Plagiarism: Why it’s a Focus Point

If you spend all of your time belittling, working against, disenfranchising, humiliating groups of people—you are then not allowed to appropriate their work.

If you are the party of Steve King and his “what have nonwhites done for civilization” tirade…how is it okay to appropriate the words of a powerful black woman?

If you are the party whose, now official, candidate only mentions gay people once in his comments about the Pulse nightclub massacre—but tweets about being right about immigrants and terrorism (which he is not, by the way), you don’t get to use We are the Champions by Freddie Mercury, a gay person of color…from the coast of the Arabian Sea (Zanzibar, and then India). You just don’t.

Do. Not.

Melania Trump used Michelle Obama’s speech—in many instances verbatim. That’s plagiarism. She insisted she wrote the speech (not a professional speech writer), and feels entitled to Obama’s words. After all, what have nonwhites done for civilization? I mean, other than write kickass speeches and songs.

Plagiarism is against the law. You have proven, beyond any doubt that you feel that you are above the law. The Trump-faithful claim it’s okay, because she did a better job than Michelle. What. The. Fuck. Some people think Aerosmith did a better job on Come Together than the Beatles (they would be wrong, but that’s not the point)—the song still belongs to the Beatles. Aerosmith had to pay them to use it. That’s how it works because we have laws.

We have laws protecting people’s creative and academic work, words. You stole her words. Perhaps plagiarism is a difficult word—it means stealing words. Stealing, like that’s a commandment and everything. So dear Republicans, you can’t call yourself the “Christian” party anymore. Is endorsing a sin ok? Don’t think so. I am reasonably sure the Sisters of Saint Joseph would have told me that I was just as guilty if I knowingly allowed the sin. Sinners.

Several people have asked me why I am focusing on these two issues, speech and song, when the Republicans spewed so much hate on the opening night of their convention. Because these two instances exemplify what the not-so-Grand Old Party thinks of minorities, LGBTQ people, people of color, women (They threw Melania under the proverbial bus!). That’s why. They have disregarded the rights, dignity, and existence of whole groups of people in these two instances. Who owns those words? A gay man of color? Pfft! I will use them, like it or no! Who wrote that speech? A woman of color? Pfft! What’s she going to do to me? This exemplifies the danger of this party, this ticket—the disregard of any other. What have nonwhites done for history? So many things that have been appropriated by men like Donald Trump, that’s what.

So yes, the racist, sexist, xenophobic words heard at the convention bothered me, a lot. But the actions that those words allowed made me angry. By appropriating the words (and music) of Freddie Mercury and Michelle Obama, the Republican Party stole their voices. Silenced them. Their causes, their color, gender…humanity. That’s why it matters.




2 thoughts on “Plagiarism: Why it’s a Focus Point

    • The laws of plagiarism protect free speech, ownership, individuality, and creativity. Your essay also makes clear that plagiarism and the theft of art for political aggrandizement are hallmarks of fascism. Stealing the work of artists and thoughts of others is bootlegging, a homogenization of talent and quality for commercialization by hucksters. Gangsters bent on repression follow closely in the wake of fakes. Art and true talent rarely derive from the center of power. The artist and owner of the authentic thrive on the fringes. It is a voice with perspective that challenges what is often dead or whitewashed. The center of a culture’s illusion is empty, without real substance. Politicized art for mass consumption is propaganda and a perpetuation of hollowness. It is the language not of spirit but oppression. I write to share some of the immediate thoughts your insights have set off for me. Mel, thank you.

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