The Leesburg Daily Commercial Commits Plagiarism

The Leesburg Daily Commercial has sunk to a new low. Not content merely to bombard its middle-class readers with an incessant stream of ridiculous plutocratic propaganda, the Daily Commercial has engaged in outright plagiarism, passing off another writer’s work as the product of its own editorial board.

Every edition of the Daily Commercial includes the following statement on the Voices page, where editorials, op-ed opinion pieces, and some reader letters appear:

Editorials are the consensus opinion of the editorial board, not any individual. They are written by the editorial staff but are not signed. Local editorials are published Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. [Emphasis added.]

In apparent conformity to this stated policy, the left-hand column of the Voices section on Saturday, July, 27th, 2013, featured an article that appeared under the byline, “OUR VOICE” [their emphasis], with no signature or attribution of any kind. This designates the article as the consensus opinion of the editorial board. In contrast, articles occupying that space written by others (generally pulled from a syndicated feed) appear under the byline, “A VOICE” on those days when the editorial board has indicated it will remain mute. Articles written by syndicated columnists are, for some reason, unsigned when printed in this left-hand column, but they do include attribution to the news service in question. Thus, readers could reasonably expect that the article featured under the byline, “OUR VOICE” was the product of the editorial board. But it was not.

Dale McFeatters

Dale McFeatters. Image courtesy of shns.com.

The article in question, entitled, So now we tell Russia we don’t kill or torture, was the work of Scripps Howard syndicated columnist Dale McFeatters. It is very easy to verify this fact. A simple Google search for ‘Scripps Howard “kill or torture”‘ will yield several results confirming the real source of the article. This link, for example, shows the article in use by a California newspaper that correctly (and twice) attributes it to Scripps Howard. 1

How Did We Know the Daily Commercial Committed Plagiarism?

The editors of the Leesburg Daily Commercial left a sizable clue by making a simple mistake made by many cheaters across time: they used a piece of work that was written well above their grade level. To compound their error, the piece offered an opinion that was inconsistent with the apparent biases of the editorial board.

Our initial reaction on reading the article was, “Holy cow! They’ve finally done something right! Where have they been all these years?” Then we realized that this reaction could not possibly be right. There was no way that the people who publish the racist hate-mongering of Cal Thomas, the imperialistic saber-rattling of Clifford May, the childish American exceptionalism of Star Parker, and the demented ravings of numerous local lunatics, would ever be willing to write, or be capable of writing, a passage like this:

[A]fter 9/11, we wandered off the track. There was the senseless sadism of Abu Ghraib, the surreptitious kidnappings – “renditions” being the preferred euphemism – and the secret and semi-secret prisons, including our very own Devil’s Island in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And there was waterboarding and the shameful timidity about using the effective civilian courts in our major cities to try terrorists. There was the ongoing attempt to construct a parallel legal system heavily stacked against defendants. And, finally, there were assassinations, with no attempt at judicial review, of American citizens overseas.

Now we have to live with the consequences of that shameful record…. Events have come to a sorry pass when we have to assure the Kremlin of our willingness to adhere to civilized norms. In the future and for all time, we must try harder to live up to those ideals that made this country an exemplar to the world.

Big words, difficult concepts. Sadistic? Shameful? Ain’t no way the Leesburg Daily Commercial would ever use that kind of language – or display that much knowledge of our country’s behavior. This is the kind of stuff that we write; if the Daily Commercial did this we could spend more time doing things that matter, like walking the dog. When cartoonist and editorial-board member Gene Packwood – a talented artist who has shown some signs of intelligence in domestic politics – displays a complete failure of courage and independence by echoing the establishment’s charge that Edward Snowden is a traitor, then we know where the editors stand: in the wrong place, as usual.

The best we can say about these people is that they are simply morons who don’t know what they are doing. Russ Sloan, the Daily Commercial‘s in-house propagandist for the 1%, indicated the level of incompetence that prevails on Leesburg’s Main Street when he lambasted the entire Scripps Howard News Service for a column that was penned by McFeatters, treating the work of one man as the consensus opinion of the entire service. In that case, Sloan was tripped up by (and too lazy to look beyond) the newspaper’s failure to identify individual authors appearing under the rubric of “A VOICE.” But in this case, again at best, we see a shocking level of intellectual slovenliness exhibited by the editors themselves, compounded by contempt for a readership that is expected to care as little as they do about where an opinion piece originates.

On this website, when we use the ideas of others we give them appropriate recognition by the use of quotes and/or linking to the page on the internet where the information may be found. We do not, and would never, copy and paste someone else’s article and present it as our own. (Nor do we subscribe to any news services that provide pre-written content.) Hopefully, any reasonably well-educated person would adhere to similar standards.

The fact that we are largely supportive of the substantive positions expressed in Dale McFeatters’ piece in no way, shape, or form mitigates the magnitude of the intellectual dishonesty displayed by the Leesburg Daily Commercial. If they do not correct this error in a timely manner – and we will be astonished if they do – then the readership of the paper should draw the only appropriate conclusion from this episode:

The Leesburg Daily Commercial is a pathetic little rag.

Have a great week.

  1. As of April, 2014, Scripps Howard’s own website had removed its own link to this article, at least for non-subscribing visitors.

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