The New York Times headline is so tactful: “Melania Trump’s Speech Bears Striking Similarities to Michelle Obama’s in 2008.” Striking similarities, yes. It’s plagiarism. The Trump campaign denies it, saying that Ms. Trump’s speech was a matter of “common words and values.” Common words, one after another after another.
Barring sabotage by a disgruntled speechwriter, I can think of three possible defenses:
Ms. Trump (or her speechwriter) had been so moved by Ms. Obama’s speech that whole sentences somehow stuck in memory, to be reproduced as if original.Please understand: I have heard some extraordinarily far-fetched defenses of plagiarism. “I read the Cliffs Notes, but I didn’t buy them!” “I was taught to memorize whole pages from this intro text on literary theory!” The three defenses I have imagined here seem to me wholly implausible.
Because she was giving a speech, Ms. Trump was quoting and paraphrasing without quotation marks or endnotes.
Ms. Trump (or her speechwriter) doesn’t understand persnickety academic or journalistic protocols when working with sources.
A possible explanation (not defense) of this plagiarism: it’s the Dunning-Kruger effect at work. Many plagiarists lack the competence to understand how easy it is for a discerning audience to detect their plagiarism.
The Times quotes a statement from a Trump spokesman:
“In writing her beautiful speech, Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking.”“Included fragments”: well, that’s plagiarism.
All OCA plagiarism posts (Pinboard)