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A New Plagiarism scandal

Image result for George Jefferson

The always-unpleasant spotlight on public exposure of plagiarism falls now on Matthew Whitaker, formerly a professor at Arizona State University. No, that isn't Whitaker pictured here. That's Sherman Helmsley as George Jefferson. More on Jefferson in a bit.

An anonymous blogger, one with a laser-like focus on the issue of plagiarism, brought the matter of the plagiarized passages in a book 'authored' by Whitaker to the public's attention and, now that Whitaker has been demoted from full professor to associate professor, that blogger is taking a bow.

One neat twist on this case: Whitaker had parlayed his academic prominence into a role with the City of Phoenix, AZ. He was supposed to help train that city's police officers to be culturally sensitive as they do their jobs. That contract is now at an end.

The text in question is a history of "modern Black America" from the second world war to the presidency of Barack Obama, with the evocative title PEACE BE STILL. This was brought out by University of Nebraska Press in January 2014.

So ... what was the problem? Here's an example. Whitaker writes about a television show, The Jeffersons, broadcast in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and what this program said about the culture's perception of nouveau-riche African-Americans. Here are Whitaker's words, from p. 152 of the book.

"The Jeffersons focused on the lives of a noveau-riche African American couple, George and Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford). George Jefferson was a successful businessman, millionaire, and owner of seven dry-cleaning stores. He lived with his wife in a ritzy penthouse apartment on Manhattan's fashionable and moneyed East Side. `We're movin' on up!' intoned the musical theme of the show opener that featured George, Louise and a moving van in front of `their deluxe apartment in the sky.' The Jeffersons was the first television program to feature an interracial married couple, ... and it offered an uncommon, albeit comic, portrayal of a successful African American family. Lastly, The Jeffersons is one of several programs of the period to rely heavily on confrontational humor...."

This seems to have come directly and without attribution from a reference website, the Archive of American Television. Here is what AAT said:

The Jeffersons ... focused on the lives of a nouveau riche African-American couple, George and Louise Jefferson. George Jefferson was a successful businessman, millionaire and owner of seven dry cleaning stores. He lived with his wife in a ritzy penthouse apartment on Manhattan's fashionable and moneyed East Side. `We're movin' on up!' intoned the musical theme of the show opener that featured George, Louise and a moving van in front of `their de-luxe apartment in the sky.'....The Jeffersons was the first television program to feature an interracial married couple, and it offered an uncommon, albeit comic, portrayal of a successful African American family. Lastly, The Jeffersons is one of several programs of the period to rely heavily on confrontational humor."


This was only one of the many examples of lifting adduced by critics. I took that one not from the above-referenced blogger, but from the comments section of www.amazon.com.

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