A question of plagiarism

Plagiarism is one of the worst accusations to be made of a writer. Morgan of the Lake has now seen fit to twice accuse me of doing so, so I think it’s worthwhile to compare my 2004 column “How to Argue Like a Liberal” with an Internet post that preceded it by eight years, “How to Argue Like a Creationist“. I note that I had never seen this piece prior to today, and while the construction of the title is not particularly original, everything else was written solely based on my experience of arguing with a very liberal friend.

The first point is from my column, the older one is in italics.

1. Make an untrue statement, preferably on the subject of something about which you know nothing.
1. Make outrageous claims, but don’t dare to support them. Make other people prove them wrong.

2. Express astonishment that your source could possibly be inaccurate.
2. Keep repeating your claims. People will believe them eventually.

3. Demand what motivation your source would have to lie.
3. If someone asks you specific questions about one of your claims, make up answers.

4. Assert that the other party’s inability to articulate this motivation is tantamount to proof that your source is not lying.
4. When presented with evidence that contradicts your claims, trivialize it. Say, “ha ha! you only presented X pieces of evidence!” Hope they won’t notice that you presented none.

5. Question the motivation of the contrary source.
5. When caught in an error, redefine the English language to accommodate the error.

6. Argue that all sources are equal and that therefore the contrary source is irrelevant.
6. Refuse to provide references for any claim unless at least 10 people ask for them.

7. Change the subject.
7. When producing your reference, assuming you have one, provide a vague citation with no page numbers or publisher information.

I think it should be fairly clear that despite the obvious similarities inherent to the subject, my column contains two step-by-step 7-point processes describing an argument between two people whereas the other piece is simply a list of 25 randomly listed points for use in a group setting.

Is it plagiarism or does MOTL simply not understand the English language? You be the judge. I further note that Tom Tomorrow appears to be guilty of similar “plagiarism” in his “How to Argue Like a Conservative” cartoon of February 22, 2005.