Anatomy of a Smear--David Clarke edition

Today, it's David Clarke's turn in the Casino Royale torture chair.

CNN's resident hitman, and former blogger for the favorite site of people who love cat videos, Buzzfeed, Andrew Kaczynski accuses Sheriff Clarke of plagiarizing his master's thesis.  

Where have we heard this before?  Oh yes, from the same Andrew Kaczynski who also nebulously accused Monica Crowley of plagiarism!  And yes, that's the same BUZZFEED that brought you the fake dossier on Donald Trump story from the Fall of 16.  Remember that?  The one that got editor Ben Smith accused of "tossing out  every known journalistic ethic in order to justify the public release of a pile of unverified documents that are politically and personally damaging to the President-elect"?  Yep, same website. 

Well, Buzzfeed's former hitman is now CNN's new hitman.  And David Clarke is his new target.  

So, what DID Clarke actually do?  Well, he cited lots and lots of footnotes in his OUTSTANDING THESIS on how to harmonize the seemingly irreconcilable worlds of civil liberties and national security.  In fact, he cited his references 362 times in 118 pages.  But he didn't excessively use quotation marks in the text references of those same footnotes!  Clutch.  The.  Pearls.  

Really, that's the ENTIRETY of the case that Kaczynski and CNN make against Clarke.   And that's NOT PLAGIARISM, as my colleague Dan ODonnell so well documents here.  (Dan's is a must-read piece, don't miss it.)

Essentially what Kaczynski seems to be arguing is that Clarke committed a possible act of FORMAT SCHOLARSHIP FAILURE.  But failure to format your footnotes properly hardly implies an intent to DECEIVE.

I think it is important FIRST to understand what the word "PLAGIARISM" means.  From the website  


to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own

to use (another's production) without crediting the source

to commit literary theft

to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.

To plagiarize,  you have to intend to convince someone that something someone ELSE wrote, or someone ELSE'S idea is something you wrote or your idea.  Please explain how Clarke's ABUNDANT footnoting of all his ideas and research could possibly lead someone to use the word "plagiarize" to complain about what really is formatting style.

Let me give you an easy to understand example of what CNN/Kaczynski thinks Clarke SHOULD have done in his thesis, and how this is simply a complaint about STYLE, not plagiarizing.

Take THIS paragraph which my friend Eric O'Keefe wrote to me earlier today about this story: 

Did anyone know Clarke had this degree before?  One reason they did not is that he was already sheriff when he earned it.  But also it was not published for profit; it was not used for promotion or in any campaign.  He did not brag about it.  He just did it to better understand the world. paraphrase it, so that it says this, and assume full proper citation to Eric:

Was anyone aware that Clarke had a master's degree before? He was already sheriff and earned it, and that was one reason no one knew about it.  He didn't profit from it.  He didn't use it for promotion for his campaign.  He never bragged about it.  He wanted to better understand the world.  

CNN/Kaczynski says that even if I give full footnoted credit to Eric for that paragraph,  that's not good enough.  In order to comply with Kaczynski's rule on how not to plagiarize, I would have to do THIS instead:

Was "anyone" aware that "Clarke had" a master's "degree before"?  "He was already sheriff" and "earned it", and that was "one reason" no one "knew" about it.  He didn't "profit" from it.  He didn't "use it" for "promotion" for his "campaign".  He never "bragged about it".  He wanted to "better understand the world". 


Clarke OBVIOUSLY intended to deceive exactly NO ONE.  He cites his sources ABUNDANTLY, and clearly in his thesis.  His sources were varied and proper (ACLU, CATO, Pres. Obama, Pew, Police One, 9/11 Commission Report, etc).  His failure, if there is one, is of FORMAT.  Feel free to debate THAT, but don't accuse the man of plagiarism because you really hate his choices in word document formatting. 

And yes, this is getting ridiculous, isn't it?  CNN has yet to clean its own house of the plagiarists among its staff.   I should point out as well that Zakaria is an actual JOURNALIST, where the rules of plagiarism are pretty important.  Ahem.  David Clarke is a county sheriff.   Glass houses, CNN.  Glass houses. 



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