Dr. Dawg

Margaret Somerville's ethics

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Plagiarism, says Margaret Somerville, is more than meets the eye. The beleaguered Globe & Mail columnist Margaret Wente is innocent, and her detractors, now legion, are “[using] ethics unethically.”

To plagiarize, says Somerville, requires intent. Wente rebutted any such notion, she claims, in this column.

Ah, yes. That column, the one in which she entirely forgot to mention Dan Gardner and the wholesale lifting, word for word, of his copy.

Somerville, as an academic and self-proclaimed ethicist, seems to be slipping badly. There is a plethora of other examples of this word-for-word appropriation without quotation marks, for which the Globe & Mail has had to issue correction upon correction, and she knows it well if she has been following the case. (Then, perhaps tangential to this discussion, there is the Globe & Mail’s own lack of ethics.)

Not everyone is an original thinker. And even original thinkers are not original all the time. Certain ideas are “in the air,” and people independently seize hold of them. No harm, no foul. That is the gist of Somerville’s defence of Wente—that, and the accusation that her critics are politically motivated.

But, speaking as one who has shivered involuntarily with Schadenfreude at the plight Wente has found herself in, that’s fairly wide of the mark. Either she is guilty of the sins of which she is accused, or she is not. And Somerville, in what certainly appears to be a stunning example of intellectual dishonesty, completely ignores the actual evidence so painstaking adduced by Carol Wainio. We aren’t talking ideas here—that’s a red herring. We’re talking about other people’s specific articulation of those ideas.

Colby Cosh—hardly a political antagonist—sums up this latest Olympian effusion with the contempt it surely deserves. As they say on Twitter, +1. And will someone pass Somerville a mirror?

UPDATE: The Sixth Estate has some similar views. We worked independently from the same source material. :)

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on October 4, 2012 2:32 PM.

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