I was amused by the Huffington Post headline:
Rick Perry Thinks People Will Forget About His Famous 'Oops' Moment
—Sam Levine, Dec. 11, 2014
I Googled "Rick Perry Oops" and the following message popped up:
About 518,000 results (0.30 seconds)
Gov. Perry's "Oops" will be around long after he's dead.
If I were the media director for an opponent of Rick Perry in the 2016 presidential election, I would blitz the airwaves with his "Oops" YouTube video and the following lede voice-over:
Would you trust this clown to negotiate with Vladimir Putin or Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?
Off the Hook in Europe
The European Union has passed a law allowing people to "scrub their reputations online" if the entries were old stories about them that might cause embarrassment.
Even if the story is true, you can demand that Google erase it.
Ain'-a-gonna happen here under the First Amendment.
In short, what's on the Internet is for a long, long time.
Here are some famous folks on the Internet who were caught red-handed as plagiarists.
Date: Dec. 18, 2014
Google Entry Number of Hits on Google
Joe Biden Plagiarism About 142,000 results (0.49 seconds)
Nina Totenberg Plagiarism About 36,200 results (0.55 seconds)
Prof. Laurence Tribe Plagiarism About 23,600 results (0.50 seconds)
Doris Kearns Goodwin Plagiarism About 19,000 results (0.61 seconds)
Stephen Ambrose Plagiarism About 18,000 results (0.36 seconds)
A Joe Biden speech contained some exact verbiage from a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock.
Nina Totenberg's situation is the most interesting. Currently, she is the highly respected legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio. Her transgression was picking up some picture captions from another publication and running them in The National Observer, where she was a fledgling writer. Totenberg had had no idea she had done anything wrong. But she was fired. Later she wrote:
I have a strong feeling that a young reporter is entitled to one mistake and to have the holy bejeezus scared out of her to never do it again.
Totenberg's theft occurred in 1972. It is alive and well with 36,200 results on the Internet 42 years later.
Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin apparently outsourced some research and the researchers' notes turned up the their finished texts. It seems the researchers copied sentences verbatim from original sources and neglected to mention it to the authors.
Embarrassing, although inadvertent.
A Few Additional Case Histories
- Mariana Cole-Rivera was fired for an unflattering post about her job on Facebook in 2010. Google her and you'll get 484,000 results.
- Connor Riley, 22, a master's degree candidate at the University of California was a Tweeter. She "soon became the latest laughingstock on the Internet, the 'Cisco Fatty' ingrate who pompously twittered her way out of employment in this dire economy." Google "Connor Riley" and you'll get 15.6 million results.
- Eric Glatt achieved publicity—and notoriety—for suing Fox Searchlight. He was hired as an unpaid intern to work with the producers of Black Swan, and felt he had been taken advantage of. Glatt and a fellow intern sued Fox Searchlight for payment. I wrote this up in a blog and it generated the largest response from readers in 9 years of this column. Google "Eric Glatt" and you get 396,000 results.
For the rest of their lives, these three will be living under a sword of Damocles.
According to Christoffer Ellehuus—Managing Director, Corporate Executive Board—in all fields when a job is listed, an average of 118 applications are submitted.
If any of these kids applies for a job, a conscientious HR director will Google them and get back hundreds of thousands hits. The verdict:
"Troublemaker! Next résumé."
Takeaways to Consider
- Google yourself periodically and see what's out there.
- I am scared to death someone else's work will slip into my prose sans attribution. I try to be vigilant.
- It is imperative to understand completely the concept of "Fair Use"—the right to reprint a certain amount of copyright material in order to discuss it.
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