STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Our Deal with CNN Plagiarist Fareed Zakaria
By Staff News & Analysis - August 23, 2012

CNN and Time should explain why he's being forgiven and what he's doing to cut down on his workload and multiple payrolls. More than that, reporters should press CNN and Time on why even one commission of what, along with fabrication, is journalism's most basic breach of trust gets a pass. Would I be able to explain to the police that my flat-screen might be stolen, but I swear everything else in my house was bought honestly? The same Times story that initially referred to his busy schedule, noted that Zakaria had been criticized for giving basically the same paid graduation speech at two commencements this spring. I'm not sure how bad an offense that is, but it does raise another question: Where, other than at universities, has he been such a busy paid speaker? Has he been paid to speak to groups − such as those representing major industries or international constituencies (a group that seeks enhanced free-trade agreements, for example) − that have special interests related to issues he reports about or whose leaders have been covered in his writings or on his TV show? − Reuters, Stephen Brill

Dominant Social Theme: Plagiarism is the worst of reportorial sins.

Free-Market Analysis: Plagiarism is another one of those 21st century transgressions that drives us a little crazy.

It has to do with natural law mostly. Say you've been plagiarized by Fareed Zakaria. He's written a book and lifted a paragraph or two of your immortal prose – which, of course, you rewrote from someone else.

Only Zakaria didn't do such a good job. He gave you credit for the information but he didn't put a couple of sentences into quotes. Is this something for you to get upset over? Are you upset about it? Take it further. Say he DOESN'T cite you. Is it the end of the world? Has he really done you a grievous damage? Is there some sort of financial remuneration of which he's deprived you?

This is the issue when it comes to natural law and why the US in particular was set up along sensible lines when it came to Jefferson's animating idea about jurisprudence. The legal system should bear some passing resemblance to common sense.

We've discussed these issues in terms of the harassment of Kim Dotcom. United States prosecutors decided Kim Dotcom was stealing the works of certain Hollywood artists. So they sent a posse of FBI agents halfway around the world to arrest him.

Why was it incumbent on the state to do this? Even if the aggrieved parties were damn sure Megaupload was stealing from them, what gave them the right to enlist the power of the mighty US criminal-industrial complex?

If the aggrieved parties lived somewhere else … in a small, rural country with no impressive criminal strike force to project, then the outcome would have been a great deal different, surely.

And how is that fair? There would have been no direct prosecutorial involvement, no coordinating FBI task force. Instead, at best, Kim Dotcom and others might have been served civilly with a complaint that was at best marginally enforceable.

In fact, that's one way we can tell the complaint against Megaupload is a weak one. Absent millions and millions of prosecutorial dollars, Dotcom would never have been subject to arrest. Staggering sums had to be paid upfront to "create" an environment conducive to the criminalization of whatever it was he was supposedly doing.

The arrest of Dotcom therefore did not correspond to "natural law." It was an artificial occurrence that used the funds of millions of taxpayers to prosecute the vindictive interests of a few.

If you have a gripe with someone, don't you usually seek to adjudicate it on your own? Certainly as a young person you do. You complain in person and try to get satisfaction. Worst case, you appeal to others around you to organize some sort of rough justice.

Someone has a gripe; let them bankroll their own damn justice. You'd be surprised how quickly the legal system would right itself.

This approach works for a multitude of crimes. And when it comes to plagiarism, the stakes are even lower. Who really is going to take time out of his or her busy day to mount a full-fledged prosecution against someone who didn't take care to paraphrase you properly? Really, what's the difference?

We're not surprised this particular editorial was penned by Stephen Brill. Brill is a lawyer and journalist who badly wants to make journalists conform to a formal code of ethics. Back in the 1990s, he even launched a popular magazine to try to imbue the business with his particular ethical approach.

One thing Brill was famous for, which has had an impact on reporting, was the idea that reporters should never use unnamed sources, if possible.

But most good stories are built anonymously. In fact, experienced reporters are well aware that one good anonymous source is worth a 100 on-the-record perspectives. The fellows willing to go "on the record" are those who are willing to tell you what you already know. Newsgathering is all about finding sources that will tell readers "news" – things they DON'T know.

Using non-anonymous sources forces the reporter to go through the appropriate sources. To use, in other words, "spokespeople" designated by the company or facility who will tell you only what their higher-ups are willing to divulge.

These concepts, for the most part, simply do not follow the common sense of natural law. No one is "injured" when you use an anonymous source, except those perhaps who are trying to protect a secret or two. And likewise, no one is "injured" when Zakaria uses your sentence without changing a word or two.

This is part of a larger perspective we have about private versus public justice, and how we think public justice is the aberrant spawn of fiat-money monopoly banking. Just as fiat money has funded a distorted, bloated banking industry, so it has distorted jurisprudence as well. Law functions best when those who wish to present themselves as aggrieved have to do so out of their own pocket.

We've written a lot about this and how, within the context of what we call the Internet Reformation, the meme of public justice will be one of the last ones to receive aggressive scrutiny. Just search the Internet for "private justice" and the Daily Bell.

A last point to make on this subject has to do with the larger issue of overt versus covert dishonesty. Fareed Zakaria and those like him who work at the top level of mainstream Western journalism are regularly, covertly dishonest in our humble view.

These people carry forth the memes of the power elite without apology. They may know for instance that the war on terror is pretty much of a phony or pointless exercise designed to reinforce authoritarianism at home with an eye to emplacing global governance by force.

The motivating issue of the 21st century is the Comprehensive Lie told by the mainstream media about the animating occupation of Money Power. Those who lead society behind the scenes are intent on creating one-world government and it seems that every major policy initiative, war or economic decision is made within that context.

Yet one looks in vain for that sort of admission within the context of successful mainstream reporters and editors like Zakaria. For us, such exclusions are indicative of the REAL function of these writers. They are gatekeepers for the truth, paid for what they EXCLUDE and how gracefully and elegantly they perform this important role.

These journos are seemingly being paid a great deal of money to lie aggressively and persuasively. Within this context, the issue of plagiarism must surely seem less persuasive as a front-and-center journalistic concern.

After Thoughts

For ourselves, we give Zakaria carte blanche to pick up our columns as his own, so long as he presents them in some detail on major news channels including of course, CNN, Time and Newsweek. We will not be offended. We want to get the word out.

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