Stephen Ambrose caught plagiarizing

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Darren H, Jan 11, 2002.

  1. Darren H

    Darren H Second Unit

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    Have any of you been following this story? Stephen Ambrose -- author of "Band of Brothers," "The Wild Blue," "Undaunted Courage," and about 20 other books -- has been caught plagiarizing entire passages from other historians. The evidence is so convincing I have deliberately used the word "caught" instead of "accused."
    Here's one example, quoted at Salon.com:
    ---
    In "Citizen Soldiers," Ambrose writes:
    "Men from the 3rd Battalion draped the body with the Stars and Stripes and hoisted it on top of a huge pile of stones that once had been a wall in the Saint Croix Church, a block from the cemetery. Howie's body remained on display through the next day, July 19. GIs and some of the few civilians remaining in the town adorned the site with flowers."
    Balkoski's version:
    "The next morning, the 29ers draped the body with the Stars and Stripes and hoisted it on top of a huge pile of stones that once had been a wall of Sainte Croix Church, one block west of the cemetery. The body remained on display throughout July 19. The 29ers and some of the few civilians remaining in the city adorned the site with flowers."
    ---
    I think it's worth noting that Balkoski not only wrote it first, but he also wrote it better. Paligiarism is one of the few unpardonable sins for academics. As America's leading (or at least our most public) historian, Ambrose will surely see his reputation suffer greatly. I wonder if he'll even be asked to give up his professorship.
    By the way, he is not denying it. In fact, he has apologized.
    One of the many articles covering the story:
    http://www.salon.com/books/wire/2002...ism/index.html
    What do you think?
     
  2. Hugh M

    Hugh M Second Unit

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    Wow...

    I feel sorry for his agent/son Hugh, only cause he has the same name as me.
     
  3. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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  4. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I read about this recently -- of great interest because I've been working my way through Ambrose's work the past couple years.
    Disappointing, yes. I'm glad it was publicly revealed, and hope that corrections are made, and that greater diligence is made to avoid these problems in the future. But I don't think it's a particularly big deal.
    I can think of several scenarios for how this could happen, without requiring intentional academic fraud.
    1) So internalized the passages, he didn't realize he had reproduced them so closely
    2) Research assisstants provided passages too close to original, without appropriate attribution.
    3) It was missed in the editing & proofing process, before publishing.
    And for now, the amount of these errors, compared to total text written, is very small.
    Besides, it shows that he's not fabricating events [​IMG] ; a charge leveled at a different author I'm currently reading.
     
  5. Michael Warner

    Michael Warner Supporting Actor

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    I've noticed this quite a lot over the past few years as more and more historians have shifted toward writing more user-friendly, readable texts. There are far fewer foot and endnotes, almost no direct quotations, and an awful lot of "take it at my word" sort of statements. It irks me when I'm reading a passage that I know the author couldn't have possibly come up with on his own yet there is no indication as to where the information came from. Maybe this incident will serve as a wake-up call.
     
  6. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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  7. Bill Balcziak

    Bill Balcziak Supporting Actor

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    Don't overreact. Ambrose apologized for the omission of a credit for the quote. It's not impossible to imagine making such a mistake.

    Given the body of work of this great historian, I think it's appropriate to let it go. It's hardly the end of the world.
     
  8. Adam Barratt

    Adam Barratt Cinematographer

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    As Darren stated, aside from the blatantly illegal, there's very little an academic can do that's worse than plagiarism.

    I don't think anyone will let this go any time soon, nor should they; I'm sure it will damage his career.

    He clearly didn't simply forget to credit the quote as he re-wrote each sentence. If this were done by a student, they would be expelled.

    Adam
     
  9. Jeffrey Noel

    Jeffrey Noel Screenwriter

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    Holy crap! This guy had better get in trouple. At my college and any other school, plagiarism is an extremely punishable offense. Your almost guaranteed to flunk the course. No excuses for him!!!
     
  10. David Susilo

    David Susilo Screenwriter

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    If somebody famous doing it: "it's not impossible to make such a mistake.

    If regular joe does it: "it's an offence punishable by flunking him from the course"

    it's great to have double standard
     
  11. Hugh M

    Hugh M Second Unit

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    I agree, Ambrose shouldn't be treated any differently than a student at his university would.
    whoever made the mistake to omit the proper footnotes or whatever doesn't matter. I'm sure he caught it if it was truly a mistake. Its his books. He did this on purpose.
    You are taught in college to be responsible for what you put on the page.
    as far as HT goes, what are the repercussions onto the series BOB if any?
    Sopranos nearly got in trouble for plagiarizing the state of NJ... [​IMG]
     
  12. Bill Balcziak

    Bill Balcziak Supporting Actor

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  13. Hugh M

    Hugh M Second Unit

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  14. Chuck C

    Chuck C Cinematographer

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    Ambrose shouldn't be treated any differently than a student at his university would.
     
  15. Jeffrey Noel

    Jeffrey Noel Screenwriter

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    Bill, I agree with what you say, but maybe he should have to pay royalties to Balkoski. That is if he's alive; I don't know anything about him. That should be fair enough. But it can't be just a few bucks. I'd be a little steamed if I was Balkoski and found out someone was using my words at their own.
     
  16. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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  17. Bergan Peters

    Bergan Peters Stunt Coordinator

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  18. David Susilo

    David Susilo Screenwriter

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    Imagine if I ever plagiarized, even once, in order to get my masters in musicology (and there were LOTS of papers to be written during the course of that study), I would be expelled, lost all of the money and time spent working towards the degree (about US$18K and 6 years).

    I do not disagree that anybody can accidentally plagiarized somebody else. I just wish that if it is happening the other way round the academy (university or otherwise) can be as 'understanding' as they are when it's happening to somebody famous.

    Or... be as swift and judgemental to the famous guy.

    well, it's longwinded. Again, as stated before, my point is... it's 'nice' to have double standard.
     
  19. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    Maybe I got this wrong, but I think the main difference between Ambrose plagiarizing and a student plagiarizing, is that the student actually violates rules as set by the educational instituion, while Ambrose was doing this on his own, thus didn't break any rules. It was still wrong, but the only person he is accountable to is himself.

    /Mike
     
  20. Scott Littlefield

    Scott Littlefield Stunt Coordinator

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    Chuck C,
    [​IMG]
     

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