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The SAEN's double standard for plagiarism: Part 2

When you talk about plagiarism, ay que entender que there is a double standard. It depends on who says what. Here are excerpts of essays I wrote back in June 2003 about free-lance columnist Julio Noboa and Jonathan Gurwitz, who's a regular columnist on the Opinion pages of the San Antonio Express-News:

June 2003

This past March, Noboa’s Saturday columns were terminated from the San Antonio Express-News. The reasons given by Editorial Page Editor Lynell Burkett in the Opinion Pages were his heavy reliance on one source and a “lack of attribution” in a column, “Jenin survivors ending the silence” (SAEN, 3/1/03) regarding the well-documented Israeli assault on the Palestinian refugee town. These are charges, according to experienced journalists I’ve spoken with, that are unjust for a free-lance columnist. The attribution issue could have easily been handled in a subsequent column, they assert. Other professionals tell me that the termination is a veil for his defense of the “p” word - Palestine.

A couple of weeks after Noboa was terminated, Jonathan Gurwitz, a conservative columnist at the SAEN, plagiarized Colin Powell. In an essay published in the San Antonio Express-News (web-posted April 6, 2003) defending America’s warring posture, he concluded with these words: “The heroism of our armed forces is marked by humanity and restraint. And for their sacrifice, we ask not for oil or empire, but only enough land to bury those men and women who do not return.”

On April 13, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times said the same thing – though he referenced Colin Powell when he quoted him to an Egyptian journalist in his column: “America is as powerful as any empire in history, but when it has invaded other countries the only piece of land it has ever asked for was a tiny plot to bury its soldiers who would not be returning home.”

Both men, it seems, got this compelling line from an address Powell made to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 26, 2003. It was a partial response to a due consideration of “soft power.” Elegantly and memorably, Powell stated at that conference: “we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in.” But he had said it before on February 14, 2002, in an MTV Global Discussion: “And did we ask for land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.”

Plagiarism depends. It depends on who is taking from whom. As a writer and free-lance columnist, they are the only ammunition I have, and, therefore, esperanza, in creating a land we can all share. But it seems that people like Jonathan Gurwitz, and other writers serving the will of San Antonio's powerful will always take what is not rightfully theirs.

It doesn't matter how many have died, don't you see?

And that is why there is no land to bury the dead.

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