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Glenn Beck says Uncle Sam is a Crook; Some Say Glenn Beck is a Plagiarist.

Reported by Alex - February 1, 2009 -

While doing some background research for a post on Glenn Beck’s “One Thing” segment on Social Security (Friday, 1/30/09) I discovered something interesting: Glenn Beck might, just might be a plagiarist.

During Beck’s rant on Social Security as a (supposed) Ponzi scheme, Beck slammed into Uncle Sam, branding the mythical figure as a crook used by Woodrow Wilson to insinuate Big Government into the daily lives of Americas. Here is what he said :

“Wilson was making the case that our uncle is only involved in our every day lives, because he cares about us and wants to protect us. It's much easier to talk about duty, sacrifice and obligation when you are thinking about a family member, as opposed to someone who is greedy and corrupt and wants to control you.”

Now, that is an interesting and rather clever, if misplaced, analogy, and one likely to stick in the minds of the flat-earthers who constitute Beck's regular audience and who probably think him quite erudite. Trouble is, it wasn’t Beck’s original idea - or wording. On the History News Network page about Uncle Sam I found this:

“Perhaps Americans found that their Uncle Sam, like all good uncles, helped them out: by turning the vast machinery of war mobilization into a family relation, he gave political power a personal face and made sense of the government's presence in everyday life… During World War I, when Americans discussed their relationship to the state, they used terms such as duty, sacrifice, and obligation.”

To double-check whether this “borrowing” of an idea, along with putting together phrases separated by paragraphs into one thought, constitutes plagiarism, I consulted my MLA Handbook and the online Ethics Codes on Plagiarism complied by the Society of Professional Journalists. Here, for example, are excerpts from the Detroit Free Press ethics code, found on the latter site:

“Using someone else's work without attribution - whether deliberately or thoughtlessly - is a serious ethical breach… Borrowing ideas from elsewhere, however, is considered fair journalistic practice. Problems arise in the gray areas between the acceptable borrowing of inspiration and the unacceptable stealing of another's work… Words directly quoted from sources other than the writer's own reporting should be attributed”.

Okay, perhaps he was in a “gray area”. Let’s see what the MLA Handbook (6th edition, 2003, p.71) says:

“Other, less conspicuous, forms of plagiarism include the failure to give appropriate acknowledgement when repeating or paraphrasing another’s wording, when taking a particularly apt phrase, and when paraphrasing another’s argument or presenting another’s line of thinking.”

Oh, my goodness. As a mere occasional blogger, and possessor of only a lowly undergrad degree, even I knew that. Why didn’t Fox "journalist" Glenn Beck know that?

Oh, wait : “Glenn Beck considers himself a ‘self-educated’ man. He claims that he ‘spent more time in the parking lot than in class’.” Uh huh. Of course, there is always the possibility that, like Hannity, Beck’s pimps at Fox consider him to be an entertainer rather than a journalist; in that case, wouldn’t we be silly to even think of holding a prime-time commentator on a 24-hour cable NEWS network to standards of journalistic ethics!

And of don't forget that when all other excuses fail, The Media Can Legally Lie. Guess that includes lying about one’s sources by omission.


Glenn Beck: Plagiarist? Liar? Prime-time clown? You decide.