Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Trump plagiarism incident, media narratives and defining moments

I was at a studio earlier this afternoon for a quick bit that discussed, of course, the plagiarism in Melania Trump's speech.  As I was getting set up, a phone call came in from a paper (USA Today, I believe), on the very same topic.  I posted earlier on this, and I'm not going to waste much space on the specifics, but just to recap before getting to the meat of the post:

1)  If a student handed in something like that, I'd have her dead to rights.

2)  If she denied it, I'd probably laugh at her.

3)  If she demanded a hearing, the Academic Integrity Board would have better manners than I would, but that's because everybody has better manners than I do.  You've seen the title of the blog, right?  (Does anybody even get the reference?)

Moving on, the real point of this post is the strange observation that media narratives can develop around an event that focus on a small and trivial element, blowing it way out of proportion.  Consider a famous moment from a 1992 presidential debate.  The embed has been disabled, so I'll just paste the link.


George H.W. Bush checks his watch during a debate.  Therefore he's detached.  Therefore, he doesn't care about the country.  Policy?  Intelligence?  Competence?  Screw all that!  Poppy Bush checked his watch.

Melania Trump's speech was plagiarized.  But honestly, politicians almost never write their own speeches anyway, and certainly not candidates' wives, so anyone who blames Melania is missing the point.  All candidates are plagiarists because none of them write their own speeches.  Plagiarism occurred, but we don't actually know who is the guilty party.

What does it mean?  It means that the Trump campaign is run by amateur fools, but frankly, we knew that.  This was a minor and meaningless event.

And yet, I'm getting call after call after call about it.  It is becoming the 1992 watch-checking moment.  And the Trump campaign won't let it go, because Donald Trump is pathologically incapable of letting anything go, which is amazing given the size of his hands...  See what I did there?  Bringing up a thing he can't let go...

Now, remember 2012?  Remember what Republicans tried to do with "you didn't build that?"  What do you think the Democrats will do with this?

Campaign narratives, and defining events blown way out of proportion... Have we seen it?  Given the number of calls I've gotten today, maybe...

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