Sunday, April 06, 2003

I posted the following on March 20:

[3/20/2003 11:16:43 AM | John Chappell]
Márius Serra, who is a self-righteous prick, is the guy who writes the crossword for the Vanguardia. He adds these pearls to the discussion: One of the most respectful forms of protest is, without doubt, silence. Even if it's only a minute, or thirty seconds, to remain silent in memory of the victims of human predation gives us space to think, distance ourselves from the most-shouted slogans, and be aware of things. That's why, on a day like today, it is worthwhile to bother ourselves to tremain silent for one minute in homage to the four thousand American civilians (of course, actually, it was around 3000) who died in New York on September 11, 2001, victims of the mad warmongering of some fanaticized beings. Since we're already remaining silent, we could be silent for 13 minutes in memory of the 130,000 Iraqis that the bombardments of the civil populace during the Gulf War killed. (Bullshit. He's just making up numbers. It was more like 5000. And while the death of civilians is a tragic and unfortunate cost of war, the Americans' plan wasn't to kill those people. There's a major difference in motivation between the US Army and Al Qaeda. But there's nobody to blame but Saddam for the death of these people since if he HADN'T STARTED THE GODDAMN WAR they wouldn't have died. That there seems to me to be one of those "root causes" that sophisticated Old Europeans are supposed to be non-simplistic enough to realize.) Doesn't all that silence make you think? So, since we're at it already, let's lengthen those 14 minutes that we've been shut up with 20 more in homage to the 200,000 Iranians killed by their Iraqi neighbors with the weapons (literally of mass destruction) that the Americans sold to Saddam Hussein while he was their ally. (OK, Iraq and Iran go to war, and, guess what, let's blame America! Of course, the great majority of Saddam's arms were and are of, uh, Russian and French manufacture, and the rest are illegally acquired from, say, North Korea. And Mr. Serra isn't saying that those Iranians were, uh, the soldiers of an aggressive and dictatorial regime.) Then we could dedicate another quarter hour to the 150,000 Russians and Afghans killed at the hands of the Taliban, also with American arms and training, including Bin Laden. (Wait. The Russians INVADED Afghanistan, remember? Isn't any of this their fault? Second, we never armed the Taliban because when the Russians pulled out in 1989, we pulled out too, and the Taliban wasn't formed until 1994. During the eighties we did arm the mujihadeen, some of whom later joined extremist and terrorist groups, not because we loved them but because they fought the Soviets. Third, we never armed Bin Laden. And fourth, these dead people were Soviet soldiers and Afghan revolutionaries, not civilians.) Since we've gone so far, we only have 11 minutes left in the hour, we could dedicate them to the more than 100,000 Japanese victims, direct or indirect, of the nuclear barbarism of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to mention Vietnam, Panama, Chile, Guatemala...(Please. You could name a number of past American actions that are morally questionable, just like you could do for any other country on the face of the earth--including both Spain and Catalonia. But remember, the Japanese started the war, and we had to stop it somehow. Many fewer civilians were killed in the atomic bombings than would have died in a full-scale invasion of Japan, which would have been just as horrific as the German-Russian war.) All added up, this makes an hour of silence. One minute for the American victims and fifty-nine for the victims of the Americans. How much longer will we have to lengthen our sepulchral silence? (Marius, you prick, do you or do you not understand that the great majority of American actions of questionable morality occured in the context of the Cold War, when there were lesser evils like the Shah and Pinochet and greater evils like Communism, responsible for 50 or 60 or 100 MILLION deaths in the 20th century. World War II had to be won and we won it, and the Cold War had to be won and we won it too, and you should thank your god for the preservation of your sad little asshole, Marius, because instead of getting all worked up about your right to speak Catalan, you'd be cheerfully obeying the orders of your masters in either German or Russian. No, Marius thinks too highly of himself and his culture to admit anything of the sort. You know how, sometimes, someone can be your political adversary but you like him? I like Jordi Pujol despite everything, for example. But I just know I'd hate Marius. He's one of your snotty uptown bourgeois Catalans who thinks because he's a medium fish in a tiny pond he's something special, and he hates us because our example proves the truth, which he will die before admitting but which he also knows in his heart, that he and his culture are insignificant in the eyes of the world, so insignificant that their most recognized sign of their identity around the world is a football team whose players are almost all from somewhere else.)

A reader, Angie Schultz, noticed the similarity between Mr. Serra's text and an anonymous piece that has been floating around the Internet for at least a year. She suggested that I should Google "We've just kept quiet for one hour" and see how many times it showed up. What do you know! There was Mr. Serra's article--but in English! Many different times! And all of them dated long before Mr. Serra's publication date of March 20, 2003.

