Too Similar US-German Clips on Obama Speech Writer Ben Rhodes


Ben_Rhodes.jpgPolitico‘s Carol Lee wrote an interesting profile of Obama foreign policy speech writer Ben Rhodes on May 18th, 2009.
But then in the German publication, Stern, an article written by Von Niels Kruse which references Rhodes and makes strikingly similar comments as Carol Lee’s piece was published on June 3rd, 2009.
A loyal reader of TWN who happens to be a German government official sent this material my way.
I asked him if he thought there was plagiarism in the German piece, and he responded:

Maybe in parts, at least quite similar, there are too many similarities and only one reverence to Politico and another one “… said in an interview”
This is all without mentioning the source and – at least – quite similar:

“Not long ago, Rhodes was one of the obscure guys who wrote Obama’s campaign speeches in Starbucks and played video games into the early morning hours.”
“… lungerte er früher gerne bei Starbucks rum und trank einen Espresso nach dem anderen oder schlug sich die Nächte mit Videospielen um die Ohren.”
“…he was an aspiring fiction writer working on a novel called “The Oasis of Love”.”
„…schrieb er unter anderem an einem Roman mit dem Titel “Oase der Liebe”.”
“The one thing that gets Obama annoyed, Rhodes said, is “wishy-washy language”.”
“…aber wenn Barack Obama etwas nicht ausstehen könne, so Rhodes, dann sei es “Wischi-Waschi-Sprache”.”

The world has gotten too small to have material possibly lifted in one language then appear in another without attribution.
I’m not making accusations today — just tossing out something where the similarities are worth noting.
Thanks to my German political friend for sending this in.
— Steve Clemons


6 comments on “Too Similar US-German Clips on Obama Speech Writer Ben Rhodes

  1. Hypatia says:

    oh, no, reverence to Politico!
    This cannot end well.


  2. Paul Norheim says:

    If plagiarism was a serious crime, we would all be in jail. Most of
    us are never able to say anything original – and those who are,
    don`t steal less then the rest of us, but probably much more
    (Shakespeare, Montaigne etc. etc.)


  3. JohnH says:

    Gee, if we insisted on attribution for every idea that was repeated, we would soon know who is behind all the garbage spewed by talk radio, cable’s talking heads, and hired pens in newspapers and “think” tanks. These “ideas” are called talking points, and they’re given freely and anonymously. Shouldn’t their source be clearly identified?
    Imagine if everyone who parroted AIPAC had to say the idea came from AIPAC. If everyone who thinks that Iran should be bombed had to source AIPAC and the right wing stink tanks. If political hatchet men had to identify their sources?
    Actually, it sounds like a great idea to me. And lets extend it to include identification of those who underwrite the fabrication of these nefarious ideas.


  4. Don Bacon says:

    Everything I learned and everything I write (except opinions) comes from somebody else, but at least I don’t use the same sentence structure, idiomatic language and word sequence, nor do I steal quotes without attribution. If I’m too lazy to rewrite a passage, or it’s much better than anything I could write, I attribute, which is what Herr Kruse should have done.


  5. sasha says:

    Its plagiarism. Period.


  6. Scott S says:

    As a speaker of German, a quasi-journalist, and a mystery lover (even if the mystery is “Is it plagiarism?”), I find this a very worthy subject to explore. Differences in tongues as a liminal area where some acts are permissible and some things are verboten.
    Without knowing if the Stern reporter did any original reporting, it’s hard to gauge how plagiaristic this is… The middle example is just a fact, and once a simple fact is on the public record, isn’t it fair game? (Rhodes wrote a book. What is the Stern guy supposed to say — “According to Politico, he wrote this book”?) The last of the examples is the most questionable one. Because it makes it sound like the Stern reporter interviewed Rhodes… actually steals a quote from another reporter. Unless that’s the one where he included “[Rhodes] said in an interview.”
    I like your German friend’s mixing up of reference/reverence. Those two words are at the heart of what defines plagiarism! Right?


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