Plagiarism and Hypocrisy the Shea Way
Catholic blog-monger Mark Shea predictably joined the chorus of leftist voices excoriating Melania Trump for the plagiarism in her convention speech — and predictably did it with the patented Shea sneer, telling his readers how “hilarious” the moment was according to his superior evaluation. The truth is, though, that Shea is himself a casual plagiarist. He plagiarizes in another blog post, entitled “Good to See a Consistent Prolife Ethic.” But before I demonstrate Shea’s plagiarism, I have to examine what plagiarism actually is.
My sister Kate is the world’s foremost expert on Fulton J. Sheen. All right, I guess that’s an evaluation, not an unchallenged fact. But I like phrases such as “the world’s foremost expert” and try to use them whenever I can. At any rate, my sister is the author of the definitive biography. It is a version of her doctoral dissertation.
Before she published it, however, she was involved in a conflict with a priest in the Archdiocese of New York who had published his own book on Sheen. It was a version of his master’s thesis. Being a Sheen scholar, my sister took a look at the new biography — and found that it had been plagiarized from her dissertation. She pursued the plagiarizing priest, at some expense, with the zeal of a true academic — until his book was removed from print and revisions to his thesis required if he expected to retain his degree. There’s a special place in Heaven for scholars who hunt down purveyors of intellectual dishonesty in that fashion.
Here’s the point, however. Father Plagiarist did not steal my sister’s words. He could argue that he did not even steal her original ideas. Rather, he stole her research. He went through her dissertation and notes in order to acquire Sheen quotes he could use for his own thesis without going to the trouble of reading the requisite books himself. Hey, it saved time for a busy clergyman!
It was plagiarism nevertheless.
And this is exactly what Shea does in the blog post mentioned above. He gives a link to an Evangelical blogger opposing the death sentence for the surviving Boston Marathon bomber. Then he praises the late Elie Wiesel and gives a quotation from that luminary regarding the death penalty. But the quote is stolen directly, without attribution, from the Evangelical blogger whom Shea recommends right above. He does this for exactly the same reasons that Father Plagiarist did it. He wants to save time. He wants to give the impression that he knows something about Elie Wiesel, whereas in reality “Pop Goes the Weasel” is more his speed. He is being intellectually dishonest, just as Father Plagiarist was.
Shea gives abundant evidence at the close of his post that he couldn’t tell Elie Wiesel from Loretta Lynch — even, most likely, at Wiesel’s grave site.
Furthermore, this seems like an habitual act. I am not a Shea follower. I am not even a regular reader from a hostile viewpoint. Friends send me occasional Shea outrages by Facebook message or by e-mail. And I did flog myself through a couple of his books, if only to assure myself that such stuff could indeed be brought out by Catholic publishers. But I’m pretty sure that, if I took the time to survey the length and breadth of Shea’s blundering bloggery, I would find many more examples of the same offense.
Now it is easy to imagine Shea’s groupies rushing to defend him. Hey, cut the poor guy some slack! He’s writing as a blogger, not an academic. He’s not claiming any degree on the basis of his remarks. He has to produce a lot of these insubstantial posts every day. He probably didn’t know that what he was doing constituted plagiarism, and therefore no culpability can be attributed to him.
And I myself can readily excuse Shea on the grounds of stupidity, of which he possesses a plentiful supply. Like the Peking homunculus, he has the brain of a barnyard animal. I’m sure he doesn’t have any clear idea of what constitutes plagiarism.
But the excuses that could be made for him sound to me suspiciously like the excuses that could be made for Melania Trump or for her speechwriter. And I’d rather excuse Melania. She’s a lot easier on the eyes. Sue me. I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty face.
What’s more, Melania isn’t condemning Shea for his plagiarism. Excuse him? She hasn’t even noticed him — and wouldn’t notice him if he jumped up and down in front of her, jiggling his flab and waving his suety arms.
But Shea, the brute, is condemning Melania. He even sneers at those who would “make excuses” for her. Shea is not only a plagiarist. He is a hypocrite.
I believe the proper destination for hypocrites is the Eighth Circle of Hell. I’m working from memory here, but I will state that my remembered source is Dante.
I wouldn’t want to involve myself in a plagiarism.