To simply reproduce the form of something another has said or written is to skip the mental processing (reflection, comparison, critical evaluation, etc.) that is the essence of learning.
Such is the “fringe” thinking here at the University of Iowa’s Department of Rhetoric.
So Hyman, in order to make his point, has not only misappropriated a quoted source (plagiarism), but taken it completely out of context as well. You know, Mark, we do a pretty good job here at Iowa of teaching our freshman to cite sources correctly and how to use quoted material in its proper context. There’ll always be a desk available for you in my classroom if you’d like to stop by and learn something.
But it gets even better!
As I am wont to do, I sent a copy of yesterday’s Counterpoint to the head honchos at Sinclair. I received an email from Mr. Barry Faber, vice president and chief legal representative of Sinclair. As you’ll remember, yesterday’s Counterpoint responded to Hyman’s approval of Maryland Governor Ehrlich’s edict banning reporters from the Baltimore Sun from speaking with any member of the state’s executive branch or attending press conferences. Mr. Faber wanted to know if I was aware that one of the reasons for Mr. Ehrlich’s consternation was the fact that an opinion columnist for the Sun had said made a remark about one of the governor’s spokesmen “having trouble keeping a straight face” when announcing a particular policy of the governor’s. The columnist in question wasn’t even at the press conference, so (according to Mr. Faber) he could not possibly know the actual facial expression on the man’s face. Mr. Faber assured me that if anyone at Sinclair misrepresented the facts in a similar way, he would personally recommend that they be fired.
I pointed out to Mr. Faber that “keeping a straight face” was obviously used in a metaphorical sense (as it usually is) as a means of suggesting that the stated policy was at odds with reality. It was clearly not intended to state the physical reality of the situation.
But then I saw the transcript of the most recent “Point,” and I can’t help but compare the two incidents. The Sun reporter, for using a metaphor, deserves to be fired. Hyman, on the other hand, willfully misquoted a source and misrepresented its content to score political points against a foe.
I’m just wondering, Mr. Faber: when will Mark Hyman be asked to clean out his desk?
And that’s The Counterpoint.