|Pop-tart sushi, from Pop-Tarts World, Times Square. Photo by Robyn Lee for Serious Eats.|
Shorter Juan Williams: I didn't try to pass off CAP's writing as my own, I tried to pass off my intern's writing as my own, which is totally not plagiarism because shutupShutupShutUpSHUTUPSHUTUP.This may not be totally fair, or maybe not unfair enough, depending on how you look at it. I don't know what Williams's practice was when he was making a living as a writer, but that's not what he is today in any case; what he really is is a brand name, whose main professional function is to show up as a talkinghead on Fox News and lend it whatever prestige it is he provides. [jump]
When he shows up in print in The Hill or elsewhere he is essentially advertising Fox's perspicacity in hiring him, and it's perfectly understandable that Fox should pay an assistant to help him do it.
In this he differs from the celebrity endorsements of, say, Blake Griffin for Kia Motors or George Will for ABC News, who still have main gigs in a kind of "real world" where they must put out real product, week after week—Griffin in a way you have to genuinely admire, now that the Clippers have learned out of the blue how to play basketball (who could have predicted?). Similarly, Will has something uniquely his, an authentic prose style, bad but absolutely inimitable: no intern could ever duplicate the blend of constipation and drivel of a paragraph like this (on proposed anti-bullying legislation in Minnesota):
If this becomes law, it will further empower the kind of relentless improvers and mindless protectors who panic over Pop-Tart pistols and discern terrorism in Hello Kitty bubble guns. Such people in Minnesota will be deciding what behavior — speech, usually — damages a “supportive learning environment.” They will be sniffing out how students’ speech or other behavior has real or perceived — by whom? — effects on the balance of “power” between other students. And school bureaucracies will ponder whether what Sally told Eleanor about Brad’s behavior with Pam after the prom violated Brad’s, or perhaps Pam’s, “reasonable expectation of privacy.”Once upon a time I worked for a very large publishing company on a series of travel guides named for one writer and theoretically edited by his widow but produced, in fact, by a staff of ten or so Nibelungs, mostly freelance (no benefits), plus anonymous correspondents in the many far-flung cities and islands that the books covered. The original writer (in fact a managing editor by trade) could not have done much of the actual typing even when he was alive, and the widow was not much in evidence either—we saw her once in a period of four or five years, I believe, very East Side grande dame, sweeping in and heading off to one of those fabled lunches with our (equally grande dame, equally non-working) executive. What they had really done was to turn themselves into a corporate entity. And if it had been caught plagiarizing (as was hardly likely, the writing itself being of virtually no interest), it would not have been their fault, but ours.
In the same way, Juan Williams at Fox represents a kind of corporatization of the individual writer: it's not him appropriating his research assistant's prose, it's the entity making the prose any way that works efficiently, and it's not his fault if the assistant steals prose from an outside entity—how's he even supposed to know? It's not the way we were brought up to think about writing, but it's really not very important either.
|Hello Kitty Smart coupé. From Wikimedia.|