I put two and two together, as Angie had, and came up with this solution to the equation: Mr. Serra's text is plagiarized from the anonymous Internet piece. So I telephoned La Vanguardia and spoke personally to the ombudsman, one Josep María Casasús. He assured me that he would undertake an internal investigation. I then sent him an e-mail, at his request, in which I gave the URLs of five different sites that contained the text.

Today Mr. Casasús responded to my complaint in his column. It seems somebody else complained, too.

Reader Julio Lamaña wrote to Màrius Serra with the request that a letter be published asking that this case be clarified.

This reader said the following to the abovementioned commentator: "I read, today, the beginning of the war on Iraq, your article about the methods of silent protest against the war. And I found, with great surprise, that the last part of his article coincides point by point with one of those anonymous "mails" that circulate around the net and that we send one another, also as a method of silent protest, among the users of Internet."

Another reader, John Chappell, made a complaint to the ombudsman about this coincidence between part of the abovementioned article and some anonymous texts that can be found on the Internet. In his e-mail, sent March 25, he provided the addresses of five Web pages that contained the objectoniable text, and added, "There are some 15-20 more web pages containing the text. The oldest I have found is from January of 2002. It seems that the country in which this text originated is Pakistan and that it was written shortly after 9-11, though I cannot prove that."

I have asked the author of the article, Màrius Serra, an explanation of this case.

He puts it like this: "I admit my error and I apologize for it. As I responded to Mr. Lamaña, I did not know about the e-mail, but I obtained the coincidental facts from the same source as its anonymous diffusor, surely one of the web sites found by Mr. Chappell. How can I cite an anonymous source of which, besides, there are various versions? My error consisted of not having included the formula "is circulating around the Internet" to the final text of the column committed to peace which I wrote and signed the same day the war broke out. It seemed to me that it was a superfluous formula, the same as "they say, they comment". Now I see that I erred and I appreciate the chance to make amends. Will those who provoked my article make amends?"


You smug, self-satisfied plagairist. I'm going to have your job for that.

Mr. Serra, what you did was this. You came across something that was floating around the Internet. It was appropriately anti-American and you liked it. So you stole it. You changed it around a little, sure, but you stole it and you signed your name to it and you know it. Your text is not an original work. It was written by someone else--we don't know who that someone else was, admittedly, but we do know it wasn't you, because I've found this text dated January 2002, not March 2003. And you stole it. You signed it. And you got paid for it. That is STEALING, Mr. Serra. That is PLAGIARISM. That is against the rules of journalism, no matter where you studied it. It's rule Number One, I think: "Don't sign your name to someone else's work."

As for your weak excuses, 1) you MUST say "I found this on the Internet" if you found it on the Internet instead of writing it yourself. Quim Monzó, someone from La Vanguardia who does give credit to his sources, often writes about things he came across on the net, with this difference from you: He always says, "I found this on the Internet". He does not say, "I wrote this myself."

2) Exactly what is the "same source" that you and the anonymous author consulted and got exactly the same numbers from? Please name it so that I may consult it. What, Mr. Serra, is your alleged source? The dead giveaway is the statistic of "150,000 Russians and Afghans killed in Afghanistan." Isn't it quite a coincidence that this point, along with all the other points you make, Mr. Serra, are in the text you claim not to have seen previously?

3) You seem to take plagiarism very lightly, Mr. Serra, since you describe your error as one of having merely omitted the "superfluous formula" (i.e. fact) that this "article of yours" was something going around Internet. Your error was actually that of representing the ideas in the stolen text as your own. They are not your own ideas, Mr. Serra.

4) The smoking gun, the fingerprints, the blood on your hands, Mr. Serra, is your comment about "various versions" existing on the Internet and your affirmation that the text was anonymous. These are the two reasons you give for not having cited the original text. How did you know, Mr. Serra, that there were "various versions" of the text circulating if you hadn't already seen them? How did you know that it was anonymous? Why did you think it was OK not to mention the fact that it was circulating--something your own words prove you to have known? And, Mr. Serra, you claim never to have seen the text in question before you wrote the article.

5) Y encima con chulería al final, como si no hubieras hecho nada malo.

I therefore accuse you, Màrius Serra, of being a thief and a liar, and I accuse La Vanguardia and its ombudsman of openly tolerating plagiarism. Sue me, please, if you have the courage.

I am e-mailing this post to Libertad Digital, El Mundo, ABC, and El País.

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