There is one hard, fast rule in the worlds of academia and journalism, made absolutely and unequivocally clear when entering college: Do NOT plagiarize. Always cite your sources, and NEVER steal other people’s work and claim it as your own. This must always remain non-negotiable. As the editor-in-chief of a university newspaper, this is a standard I am required to hold myself and the writers and editors under my charge. Ensuring that information is properly disseminated is of the highest importance.
Jayson Blair’s name still infamously rings bells among journalists and writers all across the country. In May of 2003, his career came to an inglorious end as he was fired from The New York Times for a long string of fabrications, plagiarism and outright lies over a five-year career there. With a long history of journalistic malfeasance dating back to his days as editor-in-chief of The Diamondback, Blair would reign as the gold standard of how not to be a journalist, until one Jonah Lehrer began his rise.
Lehrer was hailed as a science wunderkind, a writing phenom that seemingly churned out books at will at the height of his career. With stints at The New Yorker and Wired before the age of thirty, Lehrer would eventually go down for making up quotes and passing them off as Bob Dylan’s own words in 2012, as well as self-plagiarism, entering previously written work without proper citation. Despite deep apologies, and a recent speech in February for which he was paid $20,000 for by the Knight Foundation, Lehrer is pretty much a ghost, his last Twitter post dating Feb. 13.
While the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential earnings is one thing, the throwing-away of the most important intangible every journalist and academic needs–integrity–is the most tragic loss of all. Reliability and trust is absolutely critical to every facet of life, but even more so when trafficking in information that shapes public opinion and policy. To lose everything and endure public shaming is the deserved punishment of all who would dare pass off lies as truth.
If this was the case with Jonah Lehrer, and Jayson Blair before him, why should this not apply to Rand Paul?
The Republican senator from Kentucky has now been busted for blatant plagiarism by BuzzFeed and Politico, and has received blistering excoriations from Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell on their shows. In an amazing show of integrity, The Washington Times ended their column from the junior senator Tuesday after Paul lifted pieces of an article from Dan Stewart’s column in The Week for his own op-ed. By this very public exposure, Rand Paul is now known to be an unoriginal, discredited liar, which apparently made him a perfect candidate for the fact and reality-averse Breitbart.com.
What makes Paul even more unfit is his attitude about his wrongdoing, which has been that of apathetic petulance. In speaking to the Times, Paul wondered aloud when people would just “leave him the hell alone” about this misconduct, even whining about how long he had to “sit in detention” as punishment for what he’s done.
Short answer? Indefinitely.
If Rand Paul wants to return to Kentucky and his ophthalmology practice as he has threatened to do, he should do it now, and save himself the pain of humiliation. Though it go against his Ayn Rand-inspired ideological bent, it is time for him to resign his seat and take responsibility for his actions.