One thing often said about rumors or slander is that once the information is leaked, it’s out permanently. In other words, even if a rumor is proven to be completely false, the information still exists in the minds of all the people who already heard it.
Down the line, when people try to recall what the real story is, they may only remember the falsified information.
This same ‘cat is out of the bag’ occurrence is a problem in a number of other situations.
For instance, a jury will still remember evidence presented in a courtroom, despite it being ‘stricken from the record.’ A case of plagiarism can run a similar course.
If someone plagiarizes from an original source and then publishes the duplicate work, it can ‘become’ the original work in people’s minds.
Even if the plagiarism is discovered down the line and the perpetrator is discredited, when readers try to remember who wrote the original they could easily confuse the real and fake content.
In Recent News
This occurrence recently appeared in the news in regards to Professor Edward Wegman’s anti-climate change report. Wegman was originally commissioned in 2006 to create the report by US representatives Joe Barton and Ed Whitfield (some argue in order to create controversy over the extensive research on global warming). The Wegman report provided ammunition to those who already thought climate change and global warming to be a hoax or political ploy.
The report spawned a published scholarly paper that was later retracted because parts of it were found to be plagiarized. The peer-review process was also called into question. Despite these alleged flaws in the paper, supporters continue to use it (and the report) to dispute climate change. They don’t take into account the fact that it was plagiarized; and instead claim that the plagiarism was all part of a ‘conspiracy’ to discredit the research.
The Wegman case shows that even if material is alleged to be plagiarized, once it’s out – it’s out.
It doesn’t matter whether the content is fabricated or duplicated; people will remember the facts that best suit their cause or mindset.
All the more reason to detect plagiarism prior to publication.