Sunday, May 01, 2005

Plagiarism: Desecration of Global Intellectual Rights

The Jakarta Post
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

By Thang D. Nguyen, political analyst

So, it has come to this: The 27-year old journalist Jayson Blair has damaged The New York Times’ reputation by fabricating facts and plagiarising phrases from other newspapers and media sources. The Times’ publisher has called the scandal “a huge black eye.” Besides firing Mr Blair, the Times’ management is doing everything it can to redeem its face and name, but it will not be quick to restore the public trust.To be sure, this is not the first, and certainly not the last, case of plagiarism. It highlights, however, the deterioration of trust in our world today.

Not too long ago — on Feb. 7 — the British government acknowledged that it should have given credit to an American academic whose work had been copied in the file on Iraq’s chemical and biological activities that was used in US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council on Wednesday (Feb. 5).

The academic in question, it turns out, is Mr. Ibrahim al-Marashi, a research associate at the Center for Non-proliferation Studies in Monterey, California, according to the Associated Press.
This incident has led many to question the accuracy of the intelligence with which the Brits have provided the Americans…but let’s not get into this debate.

Rather, let’s look at the degree of the incident’s seriousness: It is not one in which two intellects or two students copy each other’s work. It is about a decision that can cost thousands of lives and several billion dollars.

Since the corporate scandals of Enron and WorldCom last year, we continue to see a dearth of trust—in our leaders, our communities, the international society, but worst of all, in one another.
But first let’s ask: what is trust? This word has multiple definitions, but the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth (emphasis added), of someone or something.”

Trust — that which the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama calls ‘social capital’ — is one of the most crucial values on which human societies, from East to West, have been founded and on the basis of which they still operate.

We all have been taught lessons of trust at some point in our lives and are reminded of its values everyday.

Here are a few examples. The U.S. dollar says, “In God We Trust.” When we are tried or testify in a courtroom, we are asked: "Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"

The Bible also offers such advice as “the truth will set you free.”

This freedom is one from having to vindicate oneself, from feeling guilty, and from doing time. It is also about having some peace of mind. But most importantly, it is about upholding one’s reputation.

As the world is more troubled everyday with one crisis after another, perhaps now is the time for our global leaders from business, politics, academia, civil society, and other walks of life to rethink about trust, truth, and the consequences of their actions.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of a leader to uphold trust—apart from putting himself or herself in the order “my mission, my men, myself.” Because they are role models, leaders need to build trust between themselves and their followers and maintain it. Otherwise, their followers will simply stop following them, and their friends have every reason not to support or be associated with them.

Worse yet, when leaders violate their followers’ trust and get away with it, they beget moral hazard. The followers themselves now can do the same thing on the basis that “everybody is doing it, why can’t we?”

It is time for our global leaders and each one of us all to revisit some basic lessons on trust.
Perhaps we should start out with Christ’s mantra: “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Render unto God what belongs to God.”

The writer is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).


Anonymous Anonymous said...







12:17 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home