What No One is Saying About the Melania/Michelle SpeechGate

melaniamichelleOf all the controversial statements and moves in Trump’s campaign so far, I am the most personally offended by yesterday’s. It was just such a trolling of epic proportions on the American public. Full disclosure: I’m a 10th grade Writing teacher who spends a significant amount of my life teaching how to summarize ethically and cite sources, and the importance of academic honesty and originality. I still remember the first time I called a parent to discuss her son’s plagiarism and she hysterically shouted, “Well, if my son plagiarized it’s only because you don’t teach him not to!” Fortunately, we had just finished a summarizing and plagiarism unit that very day.

I’ve read some ridiculous defenses of the integrity of Melania’s speech, but every single one would not hold water in a 10th grade English class. (Yes, it’s still plagiarism if 93% of the speech is not plagiarized. No, just because it reflects how you think doesn’t mean it’s not plagiarized. No, there are not only “so many combinations of words in the English language.” And every other excuse would get an F on any high school writing assignment as well.) I am not only offended as an English teacher, but as a mother, as this is yet another case of not only setting a terrible example for our children, but then not taking a single ounce of ownership for such a huge fucking lapse in judgment. I know Selma Blair’s airplane meltdown of a couple weeks ago wasn’t as high profile or high stakes as this, but that’s how you own up to your shit and make amends.

Beyond the shrugging off plagiarism from a potential first lady, I’ve come across several infuriating deflection tactics. Conspiracy theorists claiming speech writers were bribed. Bizarrely, even before Hillary Clinton addressed the scandal (to my knowledge as of this writing, she still has not), the Trump campaign, in another fit of staggering misogyny blamed Clinton for the backlash. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager stated to CNN, “This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down.”

Honestly, I just can’t.

Just…. how the fuck are we here?

Then there are people taking the Melania criticism even beyond the plagiarism itself. Pointing out there was nothing actually personal or compelling in the speech. It was nothing but hollow platitudes. There are cries of poor Melania, she never asked for any of this. English is not her first language. Fair enough and I don’t disagree, but I also can’t help but notice how easy it is to sympathize with an attractive person.

But the criticism that seems to be lacking in all this is that once again Trump’s bumbling ineptitude is on dazzling display. And once again there are some impressive mental gymnastics happening to explain or condone it. There is a difference between a Washington outsider with a fresh perspective and someone who just doesn’t know what the fuck they are doing on seemingly every level and blithely going for it anyway. Michelle Obama didn’t write her 2008 speech entirely on her own. No one, including myself, would’ve faulted Melania for using all the help she can. Regardless of who actually thought it was not going to escape us or upset us to use two plagiarized paragraphs from a speech of the same exact purpose eight years ago, there is simply no excuse that it passed through all the filters. To people who think this is a small matter, we’re making a mountain out of a molehill, there are bigger problems in the world, I say: this matter is everything. Anyone who would defend or in any way attempt to minimize or deflect from this is saying that this is an acceptable example of integrity for our children and an acceptable level of quality management (on a fairly simple and straightforward task) from the person proposing to hold our highest executive office – seriously, he could’ve hired any 2016 high school valedictorian for a few hundred bucks!

Before I sign off, I also have to point out that it’s pretty rich that the lifted passages speak of integrity and values.

Finally, your panties may be all twisted up your ass crack right now, thinking, But Hillary’s a crooked liar who deserves to rot in prison!! That is not what we are talking about right now, and not an appropriate or compelling argument to the topic at hand.  That is a separate topic for a separate conversation, and by bringing it up, you are trying to deflect from a conversation that you apparently have no legitimate argument against.

If Clinton had done the exact same thing, the only difference in my response would be that I’d be more surprised.

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10 Responses to What No One is Saying About the Melania/Michelle SpeechGate

  1. GailA says:

    Hope you don’t use you offensive language in your 10th grade Writing class. Sheesh. Clean it up. I was very interested in your article until I hit the first f-bomb, then quit reading. Why do you think this language is acceptable?

    • GailA says:

      Oops – meant “your” not “you”.

    • Thanks for the feedback! No, I don’t swear with my 10th graders or really very often in speaking. I hope you’re not a 10th grader as the general audience of my blog is adults. You must find a lot of things quite offensive!

    • Bill Placzek says:

      GailA: your commnet looks like a deflection, you stating the language is the issue and not the plagerizing or the ” acceptable example of integrity for our children and an acceptable level of quality management (on a fairly simple and straightforward task) from the person proposing to hold our highest executive office …” Maybe you didn’t get that far in the article…so I am rewriting it.

  2. Sybil says:

    Your article stated the very thing that I found to be the most overlooked and glaringly offensive part of SpeechGate: “…it’s pretty rich that the lifted passages speak of integrity and values.”

    (your colorful language didn’t bother me in the least)

  3. I heart Dems says:

    Could you please send me links to your other blogs that criticized the following?
    Barack Obama: “Don’t tell me words don’t matter.” As then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) surpassed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, largely on the strength of his oratory, Clinton said that Obama’s record was “just words.” Obama responded in a speech whose refrain was lifted from then-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. The Obama campaign did not even bother to refute the claim. Instead, it circulated examples of lines that it said Clinton herself had borrowed from Obama. The left media defended Obama, saying that he had not committed plagiarism, but merely, at worst, “poor footnoting.”

    Hillary Clinton: “No bank can be too big to fail, no executive too powerful to jail.” After the Obama campaign accused Clinton of stealing lines in 2008 — a claim supplemented by The New Republic, which accused her of stealing lines from then-Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) — she ought to have learned her lesson. But in 2016, she stole lines from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who responded by telling NBC News’ Meet the Press, jokingly: “We’re looking into the copyright issues here.” Clinton was accused of lifting other lines, too — and Sanders supporters responded on Twitter with the wry hashtag: #StealtheBern.

    Joe Biden: “My ancestors who worked in the coal mines…”. Biden was found to have borrowed heavily from the oratory — and the biography — of British Labour Party leader Neal Kinnock, without attribution. In addition, it was discovered he had committed plagiarism while in law school. The scandal helped bring down Biden’s presidential campaign in 1988 — though Biden’s angry outburst at a reporter — “I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect” — didn’t help, either.

    Michelle Obama: “…the world as it should be.” In 2008, the aspiring First Lady was accused by bloggers of lifting lines for her DNC speech from Saul Alinsky. Alinsky wrote, in Rules for Radicals (emphasis added): “The standards of judgment must be rooted in the whys and wherefores of life as it is lived, the world as it is, not our wished-for fantasy of the world as it should be.” Michelle Obama said: “And Barack stood up that day, and he spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about ‘the world as it is‘ and ‘the world as it should be.’” (Perhaps Mr. Obama who left out the attribution.)

    • Thank you! I am offended by every instance of plagiarism used by our leaders, regardless of their party affiliation. There’s no excuse! My only suspicion as to why other instances flew under the radar a little more (although, I did see reporting of Obama’s cribbing at that evil liberal NPR) is that this was such a high profile and very highly anticipated speech. The immediate aftermath was overall positive until it took a random Twitter user to spot the copying. Also, as I pointed out in my writing, just admit the error and we can all move on! It’s silly to try to call it anything other than what it was – a sloppy error in judgment. Same criticism applies to Obama, a 10th grader, or anyone else who doesn’t follow the rules of writing.

  4. sophia0021 says:

    agree 100%. Its pretty pathetic that this was allowed through the editing stage, but we’re talking about Trump here, so it really is no huge surprise, to me.

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