political plagiarism, plagiarism detection
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Canadian Prime Minister Caught with Plagiarized Speech

October 02, 2008 03:05 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
A speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has resigned after admitting to plagiarizing a speech he wrote for Harper in 2003.

Political Plagiarism

Speechwriter Owen Lippert said he was running short on time in 2003 when he began lifting passages from Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s speech in support of the invasion of Iraq for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to read a few days later. In a BBC News article, Lippert said, “Neither my superiors in the office of the leader of the opposition nor the leader of the opposition was aware that I had done so.”

Harper gave the speech on March 20, 2003. According to BBC News, Harper said, “In the interests of peace and regional security … The community of nations required Iraq to surrender.” Just a few days earlier, Australian Prime Minister John Howard stated, “In the interests of world peace and regional security … The community of nations required Iraq to surrender.”

Critics of the Canadian prime minister say their complaints are about more than plagiarism. Canada is in the middle of an election year, and National Post blogger John Moore says the accusations “are merely reminding Canadians that Stephen Harper was wrong about Iraq.” Moore continued, “Harper bought the bogus American case and couldn’t even find his own words to make his position to Canadians.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Steele of The Globe and Mail has pointed out that there are some problems with attacking Stephens about his words now. For example, the speech is old. “There is definitely a statute of limitations on political foibles, and five years is a past due for plagiarism,” Steele writes. “It’s possible—not likely with an intellectual like Harper, but possible—that the Conservative Leader had no idea where this rhetoric came from.”
Canada’s parliament will be dissolved and reformed all before Americans vote on their leaders in November. Harper has set parliamentary elections for Oct. 14, the third government election in four years.

‘Change you can Xerox’

During the 2008 presidential primaries, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton took a swipe at Sen. Barack Obama over his apparent use of text from speeches given by Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. “If your candidacy is going to be about words then they should be your own words,” she said in an Associated Press article. “Lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox.”

Obama called the charges typical of a “silly” campaign season.

Mike Masnick of Techdirt said he would actually prefer to have a politician who plagiarizes. “I want a politician who doesn’t think that all good ideas spring from his or her head alone, but knows that by listening to others, and by internalizing those ideas, remixing those ideas and building on top of those ideas something better, something more profound, something more meaningful can be produced.”

Reference: Plagiarism


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