Places, everyone, places! It’s time for another college newspaper plagiarism flap, and we’ve rehearsed this so many times that by now everyone should be off-book. As it were. In tonight’s episode, Yale Daily News byline factory Makda Asrat ’09 is charged with ripping off a recent Slate review of the movie “300.”
Scene I: The Ritual Comparing of Passages. From Slate‘s Dana Stevens:
[N]o one involved … seems to have noticed that we’re in the middle of an actual war. With actual Persians (or at least denizens of that vast swath of land once occupied by the Persian empire).
And from Asrat’s YDN piece:
[N]o one involved in the making of “300″ noticed that we are in the middle of an actual war with actual Persians (or at least inhabitants of the lands the that [sic] Persian Empire once encompassed).
Rather incriminating, we’d say. Cue Scene II: The Scupulously Parsed Editor’s Note. The YDN posted a correction this afternoon noting that Asrat had read the Slate piece prior to writing her own, and that a single sentence had been “inadvertantly [sic] replicated”; an investigation into her previous work is underway. To plagiarize ourselves: you just know the Romenesko-horny YDN reporters smell blood in the water.
That means it’s time for Scene III: More Transgressions Come To Light. We’ll stick to the same piece. From Slate:
Here are just a few of the categories that are not-so-vaguely conflated with the “bad” (i.e., Persian) side in the movie: black people. Brown people. Disfigured people. Gay men (not gay in the buff, homoerotic Spartan fashion, but in the effeminate Persian style). Lesbians. Disfigured lesbians. Ten-foot-tall giants with filed teeth and lobster claws. Elephants and rhinos (filthy creatures both).
And from the YDN:
Even more problematic are the different groups the film conflates with the Persians (and thereby Evil): black people, brown people, East Asian people, disfigured people, gay men, promiscuous lesbians, giants, monsters with lobster claws and curiously violent elephants and rhinos all stand in, at one point or another, for the Eastern antithesis of the Spartan soldier.
There are other similarities, like “color-processed to a burnished, monochromatic copper” vs. “burnished to a monochromatic bronze,” but refereeing them all would require more effort than we can muster. Suffice it to say the YDN piece gives the impression of someone who not just borrowed, but tried to cover up the borrowing with a few artless keystrokes of the ol’ Shift F7. Stay tuned, copycat fans;whether Asrat turns out a weapons-grade Kaavya or a venal-sin Victoria, we’re sure there’s more of this to come.
(Asrat, YDN editor Sarah Mishkin, and Slate critic Dana Stevens haven’t yet answered our emails. Disclosure: Half of us works for Slate.)