New York State Senator Greg Ball wrote a bill in response to the anti-Sea World film Blackfish that would prevent killer whales from being kept in captivity in the state. Included in the bill is language describing the suffering the animals face — language, the Albany Times-Union points out, that was cribbed from a high school student's blog post.
Donald Rapier, a junior at Lindblom Math & Science Academy in Chicago, participated in The Huffington Post's OpEd Project, contributing a post in response to Blackfish that argues against the confinement of whales and dolphins. When confined, Rapier wrote, "dolphins and whales are actually faced with several health problems that shorten their life span and cause insanity when they are placed in captivity."
Ball's bill lifts that entire paragraph, including that last point: "dolphins and whales are actually faced with several health problems that shorten their life span and cause insanity when they are place in captivity." As the Times-Union notes, Ball did introduce a typo on "place," perhaps a savvy attempt to fool people looking for evidence of plagiarism.
Rapier wasn't the only victim. The Los Angeles Times conducted an interview with the director of Blackfish that was also purloined by Ball. And these weren't small pieces in the document; the plagiarized lines comprise two of the three paragraphs in the bill's "justification" section. "Why would anyone do such a thing?" asked Janet Kinosian, the freelance reporter who conducted the Times interview, when informed about the theft.
The high school student seemed more depressed by the whole thing. "I’m a little disappointed that they wouldn’t reach out to me or even cite me. I don’t think it’s hard to put things in your own words," Rapier said in an email to the Times-Union. "I hope they haven’t plagiarized before."
So do we, Donald. So do we. After all, it seems like prohibitions against plagiarism are the sort of thing that you should have learned in high school. Also: taking responsibility for your mistakes. Ball's office didn't return a request for a response to the Times-Union.
Update, 1:00 p.m.: The Huffington Post wrote its own story about Sen. Ball's plagiarism, and tweeted it out. And then this happened on Twitter.
Well, that's one way to respond.
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