The Deeper Fakery of Couric's Plagiarism
Why original thought is harder to steal.
The apparent ease with which McNamara helped herself to Zaslow's Wall Street Journal column isn't particularly flattering to Zaslow. Zaslow has a flair for writing quirky, vivid journalism, but that wasn't on display in this instance. If it had been, McNamara would have had a harder time shoplifting the column, because it would have expressed too obviously the sensibility of someone who clearly was neither McNamara nor Couric. Zaslow's library column was a bland public service announcement. It was sanctimonious, memorable, and essentially fake, not in the sense that it was untrue—hey, I love libraries, too—but rather in the sense that it bore no mark of original thought or genuine feeling. We journalists produce more of this crap than we'd usually like to admit.
Expressing truth is hard work. There's a story, probably apocryphal, about Pablo Picasso visiting the home of a wealthy art collector. The collector proudly displays to the artist a Picasso painting he purchased at great cost some years before. Picasso scrutinizes the painting for a moment and then pronounces: "It's a fake."
"You mean, you never painted it?" the collector sputters.
"No, I painted it," Picasso answers. "But it's a fake. I often paint fakes."
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.
Photograph of Katie Couric by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images.