Shouldn’t Sen. Rand Paul know what ‘plagiarism’ means?

By, Jeremy C. Curimao

Oopsie! Kentucky senator Rand Paul stepped on more than a few toes last week because of plagiarism suspicions. It seems as if the unassuming politician is in hot water as more evidence proves that he (or…er…his team?) hasn’t always been entirely original with his words, spoken or written. The following chronicles the events that ultimately led Sen. Paul to garner some rather embarrassing attention from several media sources. Maybe it’s what he needs since he’s planning to run for President next term? Anyway…

During a speech given in support of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, Paul referenced the 90s science fiction film “Gattaca.” The plot of the film was used by Paul to deliberately attack the supporters of pro-choice. Paul said the following sentence in his speech: “In the movie Gattaca, in the not-too-distant future, eugenics is common and DNA plays a primary role in determining your social class.”

This is where it gets odd. This sentence is actually almost verbatim from the film’s article from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pointed out the eerie similarity on her nightly news show, even quoting several other sections of the Wikipedia that almost exactly matches Paul’s speech. Plagiarism? Well… you decide.

One sentence from the plot section of the Wikipedia article of "Gattaca", which matches a sentence said by Paul in his speech. (Courtesy of Huffington Post)
One sentence from the plot section of the Wikipedia article of “Gattaca”, which matches a sentence said by Paul in his speech. (Courtesy of Huffington Post)

But it doesn’t stop there. Paul was also called out by online news and entertainment website BuzzFeed for a past speech centered on immigration in June 2013 that contained descriptions of the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver” that resembled parts of the Wikipedia entry of the same film.  And it still doesn’t stop there! Last Monday, Paul was once again singled out by BuzzFeed writer Andrew Kaczynski for taking several parts of an article written in The Week by Dan Stewart  and using the sections in his own op-ed contribution on The Washington Times in late September.

(Photo Courtesy of Salon.com)
(Photo Courtesy of Salon.com)

What is happening here? Who is truly at fault here? Is Paul really simply ignoring the simple code of ethics and deliberately plagiarizing several works to “benefit” his own agenda? Or is he a victim of his team (who probably has good intentions…)? His team may clearly be the blame here, since he relies on them to assist him in speaking before an audience.

But plagiarism is, and should be, clear enough. Or, at least to most high school students it should be. As a school with an essential belief of academic honesty, all students here at Oceana should be able to clearly identify plagiarism when they see it. Students have constant guidance on assignments and projects by helpful teachers who care enough to inform students of plagiarism when accidentally implemented in their work.

At the very least, if an ordinary high school student can identify plagiarism and take responsibility for it, then so can Senator Rand Paul. If he plans to get any further as a hopeful candidate possibly running for the 2016 presidential elections, then he should probably look up “plagiarism”  in the dictionary and avoid these politically awkward situations.

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