Best plagiarism story ever: guy copies paper directly off of a website (a simple cut-and-paste job) and subsequently submits a paper with html tags in the text. So at the end of paragraphs the reader would find phrases like [imgsrc="nixon_main.jpg" align="center"].

And yes, he actually had the nuts to argue with me about my shocking, tenuous conclusion that he had plagiarized.


Americans almost universally love praising, extolling, and vociferously defending Our Rights, which is amusing because Americans almost universally understand them about as well as theoretical calculus. As sure as you can be that lazy people will use "the right to bear arms" or "freedom of religion" or "the right to privacy" as rhetorical devices, you can be equally sure that the speaker hasn't the slightest goddamn idea what any of those things mean.

Let's pick on Carrie Prejean again. I feel a little guilty about kicking someone who is only 21 and mentally about a decade younger but she has chosen to make herself a spokesperson. In her umpteenth news conference since she became a global punchline (but she really hates all the publicity, honest!) she went on such a stupid and unconscionably shameless rant that I don't care if she can cure AIDS with her earwax, I'm still going to make fun of her. The video is available here, but the basic theme of the soliloquy is that she had a grandfather who fought in WWII (hey me too! we're so unique!) to defend her freedom of speech:

“On April 19th, on that stage, I exercised my freedom of speech and I was punished for doing so. This should not happen in America. It undermines the Constitutional rights for which my grandfather fought for (sic).”

Then, like the walking public relations ploy that she is, she cried. Perhaps amidst all the reminiscing about her grandfather she forgot about the millions of women who fought and sacrificed so that someday society wouldn't see women as vapid pageant automatons who cry for sympathy whenever things get too tough for their delicate constitutions and fragile minds. Oh, if only a man would come to the stage and protect her!

The above quote is but one example of the 15 times she mentioned "freedom of speech" and her "rights" in her performance. Someday if she has a few spare hours in between appearances on Focus on the Family and the conservative lecture circuit (coming soon to a Lions' Club basement near you!) I will explain everything that is wrong with her premise. Let's look at the sum total of Our Hallowed Right of Free Speech:

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech

See that? That's it. If you want to pick Constitutional nits – and I know a Mensan like Carrie would – technically the principles of incorporation and equal protection in the 14th Amendment also prohibit state governments from enacting laws abridging the freedom of speech.

Seriously, that's it. Freedom of speech means that neither Congress nor your state legislature can pass a law prohibiting you from expressing your thoughts. Surveying the breadth of literature in print – white supremacist tracts, incitement to revolution, instructions for making a truck bomb, Bobby Flay slashfic – you can see that this right is close to inviolate.

I am now checking to see if Congress passed a law telling Carrie Prejean that she couldn't say the following (which, incidentally, I consider pretty tame):

Well I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman.

As far as I can tell, no such law is on the books. When she talks about being "punished" for "exercising her right" I can only assume she means that negative publicity and losing the pageant are punishments. Having established that no one and nothing prevented her from speaking freely, this boils down to whining about the way other people reacted to her comments.

Inasmuch as negative publicity or intense criticism constitute a punishment, Carrie is like most wingnuts in that she is incapable of understanding the dynamics of cause and effect when they make controversial statements. She isn't being punished for exercising her right; she is being punished for exercising them in a way that makes people think she's a fucking asshole. And the last time I checked (17 minutes ago) there is no Constitutional protection from large groups of people thinking you are a prick based on how you exercise your 1st Amendment rights.

Say whatever the hell you want, Carrie, but don't start bawling when people tell you to piss off. Our rights protect our actions; they do not protect us from suffering consequences. The fashion industry has a higher-than-average number of gay men in it. If you get on stage at a widely publicized event and say that gay marriage is wrong, they are going to be mad at you. They probably will not like you, and inasmuch as any of them can affect the outcome of the contest in which you are participating they will vote against you. This is all shocking, I know.

Sixteen year olds who read Walden for the first time often latch on to Thoreau's idea that an individual should violate laws that he or she feels are unjust. What said readers often ignore, of course, is Thoreau's warning that one should be prepared to suffer the consequences of violating the law. So violate laws if you must, but don't be shocked when you end up in jail. It would be nice if someone explained to Ms. Prejean that neither the law nor common sense protect us from the consequences of our actions. If I interview at Brigham Young University and say "Man, Mormonism is epic retarded!" I am not going to get that job. If I interview at a small Baptist school and ask "I hear that Jesus was a big fag. Is that true?" I am not going to get that job. This is all very basic common sense, almost as basic as the idea that telling a gay beauty pageant judge that you think gay marriage should remain illegal will make it hard for you to advance your career in fashion and on the pageant circuit.

The more I hear her talk the easier it is to understand why she's incapable of figuring this out.